Very simply, taiji (tai chi) and qigong exercise COMBINE the benefits of meditation AND movement exercise – including strength, flexibility, coordination, agility, and moderate aerobic conditioning. The intensity of the exercise is easily adjusted to suit persons of any age or physical ability. We have students in their 80s, and we have had elite athletes that found the exercises challenging. The reason why taiji became popular in China is because people observed that the dedicated practitioners remained strong and agile well into their senior years. A famous saying is:

The older, the stronger, the wiser, and the happier

. . . and the older students in our class will attest to that.

Everyone knows that exercise is beneficial and everyone knows that

an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

. . . the best time to start is NOW – before problems arise. But it is also true that many of the most celebrated taiji and qigong practitioners were initially motived to start because of an interest to cure an injury or illness – motivating them to study and practice seriously.

Since Hippocrates doctors have prescribed exercise for its curative and restorative benefits. The list of mental and physical benefits, of BOTH meditation AND exercise is extensive – the combined benefits of both is unequaled by any exercise regimen. Everyone starts for a different reason – our students include life-long martial arts practitioners, an elite trap shooter who wanted to become a national champion (and he did!), cancer survivors, those seeking to reduce anxiety and increase harmony and balance in their lives (mentally and physically!), and those wanting to limit the debilitating effects of multiple sclerosis, to name just a few.

Some enjoy high intensity exercise, and we strongly encourage cross-training. But the potential detrimental effects of ignoring the universal principal of balance and overexerting oneself, including debilitating injury and even higher mortality rates, are becoming increasingly well known. There is a reason that doctors have to man the finish line of the annual Illinois marathon :-). The accumulated experience and wisdom of the old-time martial arts practitioners in China is increasingly clear – nurturing yourself mentally, spiritually, and physically is essential to self-defense and well-being. As Dr. Yang has always said: “no pain, more gain.”

From a Western medical perspective, we can say that taiji and qigong directly affect the central and peripheral nervous system which, in turn, is intimately connected and in constant two way communication, through both direct innervation and biochemical signals, to the body’s immune system. Dr. Yang’s own research demonstrated a significant effect on immune system function after only three weeks. From a more practical perspective, we can just say that taiji and qigong are fun and make you feel good – peaceful, happy, strong, and full of energy.

All of which is not to say that it is a magic pill. Your effort to learn, and to practice, are required to gain the benefits 🙂

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