The Practical Benefits of Tai Chi for Health and Circulation

January 31, 2011 by  
Filed under At Home, At Work, Health

The latest guidelines for preventing falls in the elderly in the USA have urged health professionals to look at interventions including exercise such as Tai Chi for balance, gait and strength training. With NHS treatment costs for falls coming in at £4.6m a day it could certainly save precious resources, and you could improve your own health in a very enjoyable way. I have often mentioned various health benefits of Tai Chi, and these usually come from research sources, so I thought it would be more helpful to hear from a practitioner on what they see as the real gains.

Jon Wallwork had suffered a spinal injury and was left with painful sciatica. Regular, dedicated practice over several months saw the sciatica diminish and within a year the condition had normalised (much to the surprise of the orthopaedic surgeon). He teaches in London and for P&O on some of their cruises and he is convinced of the health gains that can come from Tai Chi – whatever your age.

“It’s a very common perception that the practice of Tai Chi will lead you through moving meditation to this state of nirvana, this freedom from suffering. Well, dependent on your intention, attitude and goals it may do but there are real, practical benefits that have a more immediate relevance for anyone interested in maintaining a degree of good health and fitness whatever their age.

• Good posture arises in the lower back and spreads downwards to the legs through the pelvis and upwards to the head, through the spine and shoulders. Good posture depends upon good muscle tone in the centre of your body and exercises in Tai Chi training will help you develop such muscle tone and improve your posture.

• Mobility is the measure of the range of motion in the joints and good mobility aids agility and reduces the risk of injury. The range of movement found in Tai Chi forms combined with stretching exercise will considerably improve mobility.

• Co-ordination and agility can be enhanced through activity involving closely focused movements, balance and interaction with other people or equipment. Both solo and partner work in Tai Chi provides this.

Natural Help for Poor Circulation:
Tai Chi is also very helpful for improving circulation, but if you feel you need some extra help then an excellent supplement is Kiwiherb’s Organic Ginger & Kawakawa Syrup. The stimulating combination of these two herbs literally warms the body from the inside out and helps to increase blood flow around the body and especially to the extremities, such as the fingers and toes, which often suffer most.

Ginger helps energise the senses, boost vitality and increase overall circulation, and also possesses antiviral, anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting properties. Kawakawa is one of the most widely used herbs in traditional Maori medicine to improve circulatory problems and the syrup also contains antibacterial Manuka Honey

Especially useful if you suffer from chilblains or Raynaud’s disease and, as an added bonus, this organic herbal syrup also helps improve circulation to the brain, which in turn helps awaken the mind if feeling lacklustre and mentally weary.

Tai Chi Reduces Knee Osteoarthritis Pain

November 2, 2009 by  
Filed under featured, Fitness & Sport

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I am a fan of Tai Chi for many reasons: it benefits health, stamina, flexibility, co-ordination and reduces stress.  Now it seems it can also help with osteoarthritis – particularly if you are over 65 years of age.
Researchers from Tufts University School of Medicine in the USA studied a group of people of that age with knee osteoarthritis and found that if performed regularly Tai Chi exercise improved physical function and they experienced less pain.
Tai Chi, if you haven’t come across it before, is a traditional style of Chinese martial arts that features slow, rhythmic movements and there are five major styles, each named after the Chinese family from which it originated: Chen, Yang, Wu, Wu/Hao and Sun.
The study was reported in the November issue of Arthritis Care & Research, a journal of the American College of Rheumatology. For the study each participant was asked to take part in 60-minute Yang style Tai Chi sessions twice weekly for 12 weeks. Each session included: a 10-minute self-massage and a review of Tai Chi principles; 30 minutes of Tai Chi movement; 10 minutes of breathing technique; and 10 minutes of relaxation.

This is good preventive news, because as we get older we are most risk for developing knee osteoarthritis, which results in pain, functional limitations or disabilities and a reduced quality of life.  In the US there are 4.3 million adults over age 60 diagnosed with it and they predict that half of American adults may develop symptoms in at least one knee by age 85.  Figures for the UK are probably similar
Because Tai Chi works on the mental and emotional/spiritual aspects, as well as the physical, the researchers believe these address the negative effects of chronic pain by promoting psychological wellbeing, life satisfaction, and more positive perceptions of health.
At the end of the 12-week period, patients practicing Tai Chi exhibited a significant decrease in knee pain compared with those in a control group as well as noting improved physical function, self-efficacy, better health and less depression.
Finding a teacher
A personal recommendation is always best and you will find teachers listed usually in natural health centres and often run classes from church halls and similar venues.

These websites can help you find someone locally to you:
The Tai Chi Union of Great Britain at www.taichiunion.com
Tai chi listings by place and at www.taichifinder.co.uk
If you can’t find a class near you, there are also instruction DVD’s.  Not really the ideal way to learn, but one I have heard recommended for a short programme is from the US at www.easytaichi.com

Benefits of Tai Chi for arthritic knees

November 3, 2008 by  
Filed under featured, Fitness & Sport, Healthy Ageing

Well anyone who is a regular reader, or has heard me speak, knows I am a great fan of Tai Chi for so many reasons. It is a traditional Chinese martial art that combines meditation with slow, gentle movements, deep breathing, and relaxation and any age or fitness can undertake it – just think of those elderly people you see doing it in the public parks in China. You can do it at home in 10 minutes, get a video to teach you or – best option of all is to find a qualified teacher and join a group. You will improve your fitness, helps build bone strength, lower your blood pressure, reduce stress levels and cultivate calm centredness. All good things, and now there is another one to add to the list – it can help if you have arthritic knees.

The American College of Rheumatology has just reported on a study done in Boston which found that patients with osteoarthritis of the knee benefited more from Tai Chi than from the traditional stretching exercises that such patients are usually given. Osteoarthritis sufferers experience interlinked pain, muscle weakness, and structural damage and where Tai Chi really scored was that it improved pain scores THREE times better than stretching. Researchers also concluded that the meditation, deep breathing, and relaxation involved may also benefit patients and it is recommended by the Arthritis Foundation. Personal recommendation is the best way to find a good teacher, so ask around your local area, health stores and alternative health centres can be good sources. The Tai Chi Union For Great Britain can offer you a register of practitioners throughout the country at www.taichiunion.com or in Scotland you could contact the East Winds School of T’ai Chi Chu’an at www.eastwinds.co.uk. If you are looking in the London area then I can personally recommend Jon Wallwork as a wonderful teacher and he can be contacted by email at jw@jonwallwork.co.uk

China has longevity licked

Generally speaking, you would think China would be an unhealthy place to live given all the bad press they have received about their lack of food standards, dangerous lead-laced toys, environmental abuses, exorbitant pollution, and widespread poverty. However, there are two surprising facts that have emerged recently: China boasts a life expectancy surprisingly close to that of the United States and perhaps not surprisingly they do this by spending a lot less money.

The US life expectancy is about 78 years, compared to China’s of 73 years overall, though it rises to around 80 years in cities like Beijing and Shanghai and Hong Kong is out in front with over 82 years. What do the Chinese pay for these extra years of life? Just $277 a head on healthcare in a year, compared to the United States where it is a staggering $6,100 a head each year.

The Chinese are great smokers, live with the many health hazards inherent with living in hugely over-crowded cities and in one of the most polluted countries on earth. So what is their secret? Well it is very simple and down to the fact that daily exercise is widespread and woven into the Chinese culture, offering more than just a way to burn calories. It also enforces social interaction, limiting the isolation that so often comes with old age in the West. Any visitor to China is struck by the way masses of people can be seen practicing tai-chi, aerobics, games, and even open air ballroom dancing. Every day exercise is vital for health and longevity and if you want to try something different from your usual morning or evening walk, then studies have pinpointed several benefits of Tai Chi, as it stimulates your central nervous system, lowers your blood pressure, relieves stress, tones muscles and helps with digestion and waste elimination. If you want to find a teacher locally, then ask at your local alternative health centre or shop for a personal recommendation or visit www.taichifinder.co.uk and just search your postcode.