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Tai Chi - More Than Magic

Experts vouch for the ancient martial art known as Tai Chi- especially for its gifts of healing the mind and body. Yet regardless of whether you support the theory that the mind// and body contain a mysterious and potentially healing force or not, the ancient martial art known as Tai Chi can help bring about health and fitness.

Says Dr. Michael Irwin, a professor of psychiatry and a researcher at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior, part of the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine: “Unlike more strenuous physical activities, Tai Chi's slow, balanced movements are very accessible to older adults or patient populations that may have some physical limitations.”

Irwin who has conducted much research into the subject says that Tai Chi, which originated centuries ago in China, is a series of slow-moving movements, which have a meditative quality, incorporating both physical movement as well as meditation.

Practitioners, who swear by Tai Chi's ability to calm body and soul, are known to talk about chi and the discipline's ability to restore a yin-yang physiological balance to this "life energy.”

Yet, Irwin says that though there is currently no way to scientifically validate these theories, he is unmoved as “there are lots of things in the world that we do not understand because we do not yet have a way to measure them."

What he and other experts in the field have done is comparing the health of Tai Chi devotees against that of more sedentary types. Using a standard "Medical Outcomes Scale," researchers have shown that there are robust improvements in physical function, like performing simple things such as carrying groceries, climbing stairs, etc.

One reason to this is because Tai Chi, while seemingly slow, is surprisingly good exercise. Says Irwin: "There are a number of studies on Tai Chi and its aerobic effects that show that metabolism increases, and there'
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