The words Tai Chi invoke an image of people rhythmically moving together in a public park at dawn, harmonizing with Nature. Occasionally, one sees a solitary practitioner doing the form in a pastoral setting. What motivates these people to rise before daylight and spend the first hour of the day in this exercise? Are they just getting some fresh air?
Certainly, fresh air accounts for part of the appeal, but if you were to take a poll in the thousands of parks throughout Asia in which this scene is repeated, you would find that the overwhelming reason for the faithful practice of Tai Chi is the maintenance or restoration of health. Tai Chi is a system of exercise which maintains flexibility and strength in the tradition of Western calisthenics, but more importantly, the regular practice of Tai Chi nurtures the flow of Chi throughout the body. This is what makes Tai Chi special.
The Chinese word "Chi", means intrinsic energy and it is believed to exist in all living things. The Chinese firmly believe that good mental and physical health is closely dependent upon the proper flow of Chi through the body's "meridians".
We are constantly exposed to bacteria and viruses. Why aren't we constantly ill from infections? Countless bacteria colonize every human body's skin and digestive tract. Yet we manage to coexist in harmony most of the time. Occasionally we become overwhelmed by these same bacteria. Why? Western medicine has no satisfactory explanation for such spontaneous and usually temporary breakdowns of the immune system.
Chinese medicine is very clear on this issue. If Chi is weak or blocked, a multitude of illness can result. Such breakdowns are caused by a disruption of the flow of Chi, and if they are to be cured, the proper flow of Chi must be restored. Chinese medicine attempts to prevent and cure such illness by manipulating the flow of Chi through acupuncture, herbs, massage, breathing exercises and the practice of Tai Chi.
Modern (Western) medicine has been successful in furnishing protection against many infectious diseases through vaccination and antibiotics. But according to Dr. David Benson of Harvard Medical School in his forward to Encounters with Qi (Chi) by David Eisenberg, MD., "...only 25 percent of illnesses that bring a Western patient to a Western physician are successfully treated by specific agents and producers. The other 75 percent either get better by themselves or are related to nonspecific, mind-body interactions." nonspecific means unknown.
Tai Chi can play a preventive role in maintaining good health as well as a therapeutic one in dealing with illness. Through the regular practice of Tai Chi, stress is relieved, blood pressure can be lowered, arthritic pain can be reduced and the immune system can be strengthened. The process does not require the use of drugs, the exercise is gentle and age is not a limiting factor. Throughout the Far East as one witnesses the multitudes practicing Tai Chi in parks at dawn each day, one has to be amazed by the number of participants who are in their 80's and 90's. It is estimated that over 100 million people throughout the world practice Tai Chi on a regular basis.
The practice of Tai Chi consists of a series of slow rhythmic movements that involve all parts of the body. As the movements are made using the whole body, the internal organs are stimulated and the mind achieves a meditative state. Together, these conditions stimulate the flow of Chi. After an extended period of practice, one begins to consciously experience this flow, thereby causing a positive re-enforcement of the meditative state. Breathing becomes deep and full. One becomes balanced, both mentally and in a very literal sense, physically. More importantly, the paths through which Chi flows are kept clear and open. The likelihood of Chi blockages and imbalance is greatly reduced.
The movements are mild and gentle. The whole exercise can be merely relaxing or intensely demanding depending on one's degree of experience with Tai Chi. After a time, one becomes very strong physically and very sensitive to everything within and impinging upon the body. Improvement depends not on outer strength, but inner awareness. These gentle movements, coupled with concentration and inner awareness are, according to Chinese medicine, one of the keys to natural health and immunity to degenerative diseases.
John Toy has been practicing Tai Chi with Gin Soon Chu for 20 years and has been teaching for 10 years. Master Chu learned from Master Yang Sau Chung from the original Yang family and is one of three chosen disciples of that generation. Master Chu taught John Toy how to read people's energies and use these techniques with many illnesses, such as lupus, fibromyalgia, and some cancers. His sister died of lupus when she was 42 years old. If you would like further information about his healing process, which includes Tui-Na, Chi-Jung, and Tai Chi, please contact John Toy by calling 508/744-5632 (Salem, MA).
I was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus about 13 years ago and have been hospitalized on four different occasions during the intervening period. In one instance I was bedridden for eight months.
Like many others with my condition, I have suffered severe physical and emotional pain, with resultant intermittent periods of depression.
In September of 1995, things took a definite turn for the better. I began practicing Tai Chi and Chi Kung Meditation. These are traditional Chinese exercises which teaches one to establish contact and control over one's internal energy (which the Chinese refer to as "Chi").
For hundreds of years many Chinese people have practiced Tai Chi to help increase their health. Under the guidance of my teacher, John Joy (who teaches Tai Chi and Kung Fu in Salem, Massachusetts), I have been able to make great strides in harnessing my own internal energy for the purpose of improving my health. I am happy to report that I have experienced an unbroken period of good health and stronger energy with no lupus flare-ups since that time.
I now teach Tai Chi in Concord, New Hampshire and in the Boston area. From my own experiences, I can attest to the fact that Tai Chi and Chi Kung can be very helpful in dealing with this devastating condition. I would welcome the opportunity to discuss the matter further with anyone that is interested.
Jo Lu Roberts Johnson, PO Box 70, Concord, NH 03224-0070, 603/783-4282
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Page Last Updated: Tuesday, January 13, 1998