Category Archives: Health Benefits

Staying Hydrated

CTCC thanks Cawood Fitzhugh for this article. Ms. Cawood is a T’ai Chi participant who recently retired as a Nurse Practitioner in Primary Care.
Please note: Any dizziness should always be checked out by your medical provider. The facts on hydration are the same for all, unless there is someone who is medically on a fluid restriction.

In the morning, drinking a warm cup of water before coffee or tea can be quite beneficial for our bodies.  This can provide a nice start for some good hydration, giving our bodies water that is needed early in the day. Sleeping during the night is dehydrating, and sometimes we are already behind already in our hydration. We wake up, go to the bathroom – which dehydrates us – then drink a cup of coffee in which the caffeine dehydrates us more, constricting the blood vessels.  Additional caffeine is added sometimes to coffees and the lighter the roast, the greater the caffeine.  All of this contributes to causes of dehydration which can result in lightheadedness, especially when we exercise early in the morning.
   
Sometime coffee drinkers can be attached to the smell of coffee brewing and the stimulating good feeling. This is especially true as a younger adult — coffee can make you feel happy to drink it. However, as we age, coffee may actually exacerbate jitters, increase anxiety, increase our blood pressures and cumulative effects may interfere with sleep.  Switching over to a good organic tea brand is beneficial because of the antioxidants in the tea which decrease inflammation in the body and may help to minimize blood pressure as well as anxiety.  If you are attached to coffee and it brings you joy, try making a cup with 1/2 decaf and 1/2 regular coffee decreasing the total amount of caffeine while still enjoying the same amount of cups.

If you want to try a tea, many coffee drinkers seem to enjoy Masala Chai for the “kick” of flavor, being a little pungent and spicy for the dark roast coffee drinkers. The “Rishi” tea company makes a Masala chai that people seem to enjoy. It is found online through Amazon, locally at Whole Foods and Wegmans and is organic.  Green tea is even better, but Americans have traditionally only had bad teas growing up and tend to shy away from tea.  Black tea is a way to transition over from coffee and then move into the other wonderful world of teas with their anti-inflammatory effects.

For early morning exercise, it is important for all of us to enjoy a large glass of warm water when we first awake.  This hydrates the body, will get the digestive system moving and makes us feel better overall for the rest of the day and enables our bodies to perform our intention by paying attention to what is needed.

Hydration is accumulative.  So sipping water or an herbal tea throughout the day, provides flavor, vitamins, minerals and an overall sense of well-being.  Of course if you are under any medical care, please follow the seasoned advice of your health care provider.  And always remember, there are many reasons for some lightheadedness when standing for long periods or with any exercise. This always needs to be further evaluated by your healthcare provider in an expedient manner.  

T’ai Chi in the Dentist Chair

Many thanks to Ferrell Mercer for this unique application of T’ai Chi principles.

Recently I have been undergoing a sequence of complex dental procedures. At one point I spent three hours in the dentist chair. As usual, I used my T’ai Chi training to consciously relax during the process and I am certain that doing so led to my having less discomfort both during the procedure and afterward.

The process of even simple dental work is pretty much designed to cause tension. There is the expectation of pain, even though modern dentistry has greatly reduced or eliminated the actual pain of most procedures. Then there is the fact that generally two people have their hands and a variety of tools in your mouth and around various parts of your face. There are also vibrations, strange noises and strange odors that all can make us tense.

T’ai Chi teaches us to become aware of tension in our body and to relax that tension. Over time we can achieve conscious control over our instinct to tense. I found T’ai Chi push hands particularly helpful in learning to relax with someone else in my ‘space’. Continue reading

What Next?

Many thanks to Leonard Tuchyner for this wonderful article about T’ai Chi and rehabilitation after medical procedures.

At my age, I have friends who have gone through serious operations, including knee replacements. Some have done well and others not so much. The difference, as far as my observations go, is what happens after the medical services are finished.

Throughout my life, I’ve relied on physical activities to maintain my health, but gradually my aging body forced me to give up many of them. I had been an avid bicycle rider, but eventually, advanced retinal deterioration caused legal blindness. I could no longer determine where the edges of unmarked roads were. Consequently, I was forced to hang up my riding helmet. By the time I was 68, I had to abandon martial arts. My joints could no longer bear the stress of these activities. Even gardening was becoming painful. I knew vigorous physical activity was essential for good health, but what was I to do?

My wife had signed up for a round of classes at the Charlottesville T’ae Chi Center, so I decided to attend a demonstration. When I witnessed the smooth, seemingly effortless routines people of all ages were doing, I decided to give it a try. I was particularly enamored with the school Master’s demonstration. She moved with the grace of flowing water. Continue reading

An Orthopaedic Surgeon’s Take on T’ai Chi for Seniors

Frequent Problems with Aging

  • Decreased activity
  • Gradual weight-gain
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Osteoporosis/bone loss
  • Loss of balance and unsteadiness
  • Frequent falls
  • Fractures of wrist, spine, and most seriously, the hip (80% over 65 and 70% in women)

Effective Exercise Program for Seniors

  • Aerobic conditioning
  • Strength training
  • Flexibility and agility exercises

T’ai Chi

  • Flexibility/agility program of exercises, breathing, and movements based on Chinese practices
  • Integration of mind and body in slow, circular movements and changes in the center of gravity
  • Though not all are unequivocally proven, there is a growing body of scientific literature reporting a multitude of psychological and physiological long-term health benefits
    • Increased self-confidence and sense of well-being
    • Statistically significant improvement in self-assessed health
    • Significant improvement in self-efficacy for arthritis symptoms
    • Significant improvement in level of tension
    • Significant improvement in satisfaction with general health status
    • Reduced somatic symptoms of depression
    • Improved physical functioning
    • Reduced fatigue
    • Significant improvement in glucose control, diabetic self-care activities, and quality of life of patients with type 2 diabetes
    • Improved diet quality and coronary heart disease risk factors, such as LDL particle size (when T’ai Chi added to diet education)
    • Positive impact on cardiovascular fitness
    • Reduced blood pressure
    • Positive impact on muscle strength
    • Increased muscle endurance
    • Increased bone density
    • Improved postural stability
    • Improved body balance
    • Decreased fear of falling
    • Decreased falls and reduced risk of hip fractures (according to OrthoInfo from The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons)

CONCLUSION

Now that I’m a senior myself, I recently decided to practice what I’ve preached for years.  In addition to aerobic and strengthening exercises, I’ve been doing T’ai Chi at Farmington Country Club with Hiromi Johnson, a very well-known and respected, internationally certified instructor from Charlottesville  T’ai Chi Center.  I recommend that others, especially seniors, do everything possible – INCLUDING IMPROVEMENT OF BALANCE – to prevent a hip fracture and its often dreadful consequences.  To complete a fully effective exercise program, if possible and available, START T’AI CHI!

Michael Kovac, M.D.
Fellow, The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons

T’ai Chi For Healing and Growth

Many thanks to Leonard Tuchyner for this wonderful article about his journey with T’ai Chi and Master Hiromi.

So there I was, seventy years old with no clue as to how I got to be a septuagenarian. What I did know was that my body must have been driven by a maniac. Miraculously, I was still standing and functioning, despite the fact that my medics wanted to replace my knees because I’d worn out all the cartilage.

I had survived life, but I didn’t do it without a lot of bumps in the road. I was legally blind, had a back that had been broken twice and a leg three times. I also earned a torn rotator cuff on the left side, a shoulder surgery on the other, and arthritis had found a welcoming home in my well-broken-in body.

Leonard_WarmupWhy am I going into this long laundry list of woe-is-meisms? It’s to show you how T’ai Chi has helped keep me healthy and fit despite this baggage of aches and complaints. It’s a highly adaptive physical and mental health resource that can work with and through almost any list of age-related groans that we have earned through the years. In fact, you can do variations of T’ai Chi on crutches or in a wheelchair.

Continue reading

Interview with Grandmaster

Grandmaster Wang Fu-Lai graciously offered to be videotaped answering several of the most common questions from students. You can see a translation of his answers below.

1. What kind of health benefits can a student expect from practicing the Cheng Ming system of internal arts in the short term and the long term?
Practicing Cheng Ming internal martial arts can help students feel stronger and healthier. Our martial arts system also helps the Ch’i circulation become smoother and deeper. It can also help the harmony for all internal organs. Continue reading

T’ai Chi for a Beat-Up Old Blind Guy

Leonard Tuchyner describes how he found t’ai chi and some of his favorite benefits studying with Hiromi Sensei.

My name is Leonard. I’m seventy-one years old. I’m a beginner, having studied with Hiromi for one-and-one-half years. There are a few facts that you should know about me. I’m legally blind, and have been so for many years. My condition, called Stargardt disease, is a very slow developing one which started in childhood. So I’ve had a lifetime to adapt to this condition.

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I started training in the martial arts at about thirty, cycling through several different styles, never having a teacher who I would consider a master, or having direct access to one. I hated kata (choreographed movements), and was only really interested in sparring. I was reasonably effective, relying on peripheral vision to block and strike. I also had a good sense of fighting distances with my opponent. Continue reading