Research indicates a range of health benefits from Tai Chi and Qigong – but what does that mean for teachers and students?
– by Ian Sinclair
Research indicates a range of health benefits from Tai Chi and Qigong
– But what does it mean for students and teachers?
It is believed that there are more than 2 million people in the U.S.A. alone who are practising tai chi.
An analysis of 77 studies of Tai Chi and Qigong indicates that the two arts can positively affect psychological health as well as bone health, cardio-respiratory fitness, balance, accidental falls, and stress.
Linda Larkey, a professor from Arizona State University, says that the analysis, which combines evidence from both practices, can be seen as moving “the understanding and potential” of the arts forward.”
Researchers from California, Arizona and North Carolina reviewed studies, conducted between 1993 and 2007, that focused on the effects of tai chi and qigong on cardiopulmonary conditions, psychological symptoms, immune function, physical mobility, immune function, accidental falls, bone health, and overall quality of life. The researchers drew from studies done in 13 countries and involved a total of 6410 participants.
According to the analysis, the strongest evidence for the health benefits involves “bone health, cardopulmonary fitness, some aspects of physical function, QOL [quality of life – ed], self-efficacy [the ability to accomplish tasks -ed], and factors related to falls prevention.”]
Tai Chi instructors have long known of the health benefits of tai chi. But there has not been as much thorough and credible research done in the past. With the wide variation in tai chi styles and the differences in quality of instruction, instructors of tai chi often wonder when a study comes out, whether or not the style of tai chi was legitimate or whether the instructor was qualified or not. This analysis, by combining a number of studies, may seem to alleviate some of the concerns about such variables.
One of the important points of this study, (from the point of view of this author, is that the more simple routines seemed to have the greater benefits. One of the researchers, Dr. Shin Lin, said the research shows that simplified routines are more practical and that they “are, in fact, quite effective in health enhancement.”
This point made by researchers should not, in the view of this instructor, mean that the longer traditional routines are less effective for health. It is more likely a reflection of the short duration of most studies and the realities of teaching tai chi to a group.
Tai chi routines are effective not only because of the nature of their choreography, but because of the internal principles of alignment, coordination, breathing, and the training of the mind/body connection.
If a particular study was from 12 weeks to 1 year in duration. Then students would be spending less time learning the choreography an more time learning the proper method of performing the movement. Therefore, it would make sense that the more simple the choreography, the more immediate the health benefits.
This is in keeping with traditional training methods. The traditional long routines, while they are taught more quickly in many modern schools, would originally be taught slowly over months or years. The student would not progress to the next movement before demonstrating an understanding of the core tai chi principles and how they apply to the current posture.
The modern simplified routines do not actually contain any more benefits than the long routines. But they do allow for more practice of basic principles. The theory often spoken of in traditional tai chi schools is,
“A lot of movements is not as good as one movement.
A big movement is not as good as a small movement.
A small movement is not as good as one moment of stillness. ”
If you are looking for a tai chi instructor, you may find a tai chi school near you by using the World Tai Chi Directory at http://www.TaiChiCentral.com . If you don’t find a school in your immediate area, try phoning instructors in other adjoining regions. They may know of a local teacher in your community who does not advertise.