Tai Chi Chuan

Tai Chi Chuan is one of the great treasures of the Chinese culture. Tai Chi Chuan has a long history in China. Today, people worldwide practice it as an art, a form of preventive medicine, and a health maintenance exercise. Because Tai Chi Chuan is a slow, relaxed, gentle, physical exercise, it can be performed by people of all physical conditions and all age groups. One can engage in this discipline to keep fit from youth and continue to practice well into old age.

Today, external appearance is very important to many people. They believe that as long as one looks good, one is healthy. As long as one is moving, one is exercising. These are fallacies. We know that external appearance does not indicate what is inside. The same is true in exercise. For example, one may sweat a lot after a half hour on a stationary bicycle. Although one sweats a great deal, this exercise does not improve one's health much because this exercise mainly works on one's leg muscles and lower body more than the upper body and hands. Also it can not improve the condition of one's immune system or the physiologic functions of the organs. Tai Chi Chuan on the other hand, has been documented to strengthen one's immune system. It was published in PREVENTION magazine that people who practiced Tai Chi Chuan in a study had higher white blood cell counts than those who did not.

There is a common phenomenon we observe everyday. Professional athletes often do not have long careers when compared to average people. This is especially true when the sports they play are very physical. Many athletes have a career that lasts an average of 10 to 15 years and then they are forced to retire due to health problems. Many of these retired athletes come down with immune system related diseases when they are at their middle aged. This is the result of high physical and emotional demands they experience in sports competition. They use up a lot of energy known as "life force" or "qi" in traditional chinese medical theory to maintain the physiologic organ functions and they do not supplement enough energy during their careers.

All forms of activity require energy as the source of power. A human body is one big and complex unit that has many systems and requires a lot of power to maintain. In order to maintain this unit in top shape, one needs to eat a variety of foods and maintain all physiologic functions. Therefore, in order to have good health, besides eating foods, an ideal exercise is necessary to improve and maintain all physiologic functions. An ideal form of exercise should work on muscle groups, the skeletal system, circulatory system, nervous system, respiratory system, immune system etc. In addition, when one is exercising, one should be supplementing energy and not only expending vital energy to keep all these system functions. In this way, he physiologic functions of the body will not degenerate over time. However, it is common that as one gets older, the immune system weakens and the health becomes poorer. Many common exercise methods are too rigorous and not proper for people with poor health or older people. But Tai Chi Chuan, because of its characteristics as a slow, relaxed, smooth, gentle exercise, it is an ideal exercise for people of all health conditions and ages.

Cultivation of life is equivalent to preservation of life. It involves exercising all the body's physiologic organs in moderation so that these organs will function for longer duration. Practicing the slow and gentle movements of Tai Chi Chuan is the best method of cultivating life. Although the movements are slow and gentle, they are very scientific. They work on every part of the body to keep all physiologic organs in good condition. With its slow, soft, continuous and relaxed movements, it is different from most common calisthenics exercises which are physically demanding. Tai Chi Chuan's movements are based on some of the characteristics of human physiology. Therefore, when one practices Tai Chi Chuan, one should relax the body to improve the blood circulation, the nervous system, open the pores on the skin so the skin can "breath". Performing the movements properly will also help keep the body and back upright to support the skeletal system to set the bones in their proper alignments. Tai Chi chuan is an exercise in which one invests enough physical effort but with a minimum output of energy. It correctly fits the concept of cultivation.

In today's medical science, the endocrine system is one essential aspect of the body. When this system functions normally a baby grows up to be a teenager and then an adult. This is the result of the balance of the body's internal environment. When one gets older, the body's internal environment begins to lose balance and the endocrine system starts to degenerate, deteriorate and its functions become less efficient, and one begins to have problems. However, When one practices Tai Chi Chuan, the white blood cells inside the body increase, which in turn can balance the body's internal environment and help to improve health and delay the degeneration process of the endocrine system's function and other physiologic organ functions.

We are living in a stressful and complex society. In order to survive, we must mobilize all our resources to confront this complexity daily. Our brains and nervous systems are also negatively affected by this type of life. When one lives in this stressful, stimulating society that is full of temptation, sooner or later, the body is overwhelmed by negative factors and can not take it anymore. This will speed up the physiologic organ functions, and sooner or later, one will get sick. Today, there are many diseases which people come down with that are clearly related to our stressful life style.

Tai Chi Chuan is an exercise which emphasizes relaxation and tranquillity. This is exactly the opposite of what we generally experience in our daily lives. When one is calm and relaxed, the nervous system is refreshed and more efficient. Therefore, when one practices Tai Chi Chuan in a natural relaxed manner, it is better for the central nervous system and many physiologic organ functions. Practicing Tai Chi Chuan gives the active portion of the nervous system a chance to re-charge and be restored, while making the inactive portion of the nervous system become active so that the nervous system becomes balanced. In addition, the stretching and relaxation of the body in Tai Chi Chuan practice helps those people who have sedentary careers to improve and restore their muscle functions as well as improve their blood circulation.

The relaxed, natural, soft, stretched, tranquil, gentle, slow and circular motions required in Tai Chi Chuan provides the best method to support all the physiologic organ functions. When one practices Tai Chi Chuan correctly, all outside stimulus will be filtered and negative emotions will be ignored so that a practitioner will enter a healthy tranquil condition. In other words, when one relaxes, the nervous system will become more efficient, the blood circulates better, the body becomes more coordinated and balanced. When one turns, twists and stretches the body in Tai Chi Chuan practices, the skeletal system, muscle groups and internal organs will be properly exercised. When one practices Tai Chi Chuan regularly, the body is maintained in a healthy condition. Therefore, Tai Chi Chuan is the best medicine for people today. By Vincent Chu

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