Tai Chi

Elements of Tai Chi

Tai chi is a traditional Chinese form of martial arts which is an element belonging to the philosophy of qigong, or Chi kung. Tai chi is also known as tai chi chuan or tai chi chih, depending on the specific style practiced. Tai chi is not focused on self-defense as many other martial arts are. It is more a system of breathing and moving meditation. The philosophy of qigong involves the practice of correct breathing, inner and outward awareness, and physical activity. These aspects all form to help a person become physically, mentally, and spiritually healthy. Tai chi and quigong originated from Taoism. Sometimes referred to as a religion, Taoism (pronounced dow-ism) is a belief system that originated in China in the sixth century BC. One of the basic tenets of Taoism is that all systems have a natural balance, known as yin and yang. Supporters of Taoism believe that people are born naturally balanced, but as they develop, the process of socialization unbalances them. Taoist practices such as tai chi are meant to bring a person back into a state of natural balance throughout the entire body.

The Practice

The practice of tai chi begins with learning a series of soft, flowing movements called forms. Each form consists of 20 to 100 separate movements that flow together in a sort of dance. Each form can take up to 20 minutes to complete. Just as the movements flow together, when one form ends, practitioners usually transition to a new form with equal fluidity. All the forms are based on and named according to movements that can be found in nature. The movements within a form are based on balance, and grouped in pairs of opposites. For example, a step to the left is immediately followed by a step to the right. Practitioners of tai chi aim to develop their technique, rather than building power and strength. It is believed that as their technique improves, power and strength will naturally follow suit.

Benefits of Tai Chi

Research has found several benefits in practicing tai chi as a complementary treatment for patients diagnosed with cancers such as mesothelioma. Evidence has found no link of tai chi to the cure of cancer and other illnesses; still the American Cancer Society notes the reduction of stress that is provided help to lower heart rate and blood pressure. The physical improvements associated with tai chi include balance, improved posture, muscle mass and tone, flexibility, and stamina. These developments can be especially beneficial for seniors. Studies show that students of tai chi show greater physical improvements that stems from this kind of physical activity. Those who practice tai chi also benefit from an improved sense of well-being. Scientific and medical research has shown that tai chi is a well-rounded form of exercise that can help to improve several aspects of personal health.

The ACS lists tai chi as a complementary therapy for cancer treatment. When coupled with standard medical procedures, tai chi could result in reduced pain and stress, along with a sense of peace among patients. Patients diagnosed with cancers such as mesothelioma may benefit from alternative therapies such as this one. Mesothelioma exhibits a long latency period, oftentimes resulting in diagnosis occurring in the later stages. Due to the diagnostic stage, palliative treatment options are often considered, such as the practice of tai chi.

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