Tai Chi

Source: CANCERactive
Tai Chi is an energy therapy and can be of much benefit to cancer patients.

Tai Chi: The Energy Within
When Westerners think about exercise, it´s often still about “going for the burn”, “pumping iron” or other vigorous activities to get our heart rates up. But walk into any park in China, just as day is dawning, and there will be hundreds of people performing graceful, almost balletic, movements while breathing deeply and slowly.

They are practising Tai Chi.
Originally developed as a martial art for self defence, Tai Chi Chuan is nearly 2,000 years old and is a highly effective exercise system.

It has been described as “moving meditation”, and is centred around breathing exercises (Qi Gong or Chi Kung) with the combination of motion and stillness.

“When practising Tai Chi, a person looks as though they are moving slowly on the outside, but on the inside the body´s metabolism is running at a much, much faster rate,” explains Tai Chi master James Man.

What Is Tai Chi?
The words mean “supreme ultimate”. It is the connection between the two energies that creates new life and everything that comes from that. From this interchange of the two opposing, yet complementary energies, everything else is created.

Although we talk about Tai Chi, what is actually practised is Tai Chi Chuan. “Chuan” means “fist” or “boxing”, so it is the art of supreme ultimate boxing. As for chi (or qi), simply, it is the very essence of life. Not only in the air we breathe, but also the vital energy of the body. In Chinese belief, the body is a series of energy conduits and chi flows along systematic meridians.

When a patient is ill Western doctors look for physical or chemical abnormalities, whereas Chinese doctors search for hidden forces that are out of balance. They restore unseen harmonies by sticking needles into the body to intervene in an energy system. By using acupuncture, herbs and massaging pressure points, Chinese doctors are said to control the flow of chi.

Through Tai Chi they teach their patients to master the flow of energy in their own bodies, through combined mental and physical practice. Once you have learned to relax, to focus on your breathing and to let go of all thoughts, then you can actually find a spot in your body where your chi begins. They call this the dan tian point, which is just below your navel. You concentrate on the ball of energy and learn to move it.

The Benefits Of Tai Chi
Chinese sages taught that treating someone who is already ill is like beginning to dig a well after you become thirsty. There is an ancient idea that if you don´t move the body every day, it becomes stagnant. The body is like a hinge on a door: if it is not swung open it rusts. Ancient Chinese physicians only received a fee as long as the patient remained in good health, so it was their task to teach patients to stay healthy.

“Tai Chi strengthens the immune system,” says James Man. “It can balance the body when you practise it regularly, and breathe properly. It helps a person take in more oxygen than a normal person. It improves respiration and raises the internal core temperature of the body.”

Mental Benefits
improved focus

clarity of thought
a calm, relaxed mind
more patience and understanding
less susceptibility to stress
balanced approach to conflict

Physical Benefits
improved immune system

greater flexibility
postural awareness
more effective use of the body
better balance
increased energy
less stress-induced pains

Tai Chi and Cancer
“Training like this can strengthen the weaker person, and fill the healthy person with energy. It gives the practitioner sound sleep, improved digestion, clear skin and an enhanced immune response,” says James.

“This will improve and extend life expectancy and maintain youthful vigour. Most general chronic diseases and non-active ailments can be treated with these exercises. There are no exercises to avoid in Tai Chi, because it´s good for the body and helps cleanse you internally -ridding the body of toxins. It improves the bioenergetics of the body and the blood. All the internal aspects of the body move quicker. The chi works on every cell. It works on the cell walls and prevents the spread of cancer. Cancer can´t stick to the cells because they are moving so fast. I am not saying it will take cancer out of the body, but practising Tai Chi does make it easier to control.”

One of James Man´s students, David Robinson says, “A colleague´s wife did some Tai Chi and Qi Gong in the final stages of her cancer. She was desperate to try anything that might help. My colleague said that of all the complementary therapies she tried, the one that gave her the most relief from the pain, and helped her anxiety and stress, was Tai Chi.”

There are a number of variations of the original style of Tai Chi. As with any art form popularity spawns many imitations, so be careful you learn the authentic art. But how can you tell? James suggests that word of mouth is often the best way to find a good teacher, and that “if after 14 days of practising you notice a good reaction and feel warmth somewhere, then you know you´ve found a master”.

Golf pro and teacher Ken Phillips would attest to this. He was diagnosed with non Hodgkin´s lymphoma last Valentine´s Day and has been going to James Man´s classes for five and a half months now.

“Master Man concentrates on the internal, on the chi,” he explains. When I finish a class I can feel this energy that I didn´t have before -or even during it. I get an uplift from Tai Chi and feel warmth in my palms. I call it a magnetic force, almost a pressure between the hands, and my palms are getting warm just talking about it now!”

A Footnote From Geoff Pike
In his inspirational book The Power of Chi, Geoff Pike wrote, “Five years ago, I was found to have cancer. Today at 50, I am fit, healthy and a great believer in the breathing exercises I have demonstrated in this book. I have no way of proving how much their daily practice had to do with my recovery, but I do know that they have given me a new outlook and renewed vitality.

I had a tumour on my larynx and throughout the five weeks of super-voltage radiation, I practised The Eight Precious Sets of Exercises known to the Chinese as Pa Tuan Tsin. This was not only a great source of physical and mental well being, but it produced tangible and somewhat amazing results. Exposure to intense radiation is expected to have its negative side effects.. weight loss, loss of appetite, loss of sleep and a general downturn in spirit are the most typical. I am glad to say that at no time did I experience any of these. I slept soundly without sedatives, ate ravenously, drank my quota of draught Guinness at the ´local´ each evening, and maintained a steady certainty about the outcome. Even case-hardened doctors and nurses were impressed and asked me to demonstrate the Precious Set Of Eight.

So get your feet wet. The yogis of old were right: in this competitive and demanding age, keeping fit and able is not just a fad, it is a duty. A dutyto yourself, the one that gave you life and those who depend upon you to remain strong. Stop relying on those inadequate little breaths and start learning to fill your lungs the way you were intended to.

Start breathing for your life and love. And when you have found what it can do for you, teach it to others so that we can all live longer and love longer through the power of chi.”
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This study says:
In conclusion, the results provided evidence regarding a favourable effect or tendency of Tai Chi on improving the performance of 6MWD [6 minute walk], knee extensor strength and quality of life in people with cancer,… Additionally, the meta-analyses showed the favourable effects of Tai Chi versus other interventions or no treatment on several disease-specific symptoms, including pain and stiffness.

Tai Chi: An Introduction

Source: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine

People practice tai chi for various health-related purposes, such as:

Side Effects and Risks
Tai chi is a relatively safe practice. However, there are some cautions:

Selected References

Published Clinical Trials / Studies / Reviews

Tai Chi Chuan for breast cancer survivors.

Tai Chi Chuan, health-related quality of life and self-esteem: A randomized trial with breast cancer survivors

A Pilot Study to Assess the Influence of Tai Chi Chuan on Functional Capacity Among Breast Cancer Survivors

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Cancer Treatment Options

Updated 2024

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