April 26, 2011

Tai Chi for Heart Health

 A recent study reported on in US News found that tai chi "could boost heart patients' quality of life. Researchers split 100 patientswith heart failure into two groups: Half participated in a 12-week tai chi program, while the others spent 12 weeks in an educational program learning about heart-related issues, like low-sodium diets and heart-rhythm problems. At the end of the study, the tai chi group reported improvements in mood, less , less fatigue, and more energy than the others—and those in the first group were more likely to continue with some type of physical activity, according to findings published Monday in the Archives of Internal Medicine. "Maintaining an exercise regimen is important in heart failure," study author Gloria Yeh of Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center told HealthDay. "Tai chi may be a suitable alternative or adjunct exercise for these patients."

Tai chi is much more than sheer exercise. Yes, those who do take up tai chi find it has many unexpected benefits: improved balance and gait, mental focus, straightened posture, lower stress, improved immune system, and more. But tai chi is also "philosophy in motion," a martial art (improved balance and posture do wonders for "standing up for oneself"), and it can be a window into understanding more about Chinese culture. It is a calming, yet is exercise, and can be modified to fit anyone's physical needs, regardless of age.

April 4, 2011

New Tai Chi Books

Taijiquan and the Search for the Little Old Chinese Man is a mixture of ethnography and memoir. The book examines how identity is constructed through the practice of an art---in this case, taijiquan. At times seeming like Mark Salzman's Iron and Silk meets Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa, the book covers author Adam Frank's study of taijiquan in the US and China with Pang Tianzhu, among others. The author is Professor of Asian Studies at Honors College at the University of Central Arkansas.

Cheng Man-ch'ing (Zheng Manqing), taiji master and artist, was a practicing doctor of traditional Chinese medicine from the 1930s on. Cheng's Insights on Women's Medicine (女科心法 Nu'ke xinfa) has been translated by Douglas Wile, (Sweet Ch'i Press; order through Redwing Books). Cheng wrote several books about Chinese medicine on topics related to women's health, cancer, and orthopedics, as well as newspaper columns on meditation and tai chi. His books on medicine discuss theory, application, and prescriptions, and have interesting anecdotes about cases.