Chris DeWald | Tai Chi, Qigong, Brain Gym

Tai chi (pronounced “tie chee,” and also known by some other names and spellings) is a mind-body practice that originated in China as a martial art. A person doing tai chi moves his body slowly and gently, while breathing deeply and meditating (tai chi is sometimes called “moving meditation”). Many practitioners believe that tai chi helps the flow throughout the body of a proposed vital energy called qiIn traditional Chinese medicine, the vital energy or life force proposed to regulate a person’s spiritual, emotional, mental, and physical health and to be influenced by the opposing forces of yin and yang. (pronounced “chee,” it means “air” or “power”). In the United States, tai chi for health purposes is part of complementary and alternative medicine, or CAM.

Tai chi developed in China in about the 12th century A.D. It started as a martial art, or a practice for fighting or self-defense, usually without weapons. Over time, people began to use tai chi for health purposes as well. Many different styles of tai chi, and variations of each style, developed. The term “tai chi” has been translated in various ways, such as “internal martial art,” “supreme ultimate boxing,” “boundless fist,” and “balance of the opposing forces of nature.” While accounts of tai chi’s history often differ, the most consistently important figure is a Taoist monk (and semi legendary figure) in 12th-century China named Chang San-Feng (or Zan Sanfeng). Chang is said to have observed five animals-tiger, dragon, leopard, snake, and crane-and to have concluded that the snake and the crane, through their movements, were the ones most able to overcome strong, unyielding opponents. Chang developed an initial set of exercises that imitated the movements of animals. He also brought flexibility and suppleness in place of strength to the martial arts, as well as some key philosophical concepts.

People practice tai chi for various health purposes, such as:

For benefits from exercise.

o Tai chi is a low-impact form of exercise.

o It is a weight-bearing exercise that can have certain health benefits-for example, to the bones.

o It is an aerobic exercise.

To improve physical condition, muscle strength, coordination, and flexibility.

To have better balance and a lower risk for falls, especially in elderly people.

To ease pain and stiffness-for example, from arthritis.

For health benefits that may be experienced from meditation.

To improve sleep.

For overall wellness.

 

Side effects and risks

Tai chi is a relatively safe practice. However, there are some cautions.

Tell your health care provider if you are considering learning tai chi for health purposes (especially if you have a health condition for which you are being treated, if you have not exercised in a while, or if you are an older person).

If you do not position your body properly in tai chi or if you overdo practice, you may get sore muscles or sprains.

Tai chi instructors often recommend that people not practice tai chi right after they eat, or when they are very tired, or when they have an active infection.

Use caution if you have any of the conditions listed below, as your health care provider should advise you whether to modify or avoid certain postures in tai chi.

o Pregnancy

o Hernia

o Joint problems, back pain, sprains, a fracture, or severe osteoporosis

A CAM approach should not be used to replace conventional medical care or to delay seeking that care.

 

Qigong

Qigong is an important part of Chinese Medicine. It is a combination of gentle, healing exercises. Qi can be translated as “breath”, “energy”, “vital life force” and gong means the art of cultivation of a skill through practice. Qigong combines movement and meditation. There are many forms of qigong, going back thousands of years. It is very similar to the more familiar Tai Chi.

According to qigonginstittute.org “It is believed that regular practice of Qigong helps to cleanse the body of toxins, restore energy, reduce stress and anxiety, and help individuals maintain a healthy and active lifestyle. Although there is not yet an instrument that can measure the strength of Qi and that we may not fully know what Qi is physically, research has shown that external Qi of a Qigong master could produce significant structural changes in water and aqueous solutions, alter the phase behavior of dipalmitoyl phosphatidyl choline (DPPC) liposomes, and enable the growth of Fab protein crystals (Yan et al. 1999). It has been said that Qigong is one of the most powerful healing traditions ever developed in human history. It is literally a health wonder of the world.”

More and more studies are being done of the health benefits of qigong and Tai Chi. These include improved strength, balance, flexibility, and range of motion. They are considered aerobic exercises of moderate intensity. Studies indicate that it can be beneficial for arthritis, fibromyalgia, osteoporosis, and other health conditions. (http://qigonginstitute.org/html/papers/TaijiResearchRev1.pdf).

 

Five Animal Frolics Qigong

What can we learn from animals? A lot! Animals live in the moment and react appropriately to their environment. They respond to threats by the well-known “flight or ,fight” response. We humans tend to let stresses of everyday life- jobs, bosses, money, traffic, kids- weigh us down. There are many ways to appropriately deal with stress: exercise, talking, writing, creating art, or meditation. Qigong is another way. Qigong is an ancient Chinese exercise that combines the breath, intention, pose, and movement. It was created for health practices to build qi (pronounced “chee”). Qi is difficult to define, but it is often regarded as our life force or energy. When we increase our qi, we have more life and vitality. Qigong can help relieve stress and anxiety, improve balance and flexibility, and integrate our minds, bodies, and spirits to achieve harmony. The Five Animal Frolics is a form of qigong which includes exercises inspired by animals: the bear, deer, monkey, tiger, and crane.

 

What can these animals teach us?

The bear: Get your rest! The bear is slow and lumbering and hibernates in winter. He allows himself to rejuvenate so he can go out into the world refreshed. The bear qigong exercises can help us access our stored energy reserves and strengthen our legs and bones.

The deer: Run and bound! The deer is tall, proud and graceful. He is also alert and runs from threats. We should not react to stresses in our lives by trying to suppress them. We need to release them through exercise such as running, jumping, walking, martial arts, or qigong. The deer exercises help us to maintain free flow of our energy despite worries and help us to keep tendons and ligaments flexible.

The monkey: Make time for play!! The monkey is quick and fun-loving. The monkey exercises can help blood circulation, agility, and balance.

The tiger: Have patience!! The tiger is a solitary and patient hunter. It takes time to get in the perfect position to pounce. He tenses up his muscles to catch prey or when there is a threat, but then when he rests, he becomes totally relaxed. His muscles, like those of a pet cat, are soft and supple. Tiger exercises can help promote strong healthy muscles and improve digestion.

The crane: Fly high and let go! The crane is light and graceful. If we want to fly like the bird, we need to spread our wings and let go of old baggage. Crane exercises help develop the lungs, improve balance, and help the spine.

All the animals represent a different energy in Chinese Medicine and by doing each of the exercises, they can help us develop each of the energies and transition from one to the next to bring about balance and harmony.

 

Who can do Five Animal Frolics Qigong?

People of all ages and abilities. If necessary, the exercises can be tailored to individuals based upon needs and limitations. All the exercises are gentle movements: some standing with some upper body movements combined with breathing techniques and some also include walking.

(www.vaharmonyacupuncture.com/visitors/index.asp?agt=272&style=1)

Now all this being said, I returned to the vaharmonyacupuncture center and met with Christie Savage (LAc., Dipl.Ac ). May’s article had Christie Savage showing us Chinese Acupunture. She also instructs methods and styles of Qigong. I asked Ms. Savage that many of us are restricted to chairs or rollators due to the lack of balance and muscle control of strokes. She explained that Qigong is very adaptable and styled a program starter for us.

Now please show this video to your doctor before doing the following and always ask them if any exercises are prohibitive due to your condition. Yes, this video is of me being instructed by Ms. Savage. I have been doing this for a month now and I feel a difference. Matter of fact, there shall be another video of me completed a month later on another exercise we all can do. There is a remarkable change. Get the popcorn and “Cheeze Its” out

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3oPL1sMcyUs

For those who like Oprah and Dr.Oz, here’s a link to their understanding of Tai Chi and Qigong…..

http://www2.oprah.com/health/oz/programs/global/energy/energy_basics_102.jhtml

Here is another wonderful “brain exercise” that is so inspiring I had to include it in this article….It is one of the many courses of “Brain Gym”….

These simple exercises are based on the copyrighted work of Paul E. Dennison, Ph.D., and Gail E. Dennison. Brain Gym is a registered trademark of Brain Gym® International . I first encountered Brain Gym in “Smart Moves,” a best selling book written by Carla Hannaford, Ph.D. Dr. Hannaford states that our bodies are very much a part of all our learning, and learning is not an isolated “brain” function. Every nerve and cell is a network contributing to our intelligence and our learning capability. Many educators have found this work quite helpful in improving overall concentration in class. Introduced here, you will find four basic “Brain Gym” exercises which implement the ideas developed in “Smart Moves” and can be used quickly in any classroom. Below is a series of movements called PACE. They are surprisingly simple, but very effective! Everyone has a unique PACE and these activities will help both teacher and student become positive, active, clear and energetic for learning.

 

Drink Water

As Carla Hannaford says, “Water comprises more of the brain (with estimates of 90%) than of any other organ of the body.” Having students drink some water before and during class can help “grease the wheel”. Drinking water is very important before any stressful situation – tests! – as we tend to perspire under stress, and de-hydration can effect our concentration negatively.

 

“Brain Buttons”

This exercise helps improve blood flow to the brain to “switch on” the entire brain before a lesson begins. The increased blood flow helps improve concentration skills required for reading, writing, etc.

· Put one hand so that there is as wide a space as possible between the thumb and index finger.

· Place your index and thumb into the slight indentations below the collar bone on each side of the sternum. Press lightly in a pulsing manner.

· At the same time put the other hand over the navel area of the stomach. Gently press on these points for about 2 minutes.

 

“Cross Crawl”

This exercise helps coordinate right and left brain by exercising the information flow between the two hemispheres. It is useful for spelling, writing, listening, reading and comprehension.

· Stand or sit. Put the right hand across the body to the left knee as you raise it, and then do the same thing for the left hand on the right knee just as if you were marching.

· Just do this either sitting or standing for about 2 minutes.

 

“Hook Ups”

This works well for nerves before a test or special event such as making a speech. Any situation which will cause nervousness calls for a few “hook ups” to calm the mind and improve concentration.

· Stand or sit. Cross the right leg over the left at the ankles.

· Take your right wrist and cross it over the left wrist and link up the fingers so that the right wrist is on top.

· Bend the elbows out and gently turn the fingers in towards the body until they rest on the sternum (breast bone) in the center of the chest. Stay in this position.

· Keep the ankles crossed and the wrists crossed and then breathe evenly in this position for a few minutes. You will be noticeably calmer after that time.

Gee gang that is a lot to read huh….So I met with Suzette Wolfe, MS,CCC-SLP, a speech language pathologist located at 1105 Greenville Avenue, Staunton Virginia 24402. Her e-mail address is suzette@thecmmunisensecenter.com.

I had met Suzette at a brain injury monthly meeting given at the Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center, Fishersville Virginia. The meetings are conducted by Mrs Helen Cloud of the Staunton-Augusta Brain Injury Support Group. For more information on support meetings, call Helen Cloud, (540) 886-5420 or her e-mail is hcloud35@msn.com.

Ms.Wolfe gave her time to show those that attending the meetings ways to improve the way they learn. The technique works for me and I shall pass it on to you via “video”

All right gang, no more that 12 cheeze its in a daily serving…Get a cup of water and watch me….

http://www.youtube.com/user/StrokeReHab

Try it….You’ll like it !!!!! Please send any feedback to me or Lin Wisman. I am here to help “us”. Want me to explore different cures, ideas or comment on this article. Send them to me !!!!!

I do not do windows, chase poisonous snakes or get shot with arrows.

Talk to me !!!!

 

Chris DeWald can be reached at cdewald@strokenetwork.org.



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