The Many Benefits of Tai Chi

The five foundations of Traditional Chinese Medicine are acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, tui-na massage, and internal exercise.  Internal exercise is the term given to tai chi and qi gong practice.  It describes coordinated, graceful movements which are performed with a meditative mindset, with the intent of improving health and balance in the body.

While both tai chi and qi gong are used regularly as a form of healing in China, it is tai chi (a form of martial arts which is slightly more active and fast paced than qi gong) that is more familiar in the United States.  You have probably seen a representation of tai chi in a movie or even a commercial; it is often done by a group in an outdoor setting.

Tai chi has also received attention by researchers, who have studied the exercise for a number of conditions.   Tai chi may be recommended to those with balance disorders.  It is also an excellent way to manage stress, which may explain why it has been shown to reduce tension headaches.

Other studies have shown that tai chi may be helpful in managing type II diabetes.  It may also aid the immune system in fighting shingles in the elderly.

Since tai chi is a low-impact exercise, similar to walking, it often can be done by the elderly and can be modified for people with limited mobility.  Because the physical demands are not intense, I also suggest it to patients with fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue, as a way to incorporate exercise into their day.  Of course, always check with your physician before starting any exercise routine.

There are many tai chi videos and DVDs available for home study.  For beginners, taking a tai chi class with an experienced instructor will probably be most helpful.  If you know of any tai chi courses in the Worcester area, please leave us a comment.

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