All Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), including acupuncture and herbal medicine, is based on the concept of the invisible life force in our body, called “Chi” (or Qi).
Since ancient days, Asian healers observed that when Chi is weak, blocked, or imbalanced in any way, illness is likely. TCM modalities all seek to restore the Chi back to its original balance and correct flow as a way to promote healing.
But as in any form of medicine, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Enter the moving meditations of Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Unlike other exercises or sports, these popular, relaxing, moving meditation arts are actually designed to exercise your Chi to keep it flowing properly.
Why Chi is Your Body’s Inner Healer
Our Chi is the actual life force that animates us and fuels our cellular reproduction and repair. It carries its own intelligence that operates outside of our day-to day awareness. For example, the Chi or life force in your liver cells knows how to detoxify thousands of chemicals from your bloodstream, and can do it without you having to think about it at all.
According to Tai Chi Master and author Waysun Liao, “Your Chi knows each cell, each organ, and the entire history of your body. It is the expert and engine of regeneration and repair. It has more healing wisdom than the largest medical university! Our original life energy is working as our chief physician every second of every day, desperately trying to balance our body and restore our health.” The question is, are we working with our Chi or against it?
How Tai Chi and Qi Gong Help
Perhaps you’ve seen a Tai Chi group practicing their slow movements in a park, or on television. It seems strange and beautiful, but what does the practice do?
In addition to offering a gentle, soothing, stress-relieving form of moderate exercise that can deliver small benefits in strength and flexibility, Tai Chi and Qi Gong go a step further – they encourage and assist your Chi to flow throughout your body in a more natural and effective way.
Research studies show that Tai Chi is effective for improving balance and preventing falls, improving T-cell immune activity, reducing arthritis symptoms, improving cardio-respiratory health, and reducing symptoms of fibromyalgia and chronic pain. A Harvard Medical review once dubbed it “moving medication.”
The best thing is that Tai Chi and Qi Gong are appropriate for those of any age and any fitness level, and can even be performed in a chair. You can easily learn a few movements to practice alone at home, or join a group in your community.
Building the Chi Connection
Master Waysun Liao points out that Tai Chi and Qi Gong also help us build a connection between our mind and our Chi. Through patient meditation on the feeling of your body, your breath, and its movement, you can actually learn to feel this life force and its subtle flow.
Since Chi is intelligent and alive, the more we can feel and connect with it, and the more we practice, the more it can subtly guide us to a greater state of well-being.
“Once we restore our inner connection to our life energy, or Chi, we consciously or unconsciously start to pick up its signal. We find ourselves making new choices, craving different food, slowly reorganizing our lives in ways that somehow feel better to us. Day by day, we start to feel better in mind and in our physical body. It’s a transformation that’s sometimes slow, and sometimes fast — but the driver of that change is our own life energy, not any outside expert or trend,” says Master Liao.
Whether or not you believe our Chi can communicate with us, TCM and arts like Tai Chi reinforce the importance of the mind-body connection. When your Chi flow and your physical health improves, so does your mind, your mood, and consequently your motivation and ability to keep getting better.
Tai Chi and Qigong are holistic moving meditations that offer so many healing benefits both to our mind and body. They also offer a non-competitive, gentle option for getting more physical activity in your life. Why not explore if your community offers Tai Chi or Qi Gong classes? It might start you on a new adventure!
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About the Author
Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, Dipl.OM, DACM, Cert. TCMDerm, is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats Acne, Eczema, Psoriasis, and TSW. Olivia treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia is Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Society of Acupuncturists, serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Group sponsored by the National Eczema Association.