Tai Chi and Qigong Benefits for Parkinson
By Don Fiore
What is Tai chi and Qigong?
TAI CHI is a gentle series of flowing movements that help energize the body’s natural healing ability. It is believed that around 1200 years ago, Taoist and Buddhist monks began the practice of Tai Chi. They used it as a balance to their sitting in meditation for long periods of time, and the movements helped strengthen the body and stimulate circulation.
Today Tai Chi is practiced as a martial art and also as a moving meditation. More and more doctors are prescribing the slow, gentle movements of Tai Chi for treating stress and also for recovering from illness or injuries. In 1995 the American Medical Association called Tai Chi one of the most effective exercise programs due to its low stress impact on the body.
QIGONG began earlier than Tai Chi. Sometimes it is called “Chinese Yoga” because it combines bending, stretching, and breathing to help relieve muscle aches and tension, while increasing energy. Qigong is different from Yoga because rather than “holding a pose,” the stretching and breathing have a continuous motion, keeping the muscles and joints limber and flexible.
How can Tai chi and Qigong help people with Parkinson’s disease?
Many studies are being conducted to study the effect of Tai Chi on balance, agility, mood and sense of wellbeing in people with Parkinson’s. Tai Chi helps calm the mind and reduce the impact of stressor ‘blocked energy channels’ on our bodies. Controlled studies of Tai Chi show that it is helpful for improving balance in stroke survivors; exercising bones and muscles in elderly people; enhancing the treatment of knee arthritis; reducing anxiety and depression; improving sleep quality; slowing bone loss; improving cardiovascular fitness; and assisting the immune system. The National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is one of the agencies doing a variety of Tai Chi research studies.
Reported benefits for Parkinson’s students include:
- Improves balance and agility
- Lowers blood pressure
- Increases circulation
- Improves muscles and joint flexibility
- Aids digestion and balances weight
- Reduces stress
- Enhances clarity and peace of mind
How do I get started?
One can learn Tai Chi in a variety of ways. Some find it convenient to start with a home practice guided by Easy Tai Chi and Qigong DVDs. This is a good way to start with very simple movement and introduces you to the practice. However, a teacher can help you experience the full benefit of Tai chi and Qigong. .
Most teachers will encourage you to join their class to get the full benefit from a guided practice in movement and meditation. Log onto the website, www.worldtaichiday.org to find a teacher in your area.
Some specific questions a person with Parkinson’s should ask are:
- Do you do an Easy Tai Chi class for people with advanced Parkinson, balance problems or other physical challenges?
- Does your class have sitting down as well as easy standing movements where I don’t have to move across the floor or balance in difficult positions?
- Do you work with meditative or breathing techniques to help relaxation as well as movement?
Other exercise programs that may be of interest include:Yoga
References and links
Author: Don Fiore, Certified Tai Chi & Qigong Instructor, PO Box 50663, Phoenix AZ 85076. www.TaiChiHealthProducts.com, firstname.lastname@example.org. Don teaches classes at the Muhammad Ali Parkinson’s Center in Scottsdale, AZ and has produced a DVD for people with Parkinson’s.