T’ai Chi and Longevity
~ By Kirsten Antony R.N. ~
As I sat with Rosa Lee Floyd, a 92 year-old woman from Birmingham, Alabama, she broke into song, “We Shall Overcome” and began to describe her remarkable life which included many years of service as a missionary in Africa, Deaconess of her church as well as playing a part in the Civil Rights Movement along sides of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. Rosa Lee has lived an extraordinary life by most measures and one thing she has overcome at 92 years-old is defying the aging process by a daily regime of practicing T’ai Chi. T’ai Chi is an ancient Chinese practice that dates back thousands of years and stems from the philosophy of Taoism. Rosa Lee has been practicing T’ai Chi every day for the past 15 years and attributes this daily practice to keeping her in good health. She states that it helps her feel safe, strong and flexible as well as giving her peace of mind.
T’ai Chi is a holistic practice that has been gaining popularity in recent years with many studies tying this practice to improved health, wellness as well as longevity. T’ai Chi is a moving meditation practice that can promote wellness on the physical level, but also the mental, emotional and spiritual. Rosa Lee admits that she does not know much about the philosophy of Taoism but nonetheless receives many benefits from her daily practice. Evidence-based studies have shown that the health and wellness benefits of T’ai Chi practice may include increased bone density, lowered blood pressure, increased physical strength and balance, increased immune function, decreased anxiety and depression as well as decreased inflammation. Rosa Lee has seen some of these benefits in her life as well as finding the daily practice of T’ai Chi just plain fun.
This ancient practice of T’ai Chi is based on the philosophy of Taoism which seeks balance and harmony in life. T’ai Chi is a philosophy and can also be practiced as an exercise that brings about relaxation and mindfulness. T’ai Chi Chuan is also a form of T’ai Chi and some emphasize a martial arts component. Both T’ai Chi and T’ai Chi Chuan can be considered a form of Qigong which is the study of Qi or energy which emanates throughout the body. Qi is life force, energy and information that flows through all things. It can also be spelled as “Chi”, or in other healing systems known as ki or prana. It is through the flow and balance of Qi that one can attain health and harmony. Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) which includes acupuncture and acupressure work with Qi as well through balancing the opposites of yin and yang. Both TCM and T’ai Chi work with the meridians or channels through the body which flow Qi.
There are many different forms and styles of T’ai Chi such as Yang and Chen style. Movements with names such as “Waving Hands like Clouds” and “The White Crane Spreads its Wings” give indication of how beautiful and graceful the practice of T’ai Chi can be. These slow and constant movements have a practitioner shifting the weight and keeping body alignment while assuming various foot positions and hand movements to the various sequences in the form. T’ai Chi can be practiced alone or with a group. It is always a good idea to learn from an instructor who has had years of practice to learn the proper techniques.
We live in exciting times wherein ancient healing arts are being accepted and embraced by the Western medical model and allopathic medical community and studies definitively show the health benefits of many of these practices. As I look to my elders to learn from and adopt much of their wisdom, we too as a society can learn from and adopt health practices from all over the world that our elders practiced so very long ago. Through the practice of T’ai Chi, it is possible to overcome many health challenges we face as we age as well as finding a new and fun way to be flexible in body and mind.
The content is not intended to substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek advice of your physician or qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding your medical condition.
Kirsten Antony is a Registered Nurse, Certified Reflexologist and Certified in Quantum Field Healing®. Kirsten is a holistic health care practitioner and specializes in foot and nail care. She provides care in the Denver area at a variety of facilities as well as making house calls. For more information visit www.kirstenantony.com or call 303-668-8992.