2265 North Clybourn Avenue    Chicago, IL 60614    P: 773.296.6700     F: 773.296.1131

Stress Less: T’ai Chi

Click here for the Health Tip link.

Probably like a lot of Americans, the first time I actually saw someone doing t’ai chi was during the Bill Moyers special on alternative medicine that ran on public television in the early 1990s. He was filming in China, in a city park where hundreds of Chinese start their day with a class. The most memorable moment occurred when the ancient and wizened t’ai chi master using the power of qi (or chi, pronounced “chee”) coursing through his body pushed over a row of burly men and everybody laughed uproariously as they fell to the ground.

At the time I thought the whole thing was a big trick put on for gullible Americans and that Moyers should have been a bit more skeptical about what he had just seen. I’ve smartened up a bit since then.

What helped was that within a year, at a meeting of the American Holistic Medical Association (AHMA), I was up at dawn, heading for a class led by Dr. Rob Ivker, author of the best-selling book Sinus Survival. If my memory is correct, both Carolyn Myss and Dr. Christiane Northrup, who were giving talks later that day, were in Dr. Ivker’s class. I remember thinking how everybody literally glowed when the class ended and we all headed for breakfast. T’ai chi seemed like a great way to replace the caffeine that most of us need to get started each morning.

Parenthetically, the tiny AHMA is a medical association that practices what it preaches. Vegetarian meals, massage therapists, and classes in meditation, yoga, and t’ai chi are standard stuff at their annual meeting.

If you’ve read about traditional Chinese medicine, you understand that qi is the invisible life energy flowing through all living things. Chi travels down paths called meridians, and the flow can be directed by stimulating certain points on the body, using fingertip pressure (acupressure, shiatsu) or needles (acupuncture). This life energy is believed to originate from the sun, which explains why in China t’ai chi is performed outdoors and at dawn. It is also connected to breathing, affected by emotions, can be controlled by the mind, communicated from one person to another, and conducted through inanimate objects. It is for this last reason that t’ai chi classes are often held in city parks, allowing participants to absorb the energy given off by the trees.

The crane and the snake
Originally, t’ai chi was developed as a non-combative martial art and, in fact, the full name tai chi chuan translates to “the supreme way of the fist.” My favorite of the several legends about the development of t’ai chi tells of thirteenth century Taoist monk and martial arts expert Chang San Feng, who saw from his window a battle between a crane and a snake. The swooping attacks from the crane and the wily, elusive movements of the much smaller snake inspired him to integrate the movements into his martial arts.

The basis of t’ai chi is learning what is called “the form,” a set of slow, deliberate, and graceful exercises performed in a definite pattern. The movements of the forms are basically martial arts, and have names like “Kick with the right heel,” or “Punch with a concealed fist.” There are long forms, which can take anywhere from 20 to 60 minutes to perform, and short forms, rarely taking more than five or ten minutes to complete.

An estimated 30 million Chinese and one million Japanese practice some kind of t’ai chi daily. And t’ai chi has spread throughout the rest of the world, making the liquid, slow, ballet-like movements the most popular form of exercise on the planet.

The health benefits from regular practice of t’ai chi have been studied by physicians both in the East and the West. It’s universally agreed that those who have made t’ai chi a part of their lives are calmer, physically stronger, and more optimistic about life. T’ai chi limbers the joints, lowers blood pressure, slows the pulse, improves balance, and speeds recovery from illness.

Keep in mind that although the movements look easy, they require concentration, patience, and practice. Your reward will be a sense of peaceful calm and harmony as the flow of qi moves smoothly throughout your body. It’s this calming aspect that makes t’ai chi particularly helpful for reducing stress and anxiety. But also, as an aerobic exercise, t’ai chi is extremely beneficial, increasing muscle strength, enhancing balance, and improving flexibility.

Next time: getting started.

Leave a Comment


Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, delicious and time-saving recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!

BIRTHDAY
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec

Health Tips

Dr. Edelberg’s Health Tips contain concise bits of advice, medical news, nutritional supplement and pharmaceutical updates, and stress relief ideas. With every Health Tip, you’ll also receive an easy, delicious, and healthful recipe.

When you sign up to receive Health Tips, you can look forward to Dr. Edelberg’s smart and very current observations arriving in your in-box weekly. They’re packed with helpful information and are often slightly irreverent. One of the most common responses to the tips is “I wish my doctor talked to me like this!”

Quick Connect

Get One Click Access to our

patient-portal

The Knowledge Base

Patient education is an integral part of our practice. Here you will find a comprehensive collection of staff articles, descriptions of therapies and nutritional supplements, information addressing your health concerns, and the latest research on nutritional supplements and alternative therapies.

Telemedicine – Now Available at WholeHealth Chicago

In order to maintain your continuity of care, WholeHealth Chicago now offers telemedicine appointments with most of our practitioners. During a telemedicine visit, you and your healthcare provider can review medical history, discuss symptoms, arrange for prescriptions, and more. When necessary, labs and diagnostic imaging can be ordered from a facility near your home, and our Natural Apothecary can ship supplements quickly to your door.

Please contact Patient Services for details and scheduling a telemedicine appointment, or to change a regular appointment to telemedicine by calling 773-296-6700.

We’re looking forward to meeting with you in our virtual consultation room soon.

DIAGNOSE-IT-YOURSELF: COVID-19

Far and away, the commonest phone call/e mail I receive asks about COVID-19 diagnosis.
Just print this out, tape it on your refrigerator door, and stay calm.

ALLERGIES

• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Red, swollen eyes
• Itchy eyes and nose
• Tickly throat
• No fever

COLD
• Runny nose
• Sneezing
• Sore throat
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild dry cough
• Rarely a low fever

STREP THROAT
• Painful sore throat
• Hurts to swallow
• Swollen glands in neck
• Fever

FLU (Standard seasonal flu)
• Fever
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Sudden onset over few hours
• Headache
• Sore throat
• Fatigue, sometimes quite severe
• Muscle aches, sometimes quite severe
• Rarely, diarrhea

CORONAVIRUS-COVID 19
• Shortness of breath
• Fever (usually above 100 degrees)
• Dry cough (no mucus)
• Slow onset (2-14 days)
• Mild muscle aches
• Mild fatigue
• Mild sneezing

Recent Health Tips

  • Remote House Calls: Healing Touch and Shamanic Healing

    In these days of distancing, more clients are connecting with me via phone or Skype for remote sessions. Even before the pandemic, some clients who had the option of seeing me in person opted for remote sessions. They’ve reported that it’s beneficial to be able to connect with me from the comfort of their own homes. Let’s look at the healing techniques I use: —Healing Read More

  • We Are Fighting For Our Lives: Covid-19 Update

    This Health Tip might contain more about Covid-19 than you’ve read online or heard on a news program. It might even be more than you really care to know. Obviously we Americans we have some real challenges, far greater than many countries smaller and less “powerful” than the US. We’re running out of personal protective equipment (PPE) for our healthcare workers and first responders. There Read More

  • DIAGNOSE-IT-YOURSELF: COVID-19

    Far and away, the commonest phone call/e mail I receive asks about COVID-19 diagnosis. Just print this out, tape it on your refrigerator door, and stay calm. ALLERGIES • Runny nose • Sneezing • Red, swollen eyes • Itchy eyes and nose • Tickly throat • No fever COLD • Runny nose • Sneezing • Sore throat • Mild muscle aches • Mild dry cough Read More

Join our Discount Program

Member benefits include 10% off all your purchases. Low, one-time membership fee of $25 ($35 for family).

MORE INFORMATION

Join our Newsletter

Get health recommendations, recipes, medical news, supplement reviews, birthday discounts, and more!