Studying Tai Chi for physical recovery

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I went back home for a few days this week. My mom went back into the hospital a week ago. It started the end of January. In fact, she has spent the vast majority of 2015 in either a hospital or care facility. There have been very few days at home for her. I remember one time I visited when she was doing in-patient physical therapy. She said the PT started her on tai chi. She complained because it was really a workout.

24-3.4.07 024 (Christmas 2008)

The physical rehab unit at the hospital where I used to live in Ohio asked me to come in a few times to work with what they called the “Movers and Shakers”. This was the group that had movement difficulty such as those with Parkinson’s, stroke recovery, and similar circumstances. They had heard that tai chi could assist in maintaining physical activity in diminished capacities. I had about 25 participants who loved the work.

There was an article that came to my attention last December about a quadriplegic who now teaches tai chi. It was a fascinating story about how tai chi helped with not only his physical, but his mental and emotional recovery.

At a recent tai chi workshop that I attended, Dr. Paul Lam of the Tai Chi for Health Institute stated that just the mental imagination of practicing tai chi may give up to 20 – 30% of the benefit of the physical movements. How can that be. Dr. Lam stated that when you mental picture yourself doing the exercises, your brain is firing electrically, almost the same as if you were actually doing the movements. The electrical impulses are going to the various parts of the body and providing stimulation. After a long while, the body begins to respond.

IMG_0547 On the trip home, I was able to train with one of my tai chi instructors, Sifu Tony Brown. Sifu Brown is a “left-handed guy” (his words) because he lost his right arm. But I am here to tell you….. While we work out, I could swear he has hit me, grabbed me and pushed me with that right arm that I can’t see! He sees the total movement in his mind, and his body responds. It is amazing!

I am not saying that tai chi is a miraculous means of recovery. And all of these examples occurred over a long period of time. Every case is different. But is is worth a try. Tai chi is an excellent curriculum for all people in all stages of physical capability. So as you are thinking about your New Year’s resolutions… and if they include increasing physical activity and getting healthier (as mine do every year!) then think about taking up tai chi, or some other martial art (karate, hung gar, judo, jiu-jitsu, etc). You may never know the total benefits you might gain.

Wishing everyone a Happy Holiday season.


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