The Art of Taichi

Starting May 4 at 6pm, for six weeks, AFP will be holding in-person Taichi classes in the Amherst office parking lot. These classes will be led by Charles Milch, PA-C (Amherst Coop) and Haiying Conover, LMT (QiGong). Haiying and Charles answered some questions for us about the Taichi series.

AFP: Why should our patients consider Taichi?

Haiying: Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is one of the oldest medical systems in this world. The evolution of TCM has never been swept away by any culture or civilization. It has always been evolving with human history and technology, especially  the first recorded TCM doctoral medical text HuangDi NeiJing (Esoteric Scripture of the Yellow Emperor) during Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220CE). Herbal medicine, acupuncture and moxibustion, martial arts and others are part of this system in terms of contributing to human health.  There are so many kinds of martial arts. Taichi Quan is one of the most popular ones. It developed from movements of defending and offending during non-weapon war periods.  It combines mental focusing (mindfulness), meditation, breathing and movements (cardiomuscular strengthening) all in one. It doesn’t require much space, facilities/machinery, or practice time.

Charles: I feel if you’re looking for a way to reduce stress, improve your balance, ease chronic pain and overall improve your athletic ability consider taichi . Originally developed for self-defense, tai chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that’s now used for stress reduction, improved balance, chronic pain and a variety of other health conditions. Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements.

Photo credit: J. Potash

AFP: Is Taichi hard? Can anyone do it?

Haiying: If you just want to be a Taichi follower, it might be easier, but it still is harder than the majority of QiGong forms. If you want to get the most benefit, it can be hard. It is hard in two ways: First is at the very early beginning you have to remember the movements. Second it takes time to sink in for integrating mindfulness, breathing and movements together. Once you pass this two steps, you will suddenly discover that you are in a different world of understanding body, nature and human health.  If you commit to learn, grow while you are learning-It is like to give birth,  You will have so much fun when you grow with your child together but it has a lot of hard times.  So simply to say, yes, anyone can do it but you have to be mentally ready for the challenge.

Charles: Taichi is not hard.  It  is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. In fact, because tai chi is a low-impact exercise, it may be especially suitable if you’re an younger or older adult who otherwise may not exercise and would like to begin a total body/mind approach to improved fitness.  Many athletes practice various aspects of tai chi to improve their concentration and athletic performance.

You may also find tai chi appealing because it’s inexpensive and requires no special equipment. You can do tai chi anywhere, including indoors or outside. And you can do tai chi alone or in a group class.

Actors who practice Tai Chi include Mel Gibson, British Actor Paul Adrian, Indian Bollywood Actor Kunal Kapoor, RZA from the Wu Tan Clan and Terance Stamp. And, of course, Jackie Chan, Bruce Lee, and Jet Li know plenty about Tai Chi.

Women practice tai chi.  Gisele Bundchen, one of the highest paid models in the world, does Tai Chi, as does her husband, Tom Brady. Emmanuelle Seigner, a French actress, musician and wife of Roman Polanski, states “Tai Chi really makes me feel relaxed.” Shirley MacLaine believes that people should take time everyday for moving meditation like Tai Chi or qigong. Bette Midler and Marianne Faithful are two others who practice Tai Chi.

AFP: Why are you only focusing on six (6) forms?

Haiying: The form we are teaching totally is 24 movements—24 simplified form. But we only teach the first 6 movements (if the group is mature we will teach more movements. It depends on group adaptility) in first 6 weeks. In the future we will continue to teach the rest of this whole form. We also will teach 1)some anatomy knowledge such as iliopsoas, gluteal muscles etc and how to properly use them. 2) some wonderful acupuncture points such as allergy points during allergy season. 3) defending and offending meaning in each  movement.

Charles: Ditto for me on what Haiying said.  I feel spending time to focus on each move and receiving critique from Haiying is so important for all of us to maximize the benefits of tai chi and develop the ability to focus on each move.  It is a true form of mindfulness – being here now.

Photo credit: J. Potash

AFP: Can you tell us about one of those forms in more detail?

Haiying: Let’s talk about the Opening in the very first movement: a) iliopsoas, abdominal muscles, quadriceps and hamstrings properly cooperate and strong to support, it requires you to develop a good balance; b) acupuncture point CV 4 (conception vessel) is the “Dan Tian”—your mental focusing on gathering energy internally from whole body and externally from the universe, and it is where your root and strength come from. This point in acupuncture is often used for treat infertility and other issues; c) the offending and defending meaning is for by separating coming fists towards to the head at the same time pushing away the offender on their chest area.

Charles: In my practice I learned that each move comes from me being in contact with the earth and the energy I derive through concentration and each form which begins  from my contact with the earth traveling up through my body through my chi.

AFP: What do you enjoy about Taichi?

Haiying: Personally, I enjoy TaiChi in few ways: 1) Time, place and equipment would never be a limitation/excuse for not practicing; 2) The more I practice, the more I am accept and calm in life; 3) It brings me better health.

Charles: Frequently, I wake up in the morning with my head filled with all the task I have to do that day.  I find if I jump up and start doing them without feeling centered I will probably spin my wheels and not make a lot of progress and become frustrated.  When I wake up and greet the day with 12-15 minutes doing my tai chi first, I feel centered for my day.  I feel more ready and I seem to accomplish more.  I also enjoy using  tai chi principles while I go through my day at work, while exercising running, skiing and mountain biking.

Photo credit: J. Potash

AFP: Anything you would like to share with our patients about TaiChi?

Haiying:

Here is a link about some academic research of TaiChi benefit for chronic musculoskeletal pain, it is from the Osher Center for Integrative Medicine by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. It is really boring scholar’s research but it is worth to watch.

Charles: Like Tom Brady, I feel doing tai chi on a daily basic helps to keep me centered though out my day mentally and physically, reducing my stress, strengthening my body and enabling me to feel and do the best in the 24 hours in front of me

For more information and to register (there is a $30 pre-paid introductory price for this in-person class), contact events@doctorkate.net. There is still time to join though space is limited!