Copyright (c) 2007 Stephen Lau
Taoism is a way of life, practiced in China for thousands of years.
Lao Tzu, one of the greatest Chinese philosophers as well as the founder of Taoism, said, “The Tao’s principle is simply spontaneity.” Spontaneity is the key to healthy longevity.
What is spontaneity? How does it affect your physical health?
In the universe, there is an all-controlling force that monitors everything. You breathe in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. You eat and you eliminate. You grow, mature, and deteriorate. In nature, spontaneity is evident in the change of seasons. Spontaneity is the natural built-in mechanism in each living organism. Spontaneity creates balance and harmony.
Nowadays, people focus so much on physical fitness. The gym giants will do anything to keep you huffing, puffing, and paying; the pharmaceutical companies will come up with any supplements touted to keep you lean, muscular, and full of energy. There is so much pumping irony: strenuous and vigorous workouts may be harmful to your physical health.
According to the AMERICAN JOURNAL OF CARDIOLOGY, jogging is causing runners to drop dead from heart attacks. Many individuals have experienced heart attacks even after running on a treadmill.
The medical journal LANCET reports that aerobics is causing deadly artery clogs and heart disease in many individuals who never before had such problems.
You do not need to jog until you are blue in the face, or pump iron like Arnold Schwarzenegger in order to be physically healthy. You can be fit the Taoist way
Lao Tzu explained, “The softest things in the world overcome the hardest things in the world.” You need not over-exert yourself in order to be physically fit.
Chinese exercises, such as Tai Chi and Qi Gong, are never vigorous. Once your breathing becomes abnormal or irregular over a long period, you lose the spontaneity of the exercise, and hence its health benefits.
Tai Chi is a self-relaxing exercise with slow and even movements coordinated with breathing and directed by a peaceful mind. Therefore, it is beneficial to both mental and physical health. With its thousands of years of practice, Tai Chi can rid all parts of your body of spiritual and physical ailments, clear your mind and strengthen your brain, and promote good digestion and healthy kidneys. Most importantly, Tai Ci exercises can help lower your blood pressure, soften your blood vessels, and regular the flow of “qi” (the internal vital energy) in your entire body.
What is “qi”?
“Qi” is internal vital energy. It is important because it moves your body. It is the source of growth in your body. “Qi” is always in motion in the form of ascending, descending, entering and leaving your body’s organs and systems. It nourishes not only your body by transforming food energy into blood, but also your blood by keeping it flowing. In addition, it helps maintain your body’s temperature. “Qi” plays a vital role in Chinese health and healing.
With regard to “qi”, Lao Tzu said, “Qi is elusive and evasive, and yet it manifests itself.”
Tai Chi exercises focus on correct posture, slow and spontaneous movements, and natural healthy breathing.
Your central nervous system is the most important system in your body: it receives vital information from outside and inside your body; it directs your movements. Your central nervous is healthy only if you keep your spinal column erect because vitality and blood circulation are transmitted efficiently from your lower body to your brain only when your spine is kept erect. Tai Chi exercises are based upon a natural posture (children have naturally erect spinal columns; only adults, especially older people, have bent spinal columns) with an erect spine.
Next to your central nervous system, your digestive system is important to your overall health as it stores and supplies all nourishments for your body. Some of the characteristic movements of Tai Chi reinforce the expansion and contraction of your body in an opening and closing motion, thereby instrumental in vibrating and stimulating your stomach and intestines for a better and healthier digestive system.
Your respiratory system is also critical to your long-term health. In Tai Chi, breathing is valued more than physical power: breathing ‘ not muscular strength ‘ propels the movements of your body. Western physical exercises, on the other hand, emphasize muscular strength instead of the spontaneity of breathing and natural body movements. In Tai Chi, your mind directs the “qi”, letting it sink down into your abdomen, where natural breathing takes place. According to Taoism, you breathe through your abdomen (like babies and young children), not through your lungs. This explains why people in the West limit their breathing to the lungs; as a result, their lungs tend to enlarge as they grow older, crowding their hearts, leading to heart disease.
Your circulatory system is connected to your respiratory system. Tai Chi enhances your deep breathing, which guides your “qi” to move your blood (which cannot move itself) to different parts of your body for transporting oxygen and nutrients. By regulating the circulation, Tai Chi exercises through natural movements and deep breathing provide a healthy heart.
Hormones in your thyroid gland are responsible for physical growth of your body. In Tai Chi, you keep your neck erect without pressure, centered without inclining to the left or to the right; you integrate the slow and smooth movements of your head and neck. These movements not only enhance the activity of your thyroid gland but also act upon your kidneys to remove wastes.
In summary, you need the spontaneity of Taoism in physical movements as well as in natural breathing to optimize physical health benefits from exercise. Western exercises, focusing on pumping power and strength, may seem too “unnatural” for that.
By: Stephen Lau
Date Taken: 2011-08-15 21:54:03
Owner: Neighborhood Centers