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Massage reducing anxiety and improving alertness
There are now a number of research papers demonstrating the beneficial effects of massage therapy in relation to the physiological and psycho-logical aspects of stress (see ALTERNATIVES in healthTM Vol 1;2 and Vol 1:5) and the latest controlled study conducted at the Touch Research Institute, University of Miami School of Medicine, Florida, USA shows once again that massage therapy has an important role to play in the alleviation of stress and stress-induced illnesses.
In the study two times every week for five weeks, twenty-six adults were given a chair massage and twenty four adults were asked to relax in the massage chair for 15 minutes to be used as controls.
On the first and last days of the study all of the participants were monitored for EEG, before, during and after the sessions. In addition, before and after the sessions they performed math computations, they completed POMS Depression and State Anxiety Scales and they pro-vided a saliva sample for cortisol.
At the beginning of the sessions they completed Life Events, Job Stress and Chronic POMS Depression Scales. The results revealed the following:
1. Frontal delta power increased for both groups, suggesting relaxation;
2. The massage group showed de-creased frontal alpha and beta power (suggesting enhanced alertness); while the control group showed increased alpha and beta power;
3. The massage group showed in-creased speed and accuracy on math computations while the control group did not change;
4 Anxiety levels were lower following the massage but not the control sessions, although mood state was less depressed following both the massage and control sessions;
5. Salivary cortisol levels were lower following the massage but not the control sessions but only on the first day; and
6. At the end of the 5 week period, depression scores were lower for both groups but job stress score were lower only for the massage group.
This small-scale study suggests that massage therapy offers benefits in not just alleviating the physiological effects of anxiety, but also in improving mental alertness.
Field T; lronson G; Scafjdi F; Nawrocki T; Goncalves A; Burman I; Pickens J; Fox N; Schanberg 5; Kuhn C.Massage therapy reduces anxiety and enhances EEG pattern of alertness and math computations. mi Neurosci (ENGLAND) Sep 1996,86 (3-4) p197-205.
Massage & Chronic Exertional Anterior Compartment Syndrome
OBJECTIVE: To determine the effect of massage on anterior chronic exertional compartment syndrome (CECS) with respect to symptoms, intracompartmental pressures, and work output of the anterior compartment in dorsiflexion.
DESIGN: One group-repeated measures design.
SETTING: A private sports medicine clinic in Melbourne, Australia.
PARTICIPANTS: Seven athletes (six men and one woman), aged between 21 and 29 years, were selected on the basis of clinical suspicion for anterior CECS. Historical questionnaire and examination were followed by intracompartmental pressure testing of the anterior compartment. Study exclusion criteria were history of a bleeding diathesis and previous treatment consisting of compartment fasciotomy or massage. All athletes completed the study.
INTERVENTIONS: A 5-week course of massage consisting of two sessions in the first week and one session per week thereafter, for a total of six treatments. Between each session, a twice-daily standard stretching program involving both anterior and posterior compartments was performed.
MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Postexercise anterior compartment pressures (mm Hg) before and after treatment, work output (J) in dorsiflexion to pain onset before and after treatment, self-reported symptoms before and after treatment.
RESULTS: There was no significant difference in the 3-minute postexercise compartment pressures after the treatment. There was a significant (p = 0.016) increase, however, in work performed in dorsiflexion to pain onset following the massage course.
CONCLUSIONS: Intermittent massage combined with specific stretching should be considered in the treatment of anterior CECS.
Clin J Sport Med 1998 Jan;8(1):14-7 Blackman PG, Simmons LR, Crossley KM Olympic Park Sports Medicine Centre, Melbourne, Australia.
Massage & respiratory tract infection
The TCM therapeutic principle of "eliminating the pathogenic factors by supporting the healthy energy" was adopted in massage to treat and prevent recurrent respiratory tract infection of children. Susceptible and healthy children of the same age were used as controls.
As a result, the therapeutic effect of the treatment group is significantly better than that of the controls, with all of the immunologic indexes being approximately normal when the patients were reexamined 3 and 6 months after the massage. Statistically, the difference was significant. Massage has been proved very helpful in improving the general constitution, enhancing the immune functions, preventing and treating the condition, and in health care as well.
Zhu S, Wang N, Wang D, Wang M, Tong K, Xu H, Wang J, Li Q, Peng J, Wang J, Jianye District TCM Hospital, Nanjing.
Massage therapy and stress management
The mind, which before massage is in a perturbed, restless, vacillating and -even despondent state, becomes after massage, calm, quiet, peaceful and subdued; in fact, the wearied and worried mind has been converted into a mind restful, placid, and refreshed.
Dr Stretch Dowse, Eminent Victorian Physician, 1887.
Stress is a subject about which the general public is becoming increasingly aware. It seems that every day a new study is reported in the press or medical journals relating stress to one disease or another. Some physicians suggest that stress may be responsible for 75 per cent of all diseases in the Western world including skin diseases (e.g., psoriasis and eczema), headaches and migraine, digestive disorders, high blood pressure and heart-related diseases, as well as back-ache and muscle pain, poor eyesight and depression.
As the world in which we live becomes increasingly stressful both physically and emotionally we are left with two choices; either we avoid stress, or we learn how to deal with it effectively. It is, of course, impossible to avoid stress, and therefore the only real solution is to find ways to manage the stresses and strains we encounter each day. One way is the use of massage therapy.
Massage therapy and stress and anxiety in children
A study conducted at University of Miami Medical School, Florida, USA, revealed that massage may offer considerable help for children suffering from stress-related disorders. A 30-minute back massage was given daily for a 5-day period to 52 children who were hospitalized as suffering from depression and adjustment disorders. Subjective assessments were made by the children themselves and by the nurses based upon perceived anxiety levels, sleep patterns and the willingness of the child to be co-operative. Objective analyses were also made by analysing stress hormone levels in the both the urine and saliva. The results were then compared to a control group who were shown relaxing videotapes for 30 minutes instead of massage therapy.
The results of the study revealed that the children receiving a 30 minute massage were less depressed or anxious and had lower saliva cortisol levels after the massage. In addition, nurses rated the massage group as being more co-operative on the last day of the study, and noted that the children were sleeping better than the children in the control group and that their night-time sleep had increased over the 5 day period. Massage therapy also had the effect of reducing urinary cortisol and norepinephrine levels in the children suffering from depression which was not observed in any of the children in the control group.
The researchers were left in no doubt that massage therapy offers real benefits for children suffering from stress and anxiety.
Field T; Morrow C; Valdeon C; Larson S; Kuhn C; Schanberg S. Massage reduces anxiety in child and adolescent psychiatric patients. Journal of the American Acadamy of Child Adolescent Psychiatry (UNITED STATES) Jan 1992, 31 (1) p125-31
Massage & Smoking
BACKGROUND: Attempts at smoking cessation have been correlated with severe withdrawal symptoms, including intense cigarette cravings, anxiety, and depressed mood. Massage therapy has been shown to reduce anxiety and stress hormones and improve mood.
METHOD: Twenty adult smokers (M age = 32.6) were randomly assigned to a self-massage treatment or a control group. The treatment group was taught to conduct a hand or ear self-massage during three cravings a day for 1 month.
RESULTS: Self-reports revealed lower anxiety scores, improved mood, and fewer withdrawal symptoms. In addition, the self-massage group smoked fewer cigarettes per day by the last week of the study.
CONCLUSIONS: The present findings suggest that self-massage may be an effective adjunct treatment for adults attempting smoking cessation to alleviate smoking-related anxiety, reduce cravings and withdrawal symptoms, improve mood, and reduce the number of cigarettes smoked.
Hernandez-Reif M, Field T, Hart S Touch Research Institute, University of Miami, School of Medicine, Florida 33101, USA. Keywords: smoking - addiction - massage therapy
Massage & Pain in Cancer
Evaluating the effectiveness of nursing interventions in decreasing pain is a top priority for clinical research. Unfortunately, most of the research on cancer pain relief has been limited to treatment studies involving the administration of analgesics. Research is needed to determine which nonanalgesic methods of pain control are effective and under what conditions. Consequently, an experimental study was designed to test the effectiveness of massage as an intervention for cancer pain.
Twenty-eight patients were randomly assigned to a massage or control group. The patients in the massage group were given a 10 minute massage to the back; the patients in the control group were visited for 10 minutes. For males, there was a significant decrease in pain level immediately after the massage. For females, there was not a significant decrease in pain level immediately after the massage. There were no significant differences between pain 1 hour and 2 hours after the massage in comparison with the initial pain for males or females.
The results showed that Massage was shown to be an effective short-term nursing intervention for pain in males in this sample.
Appl Nurs Res 1990 Nov;3(4):140-5, Weinrich SP, Weinrich MC
Massage & Chronic Schizophrenia
A recent German study has found that massage may play an important role in the treatment of chronic schizophrenia. Ten chronic schizophrenics were given massage to feet, back and neck with a view to increase their awareness of their own body limits. The reasoning behind this was that as schizophrenia is a problem of delimitation, and that psychic problems have their physical embodiment, treatment of the physical level might enhance the patients’ ability to experience their own bodily limits.
The relaxing effect of massage therapy was indicated in clearly recorded physiological measurements of skin conductance and heart rate, as well as the patients’ self-perceptions. The close physical presence of the therapist did not trigger any anxiety conditions in the patients as had been feared.
Although the number of patients who participated in the study was too small to make any firm conclusions, the results do indicate that massage and body therapy is worthy of consideration as a method for helping schizophrenic patients.
Andres K; Bellwald L; Brenner HD (Empirical study of physically orientated therapy with schizophrenic patients) Empirische unter-suchung einer leiborientierten therapie mit schizophrenen patienten. Psychiatrische Univer-sitatsklinik Bern, Abteilung fur Theoretische und Evaluative Psychiatrie, Ostermundigen.
Z Klin Psychol Psycopathol Psychother (Germany) 1993, 41 (2) p159-9
Massage & Premature Babies
The Explosion of narcotic and alcohol abuse in the USA has been accompanied by a surge of premature cocaine-exposed babies who often suffer post-natal complications and exhibit poor co-ordination and motor skills along with increased stress behaviour during infancy. Researchers at the department of Pediatrics at the University Miami School of Medicine studied the effects of massage on thirty cocaine-exposed premature babies who were randomly assigned to receive massage therapy or placed in a control group as soon as they were considered medically stable.
The fifteen babies in the treatment group received three 15 minute massages over a period of three consecutive hours each day for ten days. All the babies were monitored as to weight gain, post natal complications and motor skills and compared with the babies in the control group.
The researchers found that the massage group showed significant improvements over the control group. At the end of the ten day period the babies who received massage averaged 28% greater weight gain per day (33g as opposed to 26g in the control group) even thought the dietary volume and calorific intakes were the same in both groups. The babies in the massage group also showed significantly fewer post-natal complications and stress behaviours than the control group, and they also demonstrated more mature motor skills,
This study gives a fascinating insight into the physiological benefits of massage therapy for premature cocaine exposed babies. It seems that ass little as 3 fifteen minute sessions of massage over a period of ten days can make a dramatic difference to a baby’s development and effectively reduce the main problems associated with cocaine exposure. The study indicates that massage therapy may have an increasingly significant role to play in paediatric medicine.
Wheeden A; Scafidi FA; Field T; Ironson G; Valdeon C; Bandstra E. Massage effects on cocaine-exposed pre-term neonates. Department of paediatrics, university of Miami School of Medicine, Florida 33101. Journal of Developmental Behavioural Pediatrics (United Sates) Oct. 1993, 14: 5: 318-22
Massage & Pregnancy
Although the performance of perineal massage by a woman or her partner during the last weeks of pregnancy may help to prevent perineal trauma at delivery, the technique has never been evaluated rigorously. This study examined the feasibility of a randomized, controlled trial, and more specifically assessed the participation rate, the acceptability of the intervention, and whether or not an attending physician could remain blind to participants' groups. The pilot study was a single-blinded, randomized, controlled trial. Nulliparous women, 32 to 34 weeks pregnant, were recruited from June 8 to July 31, 1992, at the offices of family physicians and obstetricians who practice at the Hopital du Saint-Sacrement in Quebec City. Women assigned to the intervention group practiced daily 10-minute perineal massage and completed a diary, and those in the control group had standard care. Women and attending physicians completed a questionnaire about the aspect of blindness. Among the 174 women who delivered during the study period, 104 (59.8%) were approached by a midwife and 46 (26.4%) were randomized. Twenty (91.0%) of the 22 women in the massage group returned their perineal massage diaries. Based on the postpartum questionnaire, 20 women practiced the technique at least four times a week for three weeks or longer. No woman in the control group practiced massage. The attending physician was aware of the woman's group in only three instances (6.7%). Based on the results of this pilot study, a randomized, controlled trial to evaluate the efficacy of perineal massage in preventing perineal trauma at birth appears feasible.
Birth 1994 Mar;21(1):20-5, Labrecque M, Marcoux S, Pinault JJ, Laroche C, Martin S
|Below is an excerpt from The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong (Chapter 1).
All rights are reserved reprint of any portion of the following is forbidden without
express written consent from the author. Email email@example.com with inquiries.
Why Practice Tai Chi (and Qigong - Chi Kung)?
> The reasons behind Tai Chi’s exploding popularity
> The root of Tai Chi
> A brief history of Tai Chi
> ALL styles of Tai Chi can offer powerful benefits
Tai Chi comes in several excellent styles. While some chapters in this book relate to particular Tai chi styles, you’ll find this book to be a valuable resource to anyone exploring “any” form of Tai Chi or QiGong, which is why it is used as a primer and textbook by teachers of many styles worldwide, and in several languages.
Tai Chi is practiced by about 20 percent of the world’s population and is fast becoming the most popular exercise in the world today. Its rapid expansion is largely due to one important fact it feels really good. Although Tai Chi was originally a martial art and is increasingly offered by martial arts studios, it’s now practiced in businesses, hospitals, and schools everywhere. Tai Chi is not only a valuable tool for improving health, it is a powerful business tool as well. Companies see that T’ai Chi improves productivity by helping employees to be happy, relaxed, and creative. Hospitals see Tai Chi as a potent, yet cost-effective, therapy for nearly any condition. Tai Chi classes can be found nowadays almost anywhere. In this chapter, I’ll give you a whirlwind tour of the reasons behind Tai Chi’s growing popularity and what Tai Chi can do for you.
Exploring the Reasons Behind T’ai Chi’s Popularity
Do you ever feel like life is getting more stressful? It is. The increasing stress in today’s world is one reason for Tai Chi’s growing worldwide popularity. Tai Chi was designed to help people go through change with less damage by improving the way we handle stress. Studies show change is stressful, and even though change is often good, if the stress that change causes isn’t managed it can damage your health and outlook on life. Since about 90 percent of the discoveries made in the history of the human race have been made in our lifetime, we are all going through some serious change and stress. Therefore, Tai Chi’s ability to help practitioners “let go” of this stress more easily is just what the doctor ordered, literally.
Imagine life is a carousel upon which we ride. When life gets spinning really fast, Tai Chi seems to slow things down, like a hand pulling us away from the “edge,” back to the center of life’s carousel. Here, in the center, we can let life spin even faster and not feel like throwing up (hardly ever anyway). In fact, by practicing Tai Chi as you ride life’s carousel, you might even catch yourself going “wheeeeeeeeeeeee” a lot more often.
Whether you are stressed out, continually exhausted, treating a health problem, or just wanting to get in shape and feel young again, Tai Chi is just what you need. Tai Chi goes right to the heart of everything we do by healing and cleansing the central nervous system. Tai Chi helps us to let go of all the nervous tension that bogs down our mental computer system (like getting a general tune up every day). This makes everything inside us work better, which often makes the world around us seem better, too. So Tai Chi is really a self-improvement tool that will make you a better “anything-you-want-to-be.” Unless of course you want to be stressed out, exhausted, uninspired, and feel old and out of shape. In that case, Tai Chi won’t help.
People everywhere in the world are rapidly embracing Tai Chi as “their” exercise. Although Tai Chi originates from China, it is now seen so commonly in the West that soon it will be thought of as an American thing, a British thing, a Canadian thing, or whatever. If you ask American kids what their favorite American food is, many will reply, “Pizza!” (which is originally Italian). And someday, when asked what their favorite American pastime is, Americans will say, “Tai Chi!”
Tai Chi Relaxes the Mind, Body, and Our Lives
Just as we flow through the changes of life (or not), our life energy, or Qi, flows through us (or not, if we are stressed out). Qi is the energy of life and flows through all living things. Qi animates, heals, and nurtures life. When the stress of change makes us tense, we squeeze off the flow of life energy. Physically, this feels like tension. Tai Chi and QiGong are easy, simple, yet sophisticated relaxation exercises that encourage the muscles to let go of tension, the mind to let go of worry, and the heart to let go of angst. Tension, worry, and angst all block our Qi flow.
Tension, worry, and angst are usually the result of our mind, heart, or body being unable to “let go” of something. The goal of Tai Chi is to move through a series of choreographed movements like a slow martial arts routine, but very slowly and in a state of absolute relaxation. In order to do this, we have to let go of our mental/physical tensions, grudges, prejudices, and anything that keeps us tied to the past. This enables us to flow more easily into the future by clearing our mind and body of old stress so that we constantly get a “fresh” perspective on life.
Tai Chi is simple and easy to do, yet benefits us on many deep and complex levels. Tai Chi’s slow, relaxed movements incorporate breathing and relaxation techniques that cleanse our mind, body, and emotions each time we go through the gentle movements. T’ai Chi is designed to uncover and release every single place we hold tension or blocked energy. When our mind or heart holds onto issues (fears, obsessions, angers, and so on) our body literally squeezes itself with tension. Going slowly through the movements is like doing an internal scan of the entire body to clear and release any place the body is gripping onto tension. There is no exercise on earth that can help you go through this wild ride toward the future quite like T’ai Chi canwhich is why T’ai Chi is truly the exercise of the future.
Tai Chi Promotes Internal Strength for Young and Old
Tai Chi looks very much like slow-motion kung fu. David Carradine performed a form related to Tai Chi as Kwai Chang Caine on the television series Kung Fu. And although Tai Chi shares some similarities with kung fu, don’t let that scare you away. Tai Chi can be practiced by anyone at any age and in any condition.
In martial arts circles, it is known as an internal martial art. Tai Chi promotes internal strength physically, mentally, and emotionally, which is why it can be powerful training tool for martial artists. But you don’t have to be a martial artist to benefit from Tai Chi because it can also be practiced even by those in wheelchairs, with great results.
Unlike karate, Tai Chi has no belt or ranking system because the benefits of Tai Chi can only be felt and not seen. You practice Tai Chi to live better, more calmly, clearly, healthfully, and productively. Tai Chi is a tonic for life. You will see your progress reflected by how you feel, how spry you look in the mirror, how much you love life, and how healthy you are. Isn’t this much better than owning a black belt? However, if you do karate, Tai Chi can help you get that black belt by improving your internal function and grace.
Also, Tai Chi differs from most martial arts in that people of all ages can practice it. Many people with disabilities and ailments practice Tai Chi as therapy. No one is restricted from practicing Tai Chi, and yet Tai Chi can benefit the fittest athletes, just as much as it benefits elderly arthritis sufferers. Tai Chi clubs are sprouting up all over the world, with people from all walks of life.
Tai Chi: Finally an Exercise That Feels Good!
Tai Chi is popular because it is easy to do and provides a gentle workout that doesn’t leave you drained, but energized! Tai Chi’s “effortless” nature is a big stretch for most of us, however, because we associate exercise with force, pain, and tension. In fact, some exercise actually contributes to stress. When I played junior high football in west Texas many years ago, the coaches determined that we were through running when one of us started throwing up. That’s right, upchucking. It was the only time in my life I ever hoped to see someone throw up.
Tai Chi is helping the world get a healthy, enjoyable view of exercise. As a nation, we have adopted a mutant notion of exercise, exemplified by the mantra “no pain, no gain.” This has traumatized many Americans, including myself, leaving an indelible mark on how we view exercise. In Tai Chi we have a mantra, too, “If your exercise causes pain, you’ll get so sick of the thought of it that you’ll never want to do it again.” Ours isn’t as neatly poetic as “no pain, no gain,” but ours makes infinitely more sense. Tai Chi should always, always, always, feel good. And since it does feel good, you will look forward to it. Each morning you will find yourself grateful that you’re alive and able to practice this cool exercise called Tai Chi.
Tai Chi doesn’t begin with the premise that there is “something wrong” that needs to be “fixed, sculpted, lost, or burned off.” It is a very accepting exercise, and helps us remember we are already perfect … but our ability to get better is limitless. Everyone is qualified to do Tai Chi. You don’t have to look good in tights or Spandex to do Tai Chi, although if you do Tai Chi enough, you’ll look pretty good in whatever you like to wear.
Tai Chi and QiGong are for anybody who is dealing with stress. In other wordseverybody. Anybody can do Tai Chi. If you’ve picked up a book on Tai Chi, you’ve probably experienced the acute stress of imagining yourself in some of those incredible (seemingly impossible) positions the Tai Chi models pose in for the photos. Relax. Those people are models. Most people do Tai Chi just the way you will do it. Easily and effortlessly. Although Tai Chi was one of the original martial arts, it is now practiced all over the world as a relaxation technique by people of all ages in the same shape you are in, and sometimes in even worse shape.
When you begin an exercise class, you may have the illusion that everybody other than you “belongs” there, and that they are all “good” at it. You will find that everybody goes through the same trials and tribulations. As you lighten up on yourself, you’ll see struggling, growing, and healing are everywhere. Breathe and enjoy; you are among friends.
When you first begin practicing Tai Chi out in the backyard or in your local park, people may stare. Before long, your unique practice of Tai Chi becomes part of the rich texture of the neighborhood, and if you move away, they will miss you. Just as Tai Chi adds to your personal internal charm, your practice adds to the charm of your community.
Life is very complicated, and Tai Chi cannot solve all your problems. However, Tai Chi can help you simplify your life in a big and relaxing way.
Imagine that you’re a tree. While your mind and body are the trunk of that tree, all your “life stuff” is like the many leaves on that tree. Your job, relationships, hobbies, hopes, and problems are all dangling out there on the tips of your life. When your health is bad or you can’t sleep well, this affects the whole tree. You may have problems with your job that may strain your relationships, which in turn will drain the energy you need to pursue your hobbies, making you too tired to have hopeful dreams, and causing your problems to get seemingly bigger and bigger. When you are already beat, trying to figure out how to heal all these sick, shriveled leaves is too much to even think about.
However, what if you could pour some magic water on the roots of your tree? Magic that would heal all the sick leaves and cause them to grow larger, to catch more breezes and more sunlight, and more fun! This is what Tai Chi does. By nurturing the very core of your mind and body, Tai Chi makes you better at everything you do. You don’t practice Tai Chi to be better at Tai Chi (although that happens). Each time you practice Tai Chi, you pour healing water on the roots of everything you are. This healing water, or energy, is carried out to the leaves of everything you do, making you the freshest, greenest tree you could ever want to be.
One name does not adequately express everything Tai Chi is because Tai Chi nurtures so many aspects of our lives at the root. Although originally a martial art known as Tai Chi Chuan (“supreme ultimate fist”), the shortened name of Tai Chi reflects how it is now viewed, as one of the most effective mind/body exercises in the world. So Tai Chi now refers to “supreme ultimate health exercise,” “supreme ultimate relaxation therapy,” “supreme ultimate balance conditioner, muscle toner, beauty treatment.”
Tai Chi is the supreme ultimate because it goes right to the root of most health problems by relaxing the muscles and mind, aligning the spinal posture, and balancing the energy systems that run through the body, providing them with life energy. It is one of the most soothing, easy, and powerful things you can do for yourself. It is a profound self-improvement tool, a great toning exercise, and an incredible healing art. Whether you want to improve external beauty, mental outlook, or physical health and longevity, Tai Chi heals the roots of your being.
Tai Chi is a highly effective therapy for many injuries or chronic conditions, whether mental, emotional, or physical. The following chapters will discuss different maladies and how Tai Chi treats them. Tai Chi bolsters the immune system, as well, and can actually eliminate problems long before they become an actual physical illness.
Forget about covering up problems with makeup or surgery. Beautify from the inside out instead! Many cells are replaced daily, and almost the entire body is completely replaced every five to seven years. You are literally born anew on some level each and every day of your life. How those cells are reproduced is determined by how the life energy, or Qi, flows through your body. Therefore, you can have a terrific impact on how you age, look, and feel by promoting your Qi flow.
Have you ever sat back and noticed how small children never run down? Like the Energizer rabbit, on fast forward, they leap and spring, dance and chat, and chat and chat. Have you ever thought to yourself, “God, I wish I had that energy”? Well, you do have access to that energy (and without doing espresso shooters).
As human beings, we begin to block our access to that energy as we “mature” by holding onto past grudges, by shouldering responsibilities that are unrealistic, or just because of silly worries. Then we don’t know how to let them go, and we get used to having less and less energy. We can think on a mental level that we want to “stop worrying” or “let go of tension,” but that doesn’t really work. We need life tools that help us let go of these blocks on deep levels in our mind, heart, and body, so that we can open to your flow of life energy.
Tai Chi and QiGong will give you access to simple exercises, which feel good and can open a valve to that limitless energy you thought you had lost forever. The Chinese discovered long ago that these blocks, or our stress, are simply the mind and nervous system squeezing onto grudges, worries, or even desires. Just as our muscles can tighten when tense, our mind and heart can grip tension too, and we have to be taught how to let go of their squeezing grip on life issues. So the goal of these ancient exercises is to wash our nervous system clean, so our mind can be fresh and vibrant like a newborn baby’s, while still remembering the important stuff, like stopping at red lights and dressing before going to work.
Seriously, as we let go of most of the meaningless, irritating debris bouncing around in our mind, we have more space and energy for really important ideas to surface. Important memories like the bill we forgot to pay, or realizations like we forgot to tell someone how much you care about them. Tai Chi’s slow, soothing movements provide that calm open space, even in the very center of the rat race.
America is not into the “aging” thing. What Americans spend on cosmetic surgery attests to that. Tai Chi will help you get over that prejudice, while also slowing the aging process in many ways. The Chinese believe as we practice Tai Chi it returns us to a state of “child-likeness” (but not childishness), where we see the world with fresh eyes. This allows us the freedom to reinvent ourselves easily and constantly, just as children do, enabling us to flow with the changes of life. We can once again be flexible and exuberant, while still benefiting from the wisdom of experience (like being able to hit our mouth with the spoon, well, most of the time). So Tai Chi has the ability to renew us, and through that renewal enhance our strength, health, and creativity.
Tai Chi is based on the principle that the world doesn’t need to be held up by our worrying mind and tense body. In fact, we are much more helpful to the world (and far more enjoyable to be around) if we can let go of as much stress as possible. Realizing this principle is the first big step to letting Tai Chi reopen you to your own personal rejuvenating “fountain of energy”!
Tai Chi is unique. Although it is in a way 2,000 years old, it is at the cutting edge of modern Western medical research. Tai Chi is ancient yet modern, Eastern yet increasingly Western. Using Tai Chi is a way to get the most benefit out of all worlds, old and new, East and West. In fact, Western science is embracing Tai Chi very rapidly. Almost every month a new study seems to find yet another thing Tai Chi can treat, cure, or improve. A researcher at the University of Massachusetts-Lowell said Tai Chi is about to explode (in popularity) as medical practitioners discover the time-tested technique.
In fact each new Tai Chi player educates more people on Tai Chi, and sometimes in odd ways. One of my students was practicing Tai Chi in the park in a suburb of Kansas City one morning when a police officer approached him to ask if he was all right. The officer said someone had called and reported somebody was having a “problem” in the park. So it may behoove you to know a bit more about Tai Chi in case you need to do some fast-talking. The following will help.
For an exercise that is so made to order for modern life, it is amazing to realize that Tai Chi is thought to be about 1,200 years old. Furthermore, Tai Chi is an expanded version of a more ancient exercise called QiGong, which may be at least 2,000 years old. Tai Chi’s moving exercises are done very slowly, like slow motion kung fu. In days of old, Tai Chi (or Tai Chi Ch’uan) was primarily a martial art. It is believed that Buddhist and Taoist monks began practicing Tai Chi forms in monasteries (yes, like the Shao Lin Temple) for two reasons: One, to promote health because they were out of shape from sitting around meditating all the time; and two, because they were so out of shape, they couldn’t defend themselves, and bandits would come and beat them up before taking their valuables. (And you thought you had stress!)
When most people first join a Tai Chi or QiGong class, they are not quite sure what they are getting themselves into. Most have a mother, a doctor, a friend, a daughter, or son telling them, “This Tai Chi stuff is the greatest thing since sliced bread and you have gotta try it!” However, these enthusiasts can’t quite explain why you’ve gotta try it. So the following is for you, or whoever’s been trying to explain it to you.
In modern terms, Tai Chi and QiGong are ancient systems of biofeedback and classical conditioning. Traditional Chinese doctors of long ago noted that our natural tendency is to hold onto stress, which bogs down the brain. They therefore created exercises that would train the mind and the body not only to continually dump stress, but also to actually change the way the body handles future stress (not the way your kids change the way you handle stress, but in a good way).
As Tai Chi players move through their slow motion movements, their mind becomes calm, their breathing deepens and slows, and their muscles relax. All this happens while the muscles are toning, making it a very efficient exercise. But, forget about efficiency, Tai Chi should be done as though you were going to do it forever. If you try to “hurry up and relax,” it doesn’t work as well. By proceeding slowly with Tai Chi, and making it a game, you will be much more likely to enjoy it and to stick with it. Chapter 2, “Let’s Get Physical,” explains how even in Tai Chi’s easy going way, there is great power and dramatic physical benefit awaiting you, no matter what style of Tai Chi you enjoy.
Refer to this book’s valuable insert DVD to view non-instructional exhibitions of a Mulan Basic Short Form and a Tai Chi Long Form, to get a feel for the soothing un-hurried flow of Tai Chi motion, with a calmness that all styles promote.
> Tai Chi reduces stress and slows the aging process.
> Everybody can do Tai Chi.
> Tai Chi restores the power of youthful exuberance.
> Tai Chi is an efficient therapy that can improve all aspects of your life.
> By clearing the mind, Tai Chi reminds you that life is a miracle.
|Above is an excerpt from The Complete Idiot's Guide to T'ai Chi & Qigong (Chapter 1).
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