Taiji, Health, and Pandemic

Taiji is known as a good exercise for health and a good martial art. A natural question is whether and how Taiji can be beneficial to a person’s health in the environment of the current coronavirus pandemic. This article discusses this topic.

A person with better health is in general less likely to become susceptible to getting sick, whether the illness is due to the new coronavirus Covid-19, or some other illness. Taiji is already known to give rise to a lot of benefits for health. [1] A 2019 article [2] has shown that modern scientific research during the past 25 years or so has provided preliminary confirmations of this long-standing belief; that article also provided an explanation why Taiji can give rise to such health benefits. A brief summary of that journal article can also be found in a recent article posted in this website. [3]

Therefore, the reasons that Taiji can give rise to all those health benefits can also be applied to why Taiji can be beneficial in preventing or overcoming any illness associated with the new coronavirus.

Our discussion in this article will focus on the reasons associated with oxygen and blood circulation, stress reduction, correct posture, exercising your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and increased immunity.

Good health requires adequate supply of oxygen to various parts of our body. Although Taiji movements are soft and slow, Taiji is an aerobic exercise that provides oxygen and stimulates blood circulation. Taiji exercises your heart and lungs. It synchronizes with breathing, especially with lower abdominal breathing for experienced practitioners, and brings in more oxygen. Lower abdominal breathing also massages the internal organs inside your abdomen.

The fundamental principle of Taiji of relaxation can reduce stress. It is emphasized in almost every aspect of Taiji, including associated meditation exercises. Relaxation reduces anxiety, hypertension, diabetes, and ADHD. It soothes the mind, leads to better sleep quality, and reduces various bodily pains. On the one hand, it relaxes the mind, but on the other hand the mind is involved and leads the forms, and that may be why Taiji can slow down the onslaught of Alzheimer’s Disease.

Another fundamental principle of Taiji is to keep your upper back straight. This guiding principle manifests all throughout the Taiji movements and results in good posture. This guiding principle together with the emphasis on keeping your feet separated by a shoulder width lead to better balance and stability.

Taiji movements, as well as various accompanying warmup exercises such as the Eight Silk Brocade [4] or the self-massaging Paida exercises [5] stretch and strengthen your muscles, tendons, and ligaments, and increase flexibility. These exercises stimulate air and blood circulation throughout your body, and also strengthen all parts of your body, thus increasing your immune system.

As a matter of fact, more than 15 years ago, Taiji was found that it can increase immunity to shingles, caused by the reactivation of the chickenpox virus (the varicella-zoster virus, or VZV). Taiji can increase a person’s immunity by as much as taking the shingles vaccine VARIVAX. Furthermore, if a person takes the VARIVAX vaccine, practicing Taiji can increase that person’s immunity even more. [2]

 

 

Since Covid-19 is caused by a virus, increasing a person’s immunity is key to avoiding being infected with Covid-19, or recovering from it if one has been infected. Increasing one’s immunity, together with other health benefits, practicing Taiji can be an important part of our defense against the current global pandemic.

With the current global pandemic, we are faced with lockdown and staying at home. My personal experience has found that in some sense, this has been a blessing. Without the need to attend various activities outside of the home, and without needing to spend the time to drive to these activities, I find that I now have more time than before.

My Taiji practice takes about one hour per practice. But the practice consists of various components, such as warm-up stretching exercises, meditation exercises such as Eight Silk Brocade and Standing Meditation, Forms such as the Mixed-Style 42 Form or the Yang-Style 24 Form, and strength-building exercises. The components take about 15-20 minutes each, and could be as little as 5-10 minutes. Therefore, while I am preparing dinner, I can exercise one component, then while baking in the oven, or steaming in a wok, or cooking in a pressure cooker, I can do another component. Since all these activities are done at home, I can easily go from one activity to another. The end result is that I have found more time to do my Taiji practices on a more regular basis.


 

[1] See, e.g., “Health Benefits of Taiji”: http://www.dontow.com/2010/01/health-benefits-of-taiji/.

[2] Don M. Tow, “Health Benefits of Taiji,” Qi:  The Journal of Traditional Eastern Health & Fitness, Volume 29, No. 3, Autumn 2019, pp. 20-28.

[3] A brief summary of that article can be found at “Trying to Understand Why Taiji Has So Many Health Benefits”: http://www.dontow.com/2019/09/trying-to-understand-why-taiji-has-so-many-health-benefits/.

[4] See, e.g., “A Set of Simple Time-Tested Health Exercises: The Eight Silk Brocade (八段錦)”: http://www.dontow.com/2018/12/a-set-of-simple-time-tested-health-exercises-the-eight-silk-brocade-%e5%85%ab%e6%ae%b5%e9%8c%a6/.

[5] “Lajing and Paida Therapy – Reviving Ancient Chinese Self-Healing Exercises”: http://www.dontow.com/2013/09/lajing-and-paida-therapy-reviving-ancient-chinese-self-healing-exercises/.

 

You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

Leave a Reply