Sports & LIFE Enhancement

Life & sports issues that T'ai Chi & Qigong can benefit.
World Tai Chi & Qigong Day advises consulting your physician before beginning any new exercise, herbal, diet, or health program. The research listed here is meant to stimulate a discussion between you and your physician, health insurance carrier, etc., not as medical advise. Research and comments provided here are hoped to stimulate a more robust discussion of powerful natural mind/body health tools. Popular media, health media, and government must increase attention to stunning emerging research, including the UCLA study indicating Tai Chi participants enjoyed a 50% increase in immune system resistance to viral infection.
Tai Chi and Qigong for Children
Kids are the embodiment of change, and change can be very stressful. Their minds and bodies grow at phenomenal rates, so they are constantly having to work with new and different bodies, making coordination and balance a big issue. Tai Chi, with its emphasis on balance, is well suited to address all these challenges. Preparing for Athletics and Life Tai Chi works to integrate the mind and body, skeletal and muscular systems, and left brain and right brain. In physical terms, this centering is built around an awareness of moving with good posture and from a low center of gravity, or the vertical axis and the dan tien. Gifted athletes are people who are naturals at this kind of self-awareness and movement. Since most of our kids are not naturals,
Tai Chi can be a most effective way to help your child prepare for athletics and to simply be comfortable in their rapidly changing bodies.
Treating Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
ADD is a growing problem not only with children, but adults as well. Tai Chi may be a wonderful adjunct therapy for treating ADD because it augments many of the mood management techniques recommended for ADD sufferers. A University of Miami School of Medicine study shows Tai Chi is a powerful therapy for ADHD (Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder).
Drs. Edward M. Hallowell, M.D., and John J. Ratey, M.D., experts on the management of ADD wrote, Exercise is positively one of the best treatments for ADD. It helps work off excess energy and aggression in a positive way, it allows for noise-reduction within the mind, it stimulates the hormonal and neurochemical systems in a most therapeutic way, and it soothes and calms the body. The slow mindful movements of Tai Chi have much to offer people who suffer from ADD.
Tai Chi and ADD
What Experts Suggest What T'ai Chi Offers Set aside time for recharging batteries, something calm and restful, like meditation. Tai Chi is a mini-vacation.
Daily exercise that is readily available and needs little preparation can help with the blahs that occur and with overall outlook. Tai Chi is easy, requires no preparation, and is a daily mood elevator.
Observe mood swings; learn to accept them by realizing they will pass. Learn strategies that might help bad moods pass sooner.
Tai Chi is a tool for self-observation of feelings and for letting those feelings go.
Use time-outs when you are upset or overstimulated; take a time-out; go away, calm down. Tai Chi can be performed in the bathroom at school or work, giving you a break from the stress.
Let go of the urgency to always finish things quickly by learning to enjoy the process. Tai Chi's slow flowing routine is about letting go of outcome and learning to love the process.
ADD usually includes a tendency to overfocusor hyperfocus at times, to obsess or ruminate over some imagined problem without being able to let it go.
T'ai Chi teaches the practice of letting go on a mental, emotional, and physical level with each exhale.
Teaching Tai Chi to Kids
Not just kids with ADD, but all kids usually have difficulty with the slowness of Tai Chi. Therefore, you simply speed it up. Teach each child at their own pace; some can go slower than others. Give kids constant recognition for their Tai Chi accomplishments. Ask each kid to demonstrate his or her new movements for the class at the end and have everyone applaud. If a kid forgets a move, jump in and do it with them. Over the weeks, they will look forward to the recognition and practice more.
Tai Chi is a loose thing, not a rigid thing. It can work for everybody and can be taught in many fun ways. Keep a kid's Tai Chi class moving and include stretching exercises from yoga or aggressive calisthenics to use up excess energy. Then, as the kids get more tired, ease them into slower movement.
Kids can do QiGong meditations, too. It isn't anything like adult meditations; there are more and different images that work. Try the children's meditation tape offered in the back of this book for examples.
Each condition is different, so check with your physician to discuss T'ai Chi's potential benefits to your case. T'ai Chi is extremely gentle and should not be confused with the harder martial arts, but consult your doctor before beginning the class.
Tai Chi for Seniors
Seniors can find no better exercise in the world than Tai Chi. Prevention Magazine reported that Tai Chi may be the best exercise for people over the age of 60 providing cardio fitness, muscle strength, and flexibility all in one simple workout that is easy on the joints. Tai Chi may help build bone mass and connective tissue, with zero joint damage, according to some studies. Other studies show that Tai Chi is twice as good as any other balance exercise in the world. Since complications from falling injuries are the sixth largest cause of death among seniors, this is a very big deal. For seniors with chronic conditions, there are many maladies that Tai Chi can help treat. For details see the section The Therapeutic Powers of T'ai Chi and QiGong at the end of this chapter.
If your mobility is limited in some way, that is no problem, even if you're in a wheelchair. There is a class for you, and if you are persistent, you'll find a teacher and a class that are perfect.
Tai Chi for Women
There are many reasons why Tai Chi is the ultimate exercise for women. Its ability to cultivate both elegance and power are two of these. In today's working environment where women are competing in the workforce with men and trying to break through the glass ceiling, Tai Chi's ability to cultivate an inner sense of confident power can be very helpful. However, there are many biological reasons Tai Chi can be helpful to women as well.
Halting Bone Loss
Bone loss is a big problem with many women. Studies indicate that stress may be a major factor contributing to the loss of bone mass in even relatively young women. The daily stress relief T'ai Chi promotes provides a powerful preventative therapy to help ensure a long active life for women.
For women, including those over 45, studies have shown that QiGong practice raises estrogen levels. This is highly desirable because reduced estrogen levels after menopause cause a loss of calcium from the bones and increase the risk of osteoporosis and heart disease.
Treating Eating Disorders
Women suffer from eating disorders ten times as often as men. Although often thought of as an adult problem, anorexia and bulimia most often start in the teenage years while the sufferer is still at home. Although I am unaware of any studies on the effectiveness of Tai Chi as therapy for anorexia or bulimia, the underlying issues and symptomology seem to suggest that much of the treatment criteria are embodied in Tai Chi practice.
For example, it is recommended that anorexia or bulimia sufferers strengthen their inner core of self and self-worth. The self-esteem that T'ai Chi practice builds and encourages can be a highly effective way to discover the power within one's self. The need for a restoration of biochemical and hormonal balance may be facilitated with Tai Chi's ability to create a homeostatic effect throughout the body, not only physically, but also mentally and emotionally. Tai Chi addresses the need to balance internal rhythms and needs with life's demands by those who practice it so they can become quietly mindful of subtle feelings and needs before they become a crisis born out in acute stress or panic.
Mood swings and depression are a part of bulimic bingeing, and feelings of lack of personal control are a part of many teenagers' anorexia or bulimia. Food, or denying ourselves food, provides us with a feeling of self-control over a world out of control. T'ai Chi's regular practice is designed to help us realize that we have a great deal of control over how we are impacted by the world. This centering enables us to feel more accepting of the fact that much of the world is beyond our control.
Preparing for Childbirth
Tai Chi has much to offer a pregnant woman, if practiced very gently and with care. It is a slow and gentle exercise that can be performed by most pregnant women. Its gentleness and relaxed motion promote the circulation of energy and blood throughout the body, while its smooth abdominal breathing fully oxygenates the bodies of both mother and child. However, only practice when it feels good and never strain yourself. Rest whenever you need to and modify or forego any movement or exercise that doesn't feel right. (Find a DVD specifically for women durning maternity in our DVD section.)
Tai Chi breathing is a wonderful way to prepare for delivery. The famous Lamaze Technique is based on QiGong breathing techniques and pain-management tools. This aspect of Tai Chi makes it perhaps the most effective exercise to prepare you for a safe, natural childbirth. Remember to breathe.
Although T'ai Chi is very gentle, some postures may be too low or somewhat strenuous for pregnant women. Do not practice these or adjust them so they are less strenuous. As your pregnancy progresses, change your T'ai Chi to make it less strenuous with each passing month. Always go slow and listen to your body. Do not do anything that doesn't feel good. Be sure your physician approves of T'ai Chi before beginning classes.
Tai Chi for Men
Just as Tai Chi can help women to develop their powerful dynamic side, Tai Chi helps men develop their passive or receptive side as well, thereby helping men to become better homemakers and parents.
Tai Chi's goal is to strike a balance between our dynamic (male/yang) side and our receptive (female/yin) side. Men and women have both qualities, and T'ai Chi helps us balance them.
Tai Chi helps us let go of old self-concepts and prejudices, just as it teaches us to let go of tensions and fears. As our physical bodies relax and become more fluid, we become more flexible mentally and emotionally as well.
However, Tai Chi can help you be that big strapping stud of an athlete as well. In fact, maybe it can help you keep up with the women who are advancing in every sport today.
Weight Training
Gil Messenger, a student of Master Kuo Lien-ying, was a sports trainer as well as a T'ai Chi instructor. He often taught a form of QiGong meditation to weight trainers, who were surprised to discover that they could then lift more weight. We think when we are pumped and straining we are more powerful, but these weight lifters discovered that by allowing the body to let go, to fill with light, and to move from a calm center, they increased their physical power.
At an American QiGong Association conference in San Francisco, I had the pleasure to meet a golf coach who had worked with Tiger Woods, and in fact written a book about Tiger's incredible, almost super-human golf swing. His book theorized that the reason for Tiger's immense power was that as a young child he had practiced QiGong exercises with his dad. This introduced him to “feeling” his swing in a heightened way, and also taught him to swing from the dan tien at a very young age. You see the results, as Tiger has dominated professional golf for many years of his career. Another reason all children should be learning T’ai Chi and QiGong from kindergarten through university.
In golf, instructors encourage you to swing with the belly button. This is another way of saying to swing with the dan tien. Many golfers discover that they can drive the ball much farther after practicing Tai Chi for only a few months.
Also, T'ai Chi's relaxed motion allows the limbs to be swung by the dan tien's motion with no muscle resistance. This in turn allows the entire force of the dan tien's turning to be projected outward through the hands and club into the ball.
The concept of swinging from the dan tien may also help reduce "golfer's back" problems. By thinking of swinging from below the navel (or dan tien) rather than from the navel, there is less twisting of the lower back.
Tennis and Racquetball
The same force used in golf is brought to bear in tennis and racquetball. If you play tennis or racquetball, you will also find an increased sense of control. Sometimes tennis players will describe a sense of slowing down, as if Tai Chi practice made the game seem a bit slower than before.
Tennis players will also often discover less pressure in the knees after practicing Tai Chi. Consciously moving from the dan tien can bring less pressure to bear on the knees when coming to an abrupt halt because when the head or upper body leads the movement, the knees must work harder to stop your momentum. Tai Chi can also give you an off day exercise that is soothing to the joints, but still keeps the mind and body working together at a fine edge. You may be able to have fewer days on the court, while still improving your game, which may save your knees as well.
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