dantian https://dantian.co.za elixir field or energy centre Thu, 24 Jan 2019 21:34:45 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=5.0.3 Mindfulness And Tai Chi https://dantian.co.za/mindfulness-tai-chi/ https://dantian.co.za/mindfulness-tai-chi/#respond Wed, 29 Jun 2016 13:53:19 +0000 http://dantian.co.za/?p=160 Posted by Slanted Flying in Training  I’ve found mindfulness and Tai Chi to be perfectly joined to boost mindfulness training. In our Tai Chi training we are often told to be mindful. So what is mindfulness, and why is it important to our practice of Tai Chi Chuan. Mindfulness is being aware, in the moment, being […]

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Posted by in   I’ve found mindfulness and Tai Chi to be perfectly joined to boost mindfulness training. In our Tai Chi training we are often told to be mindful. So what is mindfulness, and why is it important to our practice of Tai Chi Chuan. Mindfulness is being aware, in the moment, being present in what you are doing and where you are at that moment.

We need to be mindful of all parts of the body, not only the isolated parts. For example in the movement “Single Whip”, it is very easy to be focused on the lead hand opening out, and not on the the opposite (hooked) hand or on the movement of the legs. This act of being mindful helps to not only unite the parts of the body together, but also the mind and the body.

Jon Kabat-Zinn, Ph.D. is known internationally for his work as a scientist, writer, and meditation teacher. In this video below, he explains his working definition of mindfulness. This is another look at the meaning of mindfulness so we might better understand its use in our practice of Tai Chi Chuan.

In the video, he talks about an interesting and important part of mindfulness. That is to be non-judgmental while being mindful. Jon Kabat-Zinn then goes on to say what he means is to not to be caught in those judgements which color the things we like or dislike.

How could being non-judgmental in our mindfulness affect our practice of Tai Chi Chuan? Perhaps one might not like the way the teacher is telling you how to learn a movement, which you might not quite agree with. If you practice this movement with that judgment in your mind, then you are not being truly mindful, and being in the moment to be aware of all the things that need attention. Perhaps you are proud of yourself that you can do the movements so well. Does this cloud your mindfulness so that you don’t notice flaws in your Tai Chi?

Practicing your Tai Chi Chuan with true mindfulness is very difficult. There are so many things to remember when learning and even for those that have been practicing for many years. By practicing being mindful in the beginning stages of your training, you ingrain an important part of your training that will become more important as your Tai Chi develops.

As one becomes more proficient in their Tai Chi Chuan, the practice becomes more of an exercise of the mind more than of the body. The ability to maintain mindfulness in one’s practice is an integral part of achieving higher levels in the development of Tai Chi Chuan.

Let us know in the comments section below what are your views and experience on “mindfulness” in the practice of your Tai Chi Chuan!

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This Ancient Martial Art Can Fight Disease, Calm The Mind And Slow Ageing https://dantian.co.za/ancient-martial-art-can-fight-disease-calm-mind-slow-ageing/ https://dantian.co.za/ancient-martial-art-can-fight-disease-calm-mind-slow-ageing/#respond Wed, 29 Jun 2016 13:39:41 +0000 http://dantian.co.za/?p=157 This was a great post via the Huffington Post wonderful tool to calm the mind. Americans have no difficulty adopting ancient practices into their health regimens. Take yoga, the ancient mind-body practice and contemporary fitness craze (and $27 billion industry), which continues its prominence in the mainstream — even after decades of increasing popularity. Many forms […]

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This was a great post via the Huffington Post wonderful tool to calm the mind.

Americans have no difficulty adopting ancient practices into their health regimens. Take yoga, the ancient mind-body practice and contemporary fitness craze (and $27 billion industry), which continues its prominence in the mainstream — even after decades of increasing popularity. Many forms of meditation, likewise, have been touted for stress-relieving, health-promoting benefits by prominent leaders in business, media and the arts. And then there’s tai chi.

Like yoga, tai chi is a type of moving meditation — a gentle exercise that focuses on the breath and prioritizes ease of movement— that comes with a host of health benefits. And, like yoga, there are distinct styles and lineages of tai chi along with more modern and hybrid incarnations.

Many of the tai chi moves tell stories and involve mimicking animals — featuring names like “Embrace the tiger and return to mountain” and “White crane spreads its wings” — all performed with relaxed muscles and ease of movement. Through maintaining focus on the breath and physical movements, the practitioner is thought to be able to help to direct the flow of Qi, or life force, in the body.

The practice originated over 2,000 years ago in China as a martial art called T’ai chi ch’uan. It is said to have been created in the Wu Dong Mountains by a Taoist priest, who observed a white crane preying on a snake and then mimicked its actions. Today, tai chi is known as a low-impact exercise popular with older adults and practiced by over 2 million Americans each year. Harvard University has even devoted a research program to studying the health benefits of the ancient Chinese art.

“In this high-tech world that’s all about speed, greed and instant gratification, tai chi is the antidote to bring us back to balanced health,” Arthur Rosenfeld, tai chi master and author of Tai Chi: The Perfect Exercise, told Reuters.

Here are five reasons why tai chi could very well be the “new” yoga.

It helps prevent and fight disease.

Studies have found that when used to supplement traditional forms of treatment, tai chi can help maintain bone density, reduce pain among arthritis patients, promote heart health, reduce hypertension, and improve quality of life and reduce stress for breast cancer patients, among other health benefits.

“A growing body of carefully conducted research is building a compelling case for tai chi as an adjunct to standard medical treatment for the prevention and rehabilitation of many conditions commonly associated with age,” Peter M. Wayne, Harvard Medical School professor and director of the Tai Chi and Mind-Body Research Program, told Harvard Health Publications.

It’s as beneficial for the mind as it is for the body.

In addition to relieving stress, tai chi is also scientifically proven to help fight depression among the elderly.

In tai chi, the focus of the mind is on the breath and the physical sensations in the body, which can help to still racing thoughts and increase body awareness. These meditative aspects of the practice help to bring the practitioner many of the same cognitive benefits of traditional seated meditation, including an increased sense of awareness, calm and well-being.

Tai chi may also help to boost well-being by improving both the length and quality of practitioner’s sleep. A 2008 UCLA study found that practicing tai chi chih, one particular variation of the practice, was effective in improving moderate sleep complaints among older adults. It also reduced drowisness and inability to concentrate during the day.

It can help you age gracefully.

Tai chi can help improve flexibility and promote a health range of motion in older adults, while also building muscle strength. What’s more, women at risk for or suffering from osteoporosis should take note that research has found tai chi to be effective in increasing mineral bone density.

Tai chi could also be one of the most effective methods of promoting good balance and preventing falls in older adults, according to WebMD. Research from the National Institute on Aging found that tai chi reduced fear of falls and risk of falling among older adults.

It can teach you how to slow down — and how to let go.

The term tai chi itself indicates the harmonious union of opposing forces — and it’s all about going with the flow and moving fluidly within your own physical limitations.

In tai chi, “the objective is not to over-exert or strain one’s natural state, but to achieve unity with one’s essential nature, thereby releasing the body’s intrinsic energies,” writes Simmone Kuo in Long Life, Good Health Through Tai-Chi Chuan.

It’s accessible to almost anyone.

Tai chi isn’t just for older folks. Yes, it’s low impact, but anyone can enjoy the numerous health benefits of the practice. Even those who are in poor health can begin a tai chi practice and potentially improve their physical condition.

The practice can even be adapted for those in wheelchairs or recovering from surgery, according to Harvard Medical School experts, and it has been shown toimprove balance and motor control among individuals with Parkinson’s Disease.

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Easing Ills through Tai Chi https://dantian.co.za/easing-ills-tai-chi/ https://dantian.co.za/easing-ills-tai-chi/#respond Wed, 29 Jun 2016 13:37:41 +0000 http://dantian.co.za/?p=154 A great post from the Harvard Magazine by NELL PORTER BROWN – Easing Ills through Tai Chi CATHERINE KERR has found an antidote for the hectic pace of laboratory life in the daily practice of tai chi. This centuries-old Chinese mind-body exercise, now gaining popularity in the United States, consists of slow-flowing, choreographed meditative movements with poetic names like […]

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A great post from the Harvard Magazine by NELL PORTER BROWN – Easing Ills through Tai Chi

CATHERINE KERR has found an antidote for the hectic pace of laboratory life in the daily practice of tai chi. This centuries-old Chinese mind-body exercise, now gaining popularity in the United States, consists of slow-flowing, choreographed meditative movements with poetic names like “wave hands like clouds,” “dragons stirring up the wind,” and “swallow skimming the pond” that evoke the natural world. It also focuses on basic components of overall fitness: muscle strength, flexibility, and balance.

“Doing tai chi makes me feel lighter on my feet,” says Kerr, a Harvard Medical School (HMS) instructor who has practiced for 15 years. “I’m stronger in my legs, more alert, more focused, and more relaxed—it just puts me in a better mood all around.” Although she also practices sitting meditation and does a lot of walking, she says that the impact of tai chi on her mood were so noticeable—even after she was diagnosed with a chronic immune system cancer—that she has devoted her professional life to studying the effects of mind-body exercise on the brain at Harvard’s Osher Research Center.

Kerr is careful to note that tai chi is “not a magic cure-all,” and that Western scientific understanding of its possible physiological benefits is still very rudimentary. Yet her own experience and exposure to research have convinced her that its benefits are very real—especially for older people too frail to engage in robust aerobic conditioning and for those suffering from impaired balance, joint stiffness, or poor kinesthetic awareness.

For anyone who practices tai chi regularly, “brain plasticity arising from repeated training may be relevant, since we know that brain connections are ‘sculpted’ by daily experience and practice,” explains Kerr, who is investigating brain dynamics related to tai chi and mindfulness meditation at HMS. “Tai chi is a very interesting form of training because it combines a low-intensity aerobic exercise with a complex, learned, motor sequence. Meditation, motor learning, and attentional focus have all been shown in numerous studies to be associated with training-related changes—including, in some cases, changes in actual brain structure—in specific cortical regions.”

SCHOLARS SAY tai chi grew out of Chinese martial arts, although its exact history is not fully understood, according to one of Kerr’s colleagues, assistant professor of medicine Peter M. Wayne, who directs the tai chi and mind-body research program at the Osher Center. “Tai chi’s roots are also intertwined with traditional Chinese medicine and philosophy, especially Taoism, and with another healing mind-body exercise called qigong,” he explains. “Though these roots are thousands of years old, the formal name tai chi chuan was coined as recently as the seventeenth century as a new form of kung fu, which integrates mind-body principles into a martial art and exercise for health.”

Tai chi chuan is often translated as “supreme (grand) ultimate fist”: the first part (“tai chi”) refers to the ubiquitous dialectical interaction of complementary, creative forces in the universe (yin and yang); the second, the fist, is what Wayne describes as the “manifestation or integration of these philosophical concepts into the body.”

According to traditional Chinese medicine, when yin and yang come together they create a dynamic inner movement. “While practicing, tai chi moves the chi and the blood and the sinews in the body—purportedly correcting health imbalances,” adds Wayne, who has founded The Tree of Life Tai Chi Center, in Somerville, Massachusetts, where he also teaches. “One key principle of tai chi is analogous to the saying ‘A rolling stone gathers no moss,’—if you maintain inner mindful movement in the body, it may improve your health.”

Tai chi, considered a soft or internal form of martial art, has multiple long and short forms associated with the most popular styles taught: Wu, Yang, and Chen (named for their originators). Plenty of people practice the faster, more combative forms that appear to resemble kung fu, but the slower, meditative movements are what many in the United States—where the practice has gained ground during the last 25 years—commonly think of as tai chi.

Qigong, sometimes called the “grammar” of tai chi, comprises countless different smaller movements and breathing exercises that are often incorporated into a tai chi practice. “One reason tai chi is popular is that it is adaptable and safe for people of all ages and stages of health,” Wayne points out. “Recent tai chi forms have even been developed for individuals to practice in wheelchairs. And although few formal medical-economic analyses have been conducted, tai chi appears to be relatively cost-effective.”

SURVEYS, including one by the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (https://nccih.nih.gov/health/taichi), have shown that between 2.3 million and 3 million people use tai chi in the United States, where a fledgling body of scientific research now exists: the center has supported studies on the effect of tai chi on cardiovascular disease, fall prevention, bone health, osteoporosis, osteoarthritis of the knee, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic heart failure, cancer survivors, depression in older people, and symptoms of fibromyalgia. One study on the immune response to varicella-zoster virus (which causes shingles) suggested in 2007 that tai chi may enhance the immune system and improve overall well-being in older adults. However, “in general, studies of tai chi have been small, or they have had design limitations that may limit their conclusions,” notes the center’s website. “The cumulative evidence suggests that additional research is warranted and needed before tai chi can be widely recommended as an effective therapy.”

Most recently, Wayne and his fellow researchers have focused on balance issues and on cardiovascular and bone health—areas where tai chi’s benefits have begun to be evaluated most rigorously. “We’ve conducted systematic reviews of the literature, and in older people there is sound evidence that suggests tai chi can improve balance and reduce risks for falls, which have significant consequences on public health, particularly given our aging population,” he reports.

Wayne points to a study by Fuzhong Li at the Oregon Research Institute (which carries out assessments of tai chi’s impact on health conditions, including a current project with Parkinson’s patients): it looked at 256 elderly people, from 70 to 92 years old, and compared how they benefited from tai chi and seated exercise, respectively. “They reported greater than a 40 percent reduction in the number of falls in the group that received tai chi,” Wayne reports. “This is a very significant finding. Older people with thinning bones are at very high risk for fractures; a fall related to hip fracture, for example, is associated with a 20 percent increase in mortality within one year and very high medical costs.”

Studies conducted in Asia have reported that tai chi may benefit women with thinning bones. This has led Wayne and his colleagues to pursue another current research project—a randomized controlled trial with post-menopausal women diagnosed with osteopenia that examines bone density markers as well as computerized motion analysis to quantify how tai chi affects weight-bearing in the skeleton.

In addition, clinical trials and basic research studies on patients with heart failure “suggest tai chi may be of benefit to patients in terms of greater exercise capacity and quality of life,” Wayne continues. “More definitive studies to confirm these observations are under way, as well as pilot studies with patients with chronic pulmonary disease.”

Yet from a Western scientific standpoint, it’s difficult to pinpoint why and how tai chi affects us. In typical drug trials, a well-defined chemical compound targets physiological systems, and outcomes can be measured against placebo controls. But tai chi is a multicomponent intervention, Wayne notes, with many active ingredients—movement, breathing, attention, visualization, and rich psychosocial interactions with teachers and other students. All of these can affect many physiological systems simultaneously. Moreover, many of the older study subjects also have complex chronic conditions, so identifying a logical control is challenging: it’s just not possible to have a placebo in a tai chi study. “For these reasons,” he says, “we need to be creative in designing tai chi trials, and cautious in interpreting the results.”

HMS INSTRUCTOR and pathologist Marie-Helene Jouvin, who has practiced tai chi for a decade and teaches at the Brookline Tai Chi school near Boston (http://brooklinetaichi.org), has noticed the large number of students who attend classes there for medical reasons—after surgery, or if they are suffering from chronic or autoimmune diseases. But tai chi and qigong are not limited to being done in a classroom with a teacher, she adds. “They can be done when you are sick, or lying in bed.”

Indeed, Wayne, Jouvin, and Kerr all agree that the beauty and ease of tai chi offer multifold benefits as far as its daily practice: it is adaptable to numerous physical positions and requires no special equipment, expensive outfits, or specific athletic conditioning. “It’s not a high-cardio workout, it’s all about deepening the relaxation in the movement,” Kerr says. “In aerobic exercise we’re taught to tense the muscle and push hard. Tai chi is the opposite approach; it’s about the flow of the whole body in the movement.”

Like tai chi, qigong also accomodates busy schedules because it can be done incrementally—and sometimes involves only the smallest parts of the body. Jouvin, for example, sometimes performs an ultra-slow form of twiddling the thumbs under the table at meetings; she focuses on the minutest sensations—skin, heat, joint rotation, relationships among the clasped and moving fingers—and finds this tends to calm her down, especially during heated professional debates, she says with a smile. “These are things you can easily do to help yourself and focus,” she adds.

Perhaps because of these multiple forms and its adaptability, tai chi looks easy to do. Yet in demonstrating to a novice the most basic short form of the Wu style, Jouvin painstakingly explains 18 precisely choreographed movements that flow together in a set order and take about four minutes to complete properly. “It’s hard to assess if you are doing it correctly without having a trained teacher or practitioner helping you,” she acknowledges. “It can look like people waving their arms and legs around.”

At the Brookline school, this same Wu short form is taught during the course of 21 weeks of classes. “Most beginners will do the moves as if they were purely aerobic exercise,” Jouvin says. “It will take a while for them to feel the exercise internally. There seems to be an internal logic to the movements. It’s a form that was built over centuries and probably reflects how the body functions.”

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