Other health benefits

Other health benefits

Postby ken » Mon Apr 16, 2001 4:49 pm

We had a post going a while back about the health benefits of tai chi, which mostly related to the topic of stress. I have read/seen/heard general assertions that tai chi has many health benefits.

One benefit I have experienced was that tai chi did help me with respect to a back ache. I apparently twisted and/or strained my back one day while working out on an elipitcal machine at the health club. At first, the back pain, located in about the kidney area, was mild. But I was not practicing tai chi on a daily basis at that time due to an overloaded work schedule, and the back pain progressively got worse. Within a few weeks, it reached a point where I was having a lot of difficulty sleeping because any movement at night was sufficiently painful to wake me up. I was at the point where I was ready to to consult with a physician for pain medication and a muscle relaxant for the back (or to perhaps try a chiropractor). It just happened that at tai chi class that week a topic for the class was the use of the waist and the use of the back muscles to initiate/control movement of the waist. I decided to hold off on calling a doctor for a little while, and see if I could strengthen the back muscles through tai chi. Sure enough, a little over a week's worth of regular practice several times a day really helped. My back got better within about a week and half to the point where I was no longer suffering back pain. And the best part was that this was accomplished without the need to resort to drugs. Granted, this may not have been a chronic bad back, but it was still amazing at how it did clear up with the use of tai chi to move/strengthen the injured area.

I would be interested in hearing of other health benefits that people may have encountered as a result of tai chi. So far, I know of two benefits --- stress reduction and back pain relief. The must be more out there, so please share your experiences.

[This message has been edited by ken (edited 04-16-2001).]
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Postby Audi » Fri Apr 20, 2001 3:50 am

Hi Ken,

Nice post.

I too have had back problems helped or cured by T'ai Chi and can, perhaps add two things to your experience. First, the key to my improvement was in recognizing the importance of loosening my "kua's" and encouraging movement and downward flexibility in my tailbone as I went through the form postures. Prior to that, T'ai Chi had been neutral to my back. Second, I did not find all styles of T'ai Chi training equally helpful, since they did not all equally force me to put aside bad postural habits.

In addition to keeping me from any serious recurrence of chronic back pain for many years, I credit T'ai Chi with helping me with several other things. For instance, it has helped me reverse minor knee problems caused by straining in a squat to put a baby into the back of a car. On a trip to Boulder, Colorado, it also helped me recover from slight fatigue and shortness of breath caused by the extreme altitude.

Paying attention to "suspending my head from above" has allowed me to largely eliminate chronic neck pain caused by a near head-on collision in a car.

T'ai Chi also helped me create a "virtuous circle" of healthy body feeling that led me to achieve and maintain for a couple of years a 20-pound weight loss. However, I am still way too overweight, so I can't say T'ai Chi has been a cureall. Along with this, I have recovered a certain degree of flexibility in my waist, hamstrings, and hips that has surprised me.

Lastly, T'ai Chi's greatest wonder for me has been to turn me partially into a morning person. I now regularly enjoy seeing the dawn and hearing the birds sing in the sunrise as I do form on my deck. If I do form correctly, it feels almost as good as a massage, so that getting thirty minutes more of sleep no longer feels like such the deal it used to.

Happy practicing,
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Postby Charla Quinn » Fri Apr 20, 2001 4:41 am

Audi and Ken,
Thanks for your posts about how TCC has helped your health. Audi, your comments about putting the baby in the back of the car, becoming a morning person, and dealing with unwanted weight made me chuckle. I can identify with all!
Though, I'm extemely interested in the health aspects of TCC and feel so many people get into TCC for that reason, I've hesitated to answer about how TCC has helped MY health because my health has been so good since I began practicing, I don't want to put a hex on it by the appearance of bragging! But, honestly, I feel it has helped me in so many ways--when I was pregnant, in delivering my babies, in raising my babies, in my marriage, in the normal, but sometimes pesky physical cycles of woman's health, in all the stresses of life, I have stayed healthy. Beyond that, it has heightened my awareness and appreciation of just about everything! TCC is my herbal supplement, my vitamin, my inspiration, and a "friend to me". When I'm stressed I go do some form or hold standing meditation. I breathe out the bad stuff, I punch and kick away the enemy. It makes me strong and confident and a lot nicer to the people in my life. My husband, not a practictioner, but once he became aware of how TCC helped me, has contintued to encourage my study. My son, when a kindergartner, drew a picture of his family as Dad with his briefcase, his sister with her cello, and Mom with her saber! Oddly, the teacher never said anything.
Audi, your mention of "loosening the kua" reminds me, when I'm in standing meditation, and I lower the sacrum and tailbone down (or the lower back), I've sunken into my legs, how do you describe that feeling like the pelvic girdle or hips expanding out, or opening ? I've tried to explain this feeling to others, but I can't quite describe it. It only happens when the lower back really drops down, then this loosening happens--its a sort of horizontal rounding out, while the spine is vertically loosening. Oh, I fear I'm getting confusing here. Help! And Thanks.

[This message has been edited by Charla Quinn (edited 04-19-2001).]
Charla Quinn
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Postby ken » Fri Apr 20, 2001 3:30 pm

Thanks for sharing you experiences.

With respect to tai chi helping you deal with fatigue and shortness of breath when you were in Colorado, while I have not practiced tai chi at altitude I have found that it can be effective at combating fatigue. A good, slow practice of the form is very invigorating for me. Quite often I will get home from work in early evening and be very tired. One pass through the form will tend to pick up my energy level, and the effect will last many hours until I go to bed. Surprisingly, a practice as gentle and as relatively short as the form is much more invigorating for me and pumps me up more than several miles of running. I also feel that it a better work-out for the leg muscles.

Also, I agree with the increase in flexibility that tai chi develops. I used to be very limited in my flexibility, and my sense of balance was poor. Tai chi has greatly improved both for me.

Sadly, I am still not a morning person. Guess I will never be one. But, as you note, tai chi is not a "cure all."

Be well,
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Postby ken » Fri Apr 20, 2001 3:48 pm


Glad that you health has been good. Perhaps tai chi has been a contributor to that good health, and has helped avoid health problems that may have otherwise arisen.

I definite agree with the value of tai chi in dealing with stress and with just coping with life in general (see my post under stress). In many respects, it helps me keep my mental health. The hand form can be very calming and medatative at times, and the saber from can be an outlet for frustration or aggression.

A thought on the weight issue (I have been overweight too, but have just about brought it under control)-- I find that if I am around the house and start to get a case of the "munchies," a run through the hand form will effectively take my mind off of munching. The effects will last well beyond the time I am actually doing the form. It becomes, in a way, a substitution for the bad stuff that I would otherwise munch on. (Indeed, though a combination of diet, tai chi, and cardiovascular exercise, I was able to lose 25 to 30 pounds and to keep that weight off for almost two years now). Tai chi seems to increase my will power to resist eating junk.

As to the describing the feeling, I know what you mean. A lot of tai chi involves matters where you recoginze the feeling and it feel right/good, but you just can't describe it in words. That is why I feel it is very important to have a good instructor who can help you (by physical placement of your body, if necessary) recognize the right posture/movement --- which books or videos just simply cannot teach you adequately.

Be well,
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