How Tai Chi and Qi Gong Work in the Human Healing
In the Chinese healing system, your mind and your body should not be separated. Your body can affect your mind, and your mind can affect your body. Your energy pathways that go through your body also go through your brain and affect all parts of the brain and affect the neurochemicals.
Both Tai Chi and Qi Gong work with internal energy. Internal energy brings harmony to the organ system. The harmonious organ system helps to balance body biochemistry, hormones, and metabolism in the body. This is how your healing ability enhances. When you have surgery, your wound may be healed in days or weeks, even months. It all depends on your level of healing ability. When you catch a cold, you may recover in days, weeks, or months; this also depends on our healing ability. If your healing ability is strong, you can heal any illness. Some people don’t believe this, especially medical people—I was one of them. I was trained in conventional medicine and always believe that conventional medicine is always right. Until past 20 years my experience has changed my view. I am now advocate to natural medicine, natural healing and preventive medicine. Think a moment with your own experience: you sometimes in the past had imbalance of the body that affect immune system and organ team work, you got sick and your healing ability is weak, you heal slowly. Other time you feel good but caught cold, you heal in 2 day. Practice Tai Chi and Qi Gong can definitely improve your healing ability beside other health benefits. Here is how and why that tai chi and qi gong can assist with healing.
The slow and meditative movements of tai chi and qi gong help to smooth the flow of the energy. Tai chi and qi gong elevates the function of the vagus nerve system, which has a big effect on reducing stress and preventing heart disease, hypertension and other vascular disease. We discussed previously, qi is the motor of the body. Just like a car, a bigger car with a bigger motor will go faster and have more power; a smaller car will go slower and have less power. If qi in the body is strong and balanced, your body and circulation system will be strong and you will be less likely to develop circulatory and vascular diseases. For many years in China, the rates of heart disease and hypertension have been low. One of the reasons for this is that people pay attention to and work on improving their bodies’ qi circulation. They also maintain a healthy diet, have a balanced and active social life, and often walk from place to place, instead of driving. Recently, the situation has changed: there is now more heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and other problems. There are also more cars. This does not mean we don’t need cars.
One of the most important benefits, which is also easy for Westerners to understand, is the increased oxygen level in the blood and organ system provide you great health benefits. Both Tai Chi and Qi Gong require slow deep breathing, especially Qi Gong. With each slow and deep breathing, you bring more oxygen to your body, to your lungs, to your bloodstream, and to your organ system. Your blood carry oxygen travels to all parts of the body, your brain, heart, kidneys, liver, stomach, intestines, spleen, reproductive system, muscle system, glands, etc. The more oxygen you bring into the body, the better your organ function.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong not only increases the oxygen flow in the body but also increases its usage by organs and tissue. That is why Tai Chi and Qi Gong is considered a natural anti-oxidant. This also leads to delaying aging process. On one trip to China in the past, I had my friends one is radiologist the other is internist examined my chest x-ray film. Both of them told me it was amazing that even though I had chronic inflammation in my lungs, the amount of air I could breathe in was remarkably good. I was disappointed about my inflammation—I was born with poor lung and kidney energy—but I was happy about my lung function. Both Tai Chi and Qi Gong exercises can also help to prevent respiratory infection, cold, flu, or any kind of lung disease. In our lungs, there are special antibodies called IgA (immunoglobulin). IgA protects us from respiratory infection. Both Tai Chi and Qi Gong regular practice increases the IgA in both quantity and quality. In Chinese medicine, lung energy is defensive energy that related to immune system in respiratory track, improving lung energy can improve respiratory defense system. Therefore we have less chance catching cold, flu, or other respiratory infection if we practice regularly.
Tai chi and Qigong improve the autonomic nervous system, including both the sympathetic nervous system and the parasympathetic nervous system. In a later chapter you will find out how important the autonomic nervous system is relate to our health.
The parasympathetic nerves are responsible for internal organs, especially the digestive system. With improved blood circulation, more oxygen gets to the organs; with improved parasympathetic nerve function, your digestive enzymes, the mobility of the digestive track and other digestive chemicals are more likely to stay at healthy levels. If your mobility of digestive track is normal, you have normal elimination, we call natural cleansing and detoxification. You know you don’t feel well if you cannot go to the bathroom for several days.
Maintaining good digestive energy leads to better digestion and absorption. With these advantages, the food you eat will be properly used and transformed to energy; otherwise, the food you eat will not be transformed to energy and you will feel tired even though you may have eaten well. Both Tai Chi and Qi Gong involves whole body movement, it is like you are doing a gentle massage to your internal organs during practice. This gentle stimulation helps to restore the balance of the digestive organs and prevent digestive illness, unless you have poor eating habits.
I was surprised to see so many cases of digestive illness in the United States. I have many patients with digestive illnesses, but very few are willing to do Tai Chi and Qi Gong. Patients who kook my advice to practice Tai Chi and Qi Gong, get right amount treatment and using some herbal supplements are recover much better, some are completely cured.
Many people using various supplements to help themselves. Nothing wrong with this, we all need some nutritional support especially during aging process, or during healing process. The supplements can help you if your digestive system function well and absorb the nutritional supplements. If you have imbalance in the digestive system, using supplements is rather wasteful, because your supplements are not efficiently absorbed nor used for your needs. True masters or practitioners of Tai Chi and Qi Gong rarely have digestive problems, not only they eat healthy but also because they practice this kind healing art diligently.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong involve the whole body multi-dimensioned movements with flexion, contraction, stretching, and strengthening, your muscles get a well-balanced exercise. This is especially true with “Therapeutic Qi Gong.” (offered in our school in weekly classes as well as in the Qi Gong Instructor Training Program). Your muscles and joints are in constant motion and receive plenty of oxygen from deep breathing. This not only keeps you fit, but also keeps your muscles and joints healthy. You will have less muscle tension and stiffness. This helps delay aging of your muscles and joints, and prevent degeneration, and maintains good muscle resiliency and flexibility. Healthy muscles and tendons can also prevent arthritis, fibromyalgia, and tendonitis, you will have fewer aches and pains and less stiffness. You will feel younger in overall.
In 1991, I went to China. As usual, I went to a public park in the early morning, and I saw an older woman (around 80s of her age) doing Chinese exercise. During her Qi Gong practicing, she kicked her leg even higher than I could kick. I was so curious about this, I thought she is a professional martial art practitioner. I then found out she is retired factory worker, who came to this park to do exercise every day, rain or shine. Just from this experience, I told myself: I need to set my discipline and practice every day.
I know it is easier to practice in China, because there are so many people doing exercise in public parks. This creates an energy field; you spontaneously do it without hesitation. It is harder in America, not only because it is such a new thing here, but also people feel self-conscious doing exercise being in a public place. We don’t see many people doing this kind exercises outdoors, except walking, jogging, biking, or playing sports…. I recommend you try to do Qi Gong or Tai Chi outdoor, you may be surprised to find out how you feel.
Increase Stamina, Daily Energy Level, and Immune Function:
Many people have told me how much they have improved of their energy. Many also told me they are lucky to be able to avoid sickness even though people surrounded got sick. They are able to work longer hours and still have good productivity. Because of the balanced organ system, better flow of energy and blood from daily practice of Tai Chi and Qi gong, the immune system tends to be balanced too. In my teaching years, I have seen many of my students improve their energy levels and immune systems. They rarely catch colds. Even when they have caught colds, they recovered quickly.
Affects on the Nervous System
As mentioned above, the movements from Tai Chi and Qi Gong affect the nervous system, including the central nervous system, peripheral nervous system, and autonomic nervous system. The whole-body exercise incorporates breathing and mental focus, which allows qi and blood to flow better to all parts of the body, including the brain. The biochemicals and neurochemicals in the body and brain therefore is balanced, you can be more focused, respond quickly to learning, you think more logically, maintain mental sharpness and alertness, and improve your ability in performing daily tasks with greater ease.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong not only regulate the somatic nervous system, as evidenced by the improved mobility of the muscles and joints, but also improve the autonomic nervous system, including sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve system response. The autonomic nervous system is divided into two opposite functions, and is comprised of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. These neural networks control the internal organ systems, glands, blood vessels, and sensory systems. For many years, my focus has been on nervous system and autonomic healing. The healing work I do and the special exercises I create are designed to improve and balance the entire nervous system.
Each deep inhalation stimulates sympathetic activity, whereas each exhalation stimulates parasympathetic activity. The more regulated breathing you practice, the better-balanced autonomic nerve system you will have. That is why qi gong masters have much fewer physical complaints in their lives. They have a very good digestive function, good mental clarity, as well as a good immune function. This helps explains how tai chi and qi gong have a self-regulating effect on the human body.
There will be more details about the autonomic nervous system in a coming chapter, but suffice it to say that these benefits remain even as you age, which has given me the encouragement to write this book. I have seen many of my friends with declining memories, even some who were very smart at a younger age (maybe it is from ADD?). On the other hand, I have noticed that my tai chi and qi gong students have less depression and anxiety, less stress, and less confusion in making decisions. It greatly benefits people who have ADD too. I believe if we start to teach children tai chi or qi gong at early ages, it could help them to focus, and they will do better in their academic studies and other activities. They will have healthier mental processes too. Unfortunately, our culture has not paid much attention to support this.
Correction of Chemical Imbalances
Deep, slow, and regulated breathing helps to harmonize the body’s chemistry, including adrenaline, noradrenalin, serotonin, and many other neurochemicals. Many illnesses are caused by chemical or hormonal imbalances. If you use external chemicals to balance the internal chemicals, such as taking medication to supplement a chemical that is low in the blood, you may actually cause more imbalances by interfering with the body’s natural biofeedback response. Our body has an auto-regulating systems, which allow us to be in balance most of the time. If a certain chemical is low, the auto-regulating system will stimulate the corresponding organ or glands to release more of this particular chemical to balance the level. Sometime low level can be just temporary, but soon can better. Just like you have a cold one day, next few days you feel better. External chemicals (or pills) suppress this self-regulating response and provide false information to the body, so it stops releasing the very chemical it needs. That is why a person who takes a thyroid hormone pill will usually have to take it for life. If a person uses a pill to supplement the thyroid hormone, the destruction of the self-regulating system of the thyroid gland, pituitary gland, and hypothalamus can occur. The results is the thyroid will no longer function. If the person starts to practice tai chi or qi gong, or other exercises consistently or gets acupuncture or Chinese herb treatments, this person has a chance of restoring the self-regulating system. Eventually, the level of the hormones will be normal.
With Tai Chi and Qigong practice, there is definitely a feeling of chemical balance. There is stillness in the Tai Chi movement, and there is movement in the stillness. If it involved just stillness without any motion, it might be difficult for some people to follow. If it were just motion without stillness, such as a heavy workout offers, we would lose the sense of peace and harmony. Try to practice Tai Chi and Qi Gong when you are stressed to see how you feel afterward.
- Both Tai Chi and Qi Gong improve metabolism. You rarely see an overweight Qi Gong/Tai Chi Master.
- Improved balance and coordination, which research has shown, helps to prevent falls and injuries.
- People experience improvement in lifestyle and happiness. This is from becoming well-balanced and open-minded. The Masters of Tai Chi and Qi Gong don’t get stressed, because they know how to avoid negative energy.
- Improved learning ability in all fields. We will have more details on this in later chapters.
Cancer healing. One very important aspect of Tai Chi and Qi Gong practice is to assist cancer healing. It helps to prevent the onset of cancer and prevent cancer relapse. I have seen people healed from Qi Gong and Tai Chi practice. I know very few people believe this statement. But the true story is there. A majority of people might say, “Yeah, right Doc, this is a joke; cancer needs chemotherapy, radiation therapy, hormone therapy, steroids therapy, surgery, and more drugs.” Sound familiar? But think for a moment: how many cancer patients died, even though they had received these conventional therapies? Common sense tells you that your balanced mind is a guide to your balanced body, and your balanced body helps you to heal. Anything can change: your health, your illness, your life too.
Tai Chi and Qi Gong strengthen the immune system, and a strong immune system helps to fight cancer. People who have a strong immune system die from old age, even if they have cancer cells in their bodies. Only if you have a weak immune system, can the cancer cells grow faster and be more invasive. A weakened immune system caused by some conventional treatments can cause severe infection, which is a main cause of death for cancer patients. Tai chi and qi gong can put patients into a positive state of mind and promote positive thoughts, giving crucial hope for healing. It is like mental training and teaching. Scientists know the mind has immense power with regard to human disease and healing. I have seen this first hand. You may be surprised to know that even I did not believe these things before. Research has now shown that mental training has the power to change the physical structure of the brain.
“…… Mental practice resulted in a similar reorganization” of the brain, Pascual-Leone later wrote. If his results hold for other forms of movement (and there is no reason to think they don’t), then mentally practicing a golf swing or a forward pass or a swimming turn could lead to mastery with less physical practice. Even more profound, the discovery showed that mental training had the power to change the physical structure of the brain. (The Brain: How The Brain Rewires Itself TIME: Fri January 19, 2007
(Read more: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1580438,00.html#ixzz0ytKCxtiJ)