Tai Chi - The Moving Meditation

We have heard all about the negative effects of stress from our environment.

SCCBy Jone Barry, Three Treasures Tai Chi Club member

Printed with permission of the Saskatoon Community Clinic

We have heard all about the negative effects of stress from our environment. We are told not to stress-out and to spend time relaxing. Easier said than done.

The flight or fight stress reaction is important to help us cope in our busy environment. Cortisol is a naturally occurring hormone that is released by the adrenal glands when we are under stress. This hormone helps to rev up our system when we are trying to run from a dangerous situation or needing to defend ourselves. Unfortunately, there is a down side to having too much of this anti-inflammatory hormone floating around like high blood pressure, poor sleep and insulin resistance.

If you are looking for a way to reduce stress both mentally and physically, then Tai Chi is for you. Tai Chi had its beginnings with thirteen fundamental postures in the 13th century. These postures have evolved into the “moving meditation” we see today. A series of forms or positions are carried out in sequence to imitate the natural movements of animals and birds. The forms are executed alone or in groups using slow soft movements that flow evenly from one position to the next.

The origins of Tai Chi are based on Chinese Taoist philosophy. This philosophy expects that the world will change, therefore, we should not fight the change but work with it. Yin and Yang is a Chinese concept related to change. There are always forces working in opposition to each other. The balance of these opposing forces are complementary as they work to keep the universe and our lives in balance. Tai Chi reflects this balance with its rocking flowing movements representing change and harmony.

The purpose of the Tai Chi form is to create streams of energy flowing through the body. In Chinese teachings the concept of “chi” exists. Chi is thought to be a life energy that circulates through the body enhancing health and vitality. Each different position creates a variation of this energy flow leaving you with a feeling of well-being.

Practicing Tai Chi has many physical benefits. Tai Chi stimulates circulation, improves posture, reduces joint pain, improves the
immune system and helps digestion. It also increases muscle tone, flexibility, strength, improves balance and co-ordination. The low impact movements are well tolerated by people who have joint problems such as osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

A small study was done by Dr. Timothy Hain in 1994 for the Office of Alternative Medicine. The purpose of the study was to see if daily practice of Tai Chi would improve balance. In just eight weeks, there were significant improvments in posture and balance. Improved balance and flexibility can reduce the risk of falls.

In addition, blood pressure can be reduced, chronic pain relieved and cardiovascular health improved. It is no surprise that gerentologists and rheumatologists are recommending this as a healthy form of exercise.

Tai Chi does not just provide physical benefits; it also affects the mind and the spirit. Tai Chi focuses thought through its moving meditation so that the mind and body work together as one. This will lower cortisol levels, improve concentration, reduce anxiety and depression and improve quality of sleep.

Before you start any exercise program you should speak with your doctor, especially if you have a chronic illness. Work with a qualified instructor to avoid injury. There are numerous Tai Chi clubs throughout the city. Check your Leisure Guide or community bulletins for a club near you. Tai Chi is not expensive. You will need loose fitting clothing and flat soled shoes. No special equipment is required.

Give Tai Chi a try if you are looking for a way to relieve stress and control or prevent chronic illnesses.