Correct Tai Chi Practices For The Health Of The Spine

While most individuals realize that Tai Chi has health benefits, few are aware of how exactly this healing art is good for you.

Initially meant to be a form of martial art, ‘Tai Chi Chuan’ is a phrase that means “grand ultimate fist” in Chinese. It was only in the 20th century that people began to perform this activity mainly for health purposes without intending to use it for combat. The grand ultimate fist has always been a positive force for its followers and today still continues to be so.

Correct Tai Chi practice first requires correct alignment of the spine. Students need to understand what is known as ‘vertical axis.’ This means the spine needs to be kept very straight and all rest of the body must move around the spine. This is extremely beneficial for the spine in particular, and the body, in general. The first thing learned is the fundamental posture called “Wu Chi” in some programs. This posture aligns the spine so that it is straight and at the same time relaxes the body. Lots of people have small spinal misalignment in their body that over time can actually cause a lot of pain. With correct practice and instruction, people can learn how to maintain correct alignment of their spine.

When they think of Tai Chi, most people usually think about old people, usually Chinese, out in a park performing a set of dance-like slow movements. This rhythmic flow of movements can be interesting to watch. Yet those movements are meant to do far more than simply look graceful.

This series of movements is designed to circulate energy or qi through the energy pathways (called meridians) in the body. These motions widen the meridians and the movements in the form actually energetically clean the lymphatic and circulatory systems and the other systems of the body.

With Tai Chi, practitioners are able to alter the states of their body. The practice has what are called expressions of energy (also known as jings). One jing is related to relaxation. The physical and mental states of individuals are very much interconnected and so highly stressed people tend to suffer from extreme physical tensions. When they relax, they free up physical tensions in their bodies, which also reduces stress. Tai Chi instructs people on how to gain that very relaxed state of being. Actually, a part of that flowing and graceful movement is due to the fact that it is performed in that exact relaxed state. Most of the wear and tear that the body experiences in life comes from tensions that people unknowingly hold and Tai Chi assists its students to become cognizant of that tension and helps them release it.

Rooting is another jing and it involves dropping downward the body weight into the ground. For people who find it hard to focus, this rooting jing is an ideal tool. All in all, there are a total of 36 expressions of energy or jings as well as many various applications and combinations of the different jings. Martial artists are able to alter body states very rapidly with sufficient practice. This can help people get a firm grasp of the challenges they face each day in a healthier way.

Dr. Jeda Boughton is a licensed acupuncture physician and the medical director of BodaHealth in Vancouver, BC.

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