Written By: Lao Shr B. Dale Saufley, certified teacher, The Peaceful Dragon
As a student who came to the martial arts kind of late in life, I am now a firm believer in the benefits of our system and approach. Even though my main focus has been in the internal arts of tai chi, pagua, yoga and Chan meditation – there is a theme of excellent, lasting health in each discipline. Many students of The Peaceful Dragon joined to receive top-notch training in kicking butt against physical opponents; however I believe most have come to this haven for the much more difficult art of cultivating and maintaining a healthy life.
Everywhere you look, tai chi / qigong is touted as the latest “pro-aging-gracefully” routine. From a Harvard Health Publication titled “The Health Benefits of Tai Chi”:
When combined with standard treatment, tai chi appears to be helpful for several medical conditions. For example:
Arthritis In a 40-person study at Tufts University, presented in October 2008 at a meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, an hour of tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks reduced pain and improved mood and physical functioning more than standard stretching exercises in people with severe knee osteoarthritis. According to a Korean study published in December 2008 in Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, eight weeks of tai chi classes followed by eight weeks of home practice significantly improved flexibility and slowed the disease process in patients with ankylosing spondylitis, a painful and debilitating inflammatory form of arthritis that affects the spine.
Breast Cancer Tai chi has shown potential for improving quality of life and functional capacity (the physical ability to carry out normal daily activities, such as work or exercise) in women suffering from breast cancer or the side effects of breast cancer treatment. For example, a 2008 study at the University of Rochester AOL desktop gold customer service, published in Medicine and Sport Science, found that quality of life and functional capacity (including aerobic capacity, muscular strength, and flexibility) improved in women with breast cancer who did 12 weeks of tai chi, while declining in a control group that received only supportive therapy.
Heart Disease A 53-person study at National Taiwan University found that a year of tai chi significantly boosted exercise capacity, lowered blood pressure, and improved levels of cholesterol, triglycerides, insulin, and C-reactive protein in people at high risk for heart disease. The study, which was published in the September 2008 Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, found no improvement in a control group that did not practice tai chi.
Sleep Problems In a University of California, Los Angeles, study of 112 healthy older adults with moderate sleep complaints, 16 weeks of tai chi improved the quality and duration of sleep significantly more than standard sleep education. The study was published in the July 2008 issue of the journal Sleep.
Stroke In 136 patients who’d had a stroke at least six months earlier, 12 weeks of tai chi improved standing balance more than a general exercise program that entailed breathing, stretching, and mobilizing muscles and joints involved in sitting and walking. Findings were published in the January 2009 issue of Neurorehabilitation and Neural Repair.
I did not include the paragraphs on Heart Failure, Low Bone Density, Hypertension or Parkinson’s for the sake of a shorter article – however you can read about all the beneficial effects of tai chi on these and many other diseases via your search engine (isn’t the internet wonderful – sometimes?).
These studies do not speak directly to our lineage school so let me give a few examples where I know our curriculum has improved my health and slowed down many of the negatives of getting older that we may all experience:
- I sleep better than most women my age and have less severe menopause symptoms.
- My blood pressure has remained low (103 / 72 just last Wednesday) even though I am going through a pretty stressful period of my life. My cortisol levels are in the excellent range for my age and circumstances.
- I have regained my flexibility and strength – first by my daily tai chi practice and then by adding yoga two or more times a week. Who knew that “Bird of Paradise” and “King Pigeon” (ok- my back foot is hooked with my elbow…both hands overhead holding the foot as it is touching the crown of my head IS GOING TO HAPPEN!) would be possible for someone who came back to physical activities the month she turned 40?
- My arthritis pain is lessening as I make sure to practice tai chi and yoga daily – particularly on the days that are normally worse for my hip and lower back (cold or rain, cold and rain, sitting for a period of time)
- I suffer far less from the “slings and arrows of outrageous misfortune” (a little liberty with the Bard) in the physical, mental/ emotional and spiritual realm than most of my non-Peaceful-Dragon-student acquaintances because they tell me about their lives. I am deeply thankful to be able to continue attending our top quality center.
The most concrete, local example of the physical health payback from tai chi comes is via a lady I know. I know it wouldn’t upset Pat being included in this article – she was born with severe scoliosis of the spine, spent many years as a teen in body casts and has had both hips replaced. She practices tai chi daily and is in her mid-seventies. She receives a complete bone scan yearly and has lost bone density every year since her early 30s. After a little more than three years of tai chi practice, Patricia’s most recent scan showed an IMPROVEMENT in bone density. Her doctors are stunned.
That, my friends is living proof that we are on the right track. If you too would like to experience the benefits of Tai Chi and other eastern art forms, please visit this link to sign up for a free tour of Peaceful Dragon plus a complimentary class.