Free Press Article – July 13, 2012

Joseph Ellerin

Practicing the many healing arts as I do, I find tai chi to be one of the most self-helpful. I love to teach tai chi because it is a wonderful slow exercise for all ages, and is a way for patients and students to help themselves relieve stress.

Tai chi chuan, the original combat name, means Supreme Ultimate Fist. While other martial arts are external or aggressive, tai chi chuan is internal, or soft combat. It is more focused on yielding to an opponent’s aggressive energy and using it against him/her.

Although many classify tai chi as a method of self defense, I prefer to categorize it among the many disciplines of the Chinese healing arts. Known to many as “meditation in motion,” this exercise has been shown to produce many health benefits. Some of these health benefits include flexibility, balance, coordination, strength, calmness and breath control. Studies are showing that, combined with other treatment, tai chi can be beneficial for a number of medical conditions. These include arthritis, low bone density, heart disease, hypertension, Parkinson’s disease and stroke, among others.

Tai chi has a very controversial history, the origins going back hundreds of years. The man credited with being the founder of tai chi is the monk, Chang Sen-fang. Although scholars say he lived anywhere between 960 AD and 1460 AD, some dispute his existence at all. Some say tai chi goes even farther back to the sixth century AD, when Bodhidharma visited the Shaolin temple. Realizing the monks were in poor physical condition due to long periods of meditation, he developed a system of exercises which was known as the Eighteen Form Lohan exercise.

TAKING THE CLASS
In tai chi class we begin with warm-ups, which include making small circles with different joints to loosen them up, rotating the trunk and head, and swinging the arms from side to side. After warm-ups, we practice the tai chi form, which is a set of movements. I emphasize very slow movements with coordinated breathing and focusing of the mind. Students use breath and mind to move the body’s “qi,” which is understood to be an “energy force” which moves throughout the body. I encourage using tai chi to unblock and aid in the flow of qi. Attention is spent attaining the proper posture and balance, as well as learning to relax. Another important concept I emphasize in tai chi practice is the idea of yin and yang. These two opposing forces, thought to make up the universe, are needed to keep us in harmony. Tai chi helps to achieve this dynamic within our own bodies to achieve health.

I find teaching tai chi personally very rewarding as it not only continually improves my own health but also helps enable my students and patients to help cultivate their own health.

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Joseph is a licensed acupuncturist, classic homeopath, and registered massage therapist. He practices at Healing Horizons Integrated Health Solutions located at 2139 N. 12th St. #7. For more information, call 970-256-8449.

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