Tai Chi, Harvard’s “Medicine in Motion”

It is a ‘silent’ martial art with less demanding postures than those adopted in yoga. The key is gentleness, with natural, relaxed movements performed with fluidity. It combines physical exercise and mental concentration.

Among the cyclists and runners who invade the parks, especially now with the good weather, there are many groups of people who, very silent, are distinguished by their slow and peaceful movements. They are the practitioners of tai chi, a discipline that isIt is fashionable, but it dates back to 17th century China as a martial art connected with the principles of Taoism and based on staying in touch with nature.

But what is it? Many call it “me

Among the cyclists and runners who invade the parks, especially now with the good weather, there are many groups of people who, very silent, are distinguished by their slow and peaceful movements. They are the practitioners of tai chi, a discipline that isIt is fashionable, but it dates back to 17th century China as a martial art connected with the principles of Taoism and based on staying in touch with nature.

But what is it? Many call it “meditation in motion,” because it mixes gentle movements with breathing techniques, mental focus and relaxation. These movements can be adapted and practiced while walking, standing or sitting. Unlike karate or taekwondo, tai chi focuses on silent strength rather than combat. And compared to yoga, it involves less demanding postures. “The foundation of tai chi is about understanding the whole person and improving balance and communication between the different systems of the body,” says Peter Wayne, director of the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine and author of The Harvard Medical School Guide to Tai Chi.

Daily activities

“It can be compared to everyday activities, such as lifting shopping bags, pushing doors to open them or picking up things that fall,” the expert continues. It is therefore a matter of carrying out movements in slow motion without pauses, breathing deeply and naturally, focusing attention on bodily sensations. “These gestures have names of animal actions (for example, the white crane spreads its wings) or martial arts movements, such as tapping both ears. They are normally circular and never forced gestures, with relaxed muscles rather than tense, with joints neither fully extended nor bent and taking care that the connective tissues are not stretched,” explains Harvard.

There are different styles and ways to practice it. Wayne recommends starting out as simple as possible, by standing behind a sturdy chair and leaning against it. Then, carefully, try to rock your body back and forth, becoming aware of each part of your body and its connections. “At some point,” once you have some skill, “you can start practicing more complex movements or sequences,” he adds.

Research from the National Institutes of Health, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the nation’s largest medical research agency, suggests that practicing yoga improves posture and confidence, the way you think and manage your emotions, and overall quality of life. “Some studies have found that yoga may help people with fibromyalgia sleep better and cope with pain, fatigue, and depression,” the agency added. Regular practice may also improve the quality of life and mood of people with chronic heart failure or cancer. It also improves sleep quality and improves learning, memory, and other mental functions, according to its data.

Against this backdrop, “it could well be called medication on the move” because “there is increasing evidence that this practice has value in treating or preventing many health problems,” concludes Harvard Medical School.

 
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