The oldest medical book in the world is the 5000-year-old Yellow Emperor's Classic. The first line in the book states: "It is the inferior doctor who waits for the patient to become ill. The superior doctor seeks to cultivate health and prevent disease." Today, this ancient advice is being spoon fed to our health care system, along with a hefty dose of economic reality. With over 250,000 deaths each year directly attributable to a lack of exercise, the Surgeon General's office reports that "sedentary living habits clearly constitute a major public health problem." In addition to deaths, the lack of physical activity causes billions of dollars in health care costs due to preventable disease, disability and loss of independence. Much of this would be entirely avoidable if more people included healthy levels of physical activity in their daily lives. For centuries the ancient art of Taijiquan (T'ai Chi) has managed to acquire and maintain some of the highest levels of physical activity compliance in the world. With an estimated 100 million practitioners in China alone, Taijiquan is currently the most popular form of organized physical activity in the world.
What is Taijiquan? (alternate spelling T'ai Chi Chuan)
From a modern scientific perspective the ancient Chinese art of T'ai chi is a moderate aerobic exercise that benefits both mind and body without the wear and tear associated with many exercise methods. The American Medical Association describes T'ai-chi as "characterized by physical movement and mental concentration; its purpose is to moderately exercise all the muscles and achieve integration between mind and body"
The effect of daily T'ai chi practice is an improvement in sensation and performance by teaching skill in the conscious control of one's own body. This in turn increases functional ability, enjoyment and the quality of life. The long term skillful practice of T'ai chi requires a voluntary shift in awareness away from the limited, ego centered point of view of normal awareness to the heightened awareness of performance and enjoyment. This shift in awareness from the thinking mind to sensory awareness combines a finer degree of control of the body or kinesthetic awareness with more accurate perceptions. In turn this creates a fundamental shift in the subject's perception of the world and his or her ability to interact with it. Properly taught, the T'ai chi chuan fulfills all of the criteria for an enjoyable activity set forth in Mihaly Cziksentmihal's work on the psychology of optimal experience. This work puts forth a few simple criteria required for an activity to produce a flow state, a state of optimal enjoyment. Another way to say it is that enjoyment equals a challenging activity requiring skill. The activity must merge awareness and action with clear goals and feedback leading to loss of ego and self consciousness. T'ai chi does all this and more.
How has Taijiquan managed to acquire and maintain physical activity levels in so many individuals for over seven and a half centuries? We have tried to answer this question using a trans-theoretical approach that combines classical Taiji theory and a modern approach to behavior change. Extensive searches of both the biomedical scientific literature and the classical literature in Taijiquan form the foundation of our research. We have attempted to supplement this research by attending many local, regional, national and international conferences. Dr. Victor Chen has offered input over the years and during the 5th World Congress on Physical Activity and Aging (Orlando, 1999), we had the good fortune to work with Dr. Paul Lam of Australia. Other advisors for the project include Chris Luth, two-time U.S. National Champion, Christophe Clarke of national recognition, Patty McIlvaine, Suming Yuan and his teacher the Asian Olympic Games T'ai chi champion Su Zhi Feng and Shu Kan Ming of the Yunan College of Traditional Chinese medicine this work is an attempt to synthesize and accurately translate the T'ai Chi principles for the western reader. Other influences outside of the traditional Taiji circles include Cynthia Howell, Ph.D., Dennis Jahnigan, M.D., and Nora Morgenstern, M.D. With their help and with the experience we have acquired teaching hundreds of students in Taiji since the beginning of the Project, we have slowly come up with a working hypothesis.
The skillful practice of Taiji requires a voluntary shift in kinesthetic awareness toward improvement of control and enjoyment of sensation and motion. Peak experiences occur when all the elements of the performance flow together into an experience called "ming." In this state of mind, the Taiji becomes a joyous artistic performance where all separation between mind and body disappear and a new perception of life emerges. These changes in skill and perception may explain Taiji's profound effect on physical activity levels for so many centuries. Taiji effects practitioners at the very core of being... consciousness itself. By paying attention to what we are doing, we can improve performance in many tasks. This improvement in balance, agility, and coordination changes the way we interact with the world. The resulting sense of mastery changes how we view the world.
Over the next few years we intend to put this hypothesis to the test with a series of carefully designed experiments. The need exists to further research the relationship between Taijiquan skill levels and physical activity participation. This data can be used to develop and implement training programs for all ages and physical conditions and bring a full appreciation of T'ai chi into the modern world.
For those who perform it well, T'ai Chi becomes a joyous artistic performance, where all separation between mind and body disappear. By teaching the mind to take better control of the body, we gain back a sense of control, we feel a sense of mastery over our lives--a deeply enjoyable experience.
The T'ai Chi Project is not a religious organization, nor is it affiliated with any particular religious denomination.
Because T'ai Chi is based on Chinese philosophy, spirituality and philosophy are often discussed in terms of current events. As instructor Jacqui Shumway says, "The three things you're not supposed to talk about in public are religion, politics, and sex. Those may be some of the most important areas to discuss when addressing your reasons for getting physically active!"
What are the benefits of T'ai Chi?
"T'ai Chi is in everything....and everything is in T'ai Chi."
People of all ages study T'ai Chi to relax, to look and feel younger, and to improve abilities in a wide range of physical activities.
T'ai Chi is intended to be an exercise form that you can maintain as a life-long practice. It can be strenuous exercise, or slow, meditative movement. It can be practiced almost anywhere, and can be integrated into almost any lifestyle. People of all ages can use T'ai Chi to improve strength, balance, and flexibility.
Taijiquan offers a way to relax (even under stress), improve balance, and to look and feel younger - while accumulating healthy levels of physical activity. Time-tested over the last 750 years, T'ai Chi Chuan means "the supreme ultimate exercise." Although T'ai Chi has been taught in the West for years, its recent popularity is attributable to programs such as the T'ai Chi Project - programs that teach applications to daily life, without losing the powerful grace of this ancient exercise. We get people excited about relaxing.
None of us is getting any younger. The sooner you get some exercise, the better. By investing a little time in training, you can learn a comprehensive and enjoyable exercise that you can do for the rest of your life - anytime, anyplace - without expensive equipment. All you need is your mind and your body!
Come see what the mind/body secrets of T'ai Chi can do for you! Please feel free to call us with any questions or to discuss a specific need. The T'ai Chi Project is committed to providing the highest level of training, and we will take personal responsibility for ensuring your complete satisfaction.
Our phone number is 303-744-7676
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