By Judith Stuartcole Bonner ~
During our Tai Chi classes, it’s easy to see the “cosmic” smiles, gently flowing movements of the body, and calm faces. Today’s article looks within at the physiology of the body when using the “prescription” of Tai Chi, to discover what causes those visible external markers.
In the words of Medical News Today, the study of physiology is the study of life and function – about how internal organs and systems communicate and work together to sustain this beautiful creation of life and its survival: Qi (Chi) – the vital life force of energy.
According to Chinese medicine, the heart directs the brain, not the other way around. It’s called the HeartMind Space. The HeartMind Space communicates with the nervous system to create coherence among other organs. This organ coherence is most enhanced when the brain-wave frequency reaches an alpha state – a state of calm, peacefulness and trust.
When we are in this alpha brain state, neurotransmitters spontaneously activate and enable the immune system. You might say, “We must UNPLUG to TURN ON or POWER UP!” This relaxation state then activates the parasympathetic nervous system (the “rest and digest” system) which conserves energy as it slows the heart rate, increases intestinal and gland activity, and relaxes sphincter muscles in the gastrointestinal tract. This relaxation state ultimately calms our “fight or flight” response trigger.
During this alpha brain-wave relaxation state, the brain actually changes its physical structure, resulting in enhanced learning and memory according to a special health report by Harvard Medical School. Furthermore, significant changes in our limbic system have been recorded showing better management of stress and negative emotions.
Essentially, an alpha brain-wave relaxation state, is also a meditative state. Meditation is a powerful practice to reach this significant brain relaxation state. And to power up and make the internal body glow with vital life energy, breath and movement become the tools for gathering, circulating, purifying and directing Qi in body.
Dynamic, intensive and intentional breathing starts with inhaling through the mouth into the belly expanding the abdomen; then continuing to inhale the breath into the lungs expanding the chest gathering fresh Qi and oxygen. The pores of our skin also gather and take in the Qi. Then exhale through the mouth, slowly emptying all remaining air expelling stuck or spent Qi and toxins.
A Practice: Imagine your body as a glass container filled with murky water and silt. The silt represents excessive busyness, pain, exhaustion, judgments. As you breathe, imagine pure fresh water poured continually into your container until all the turbid water is completely pristine. As you calm, imagine there is an endless source of pristine water.
In addition, gentle flowing movement not only stabilizes breath and builds muscle, it also works with the breath to stimulate and circulate blood, lymph, spinal and synovial fluids releasing blocks of Qi more efficiently.
A body that is fully oxygenated and deeply relaxed is in its healthiest glowing state.