Q&A with Tai Chi and Qigong Expert Henderson Smith
A few weeks ago, we asked you to post what questions you had about Tai Chi & Qigong. We took some of your best questions and had our Tai Chi & Qigong expert Henderson Smith answer them. Read his thoughtful responses below!
What are some health benefits to practicing Tai Chi?
(Qigong and its offspring Tai Chi) are one of the pillars of traditional Chinese medicine along with acupuncture, herbs, diet, and massage. Evaluated by the American Medical Association and backed by extensive research, both Qigong and Tai Chi have Physiological (body), Psychological (mind & emotional) and Energetic (breath & spiritual) benefits. Proven effective for clarity, mental focus, reducing stress, activating cell growth, renewing brain wave balance, moderating blood pressure, improving posture, managing pain, and strengthening the immune system to name just a few.
If I can’t make the evening classes, is there anywhere I can go to learn and be a part of a continuing Tai Chi group?
For learning and community engagement with a group at a convenient time based on your schedule you should experience the 1st Saturday Tai Chi, Qigong and Meditation Retreat from 12 noon to 3 pm. On the 1st Saturday of each month you can disconnect in a retreat that will soothe your tension and the over stimulation of a fast-paced life. You can learn and practice Tai Chi, Qigong and meditation while you eat healthy food and have fun with a group of people that will treat you with respect and appreciation as friends. Private lessons are always an option to get you started or to deepen your practice.
Should I practice Tai Chi daily?
Yes; and No, you can practice Tai Chi any time you like as often as you like. One of the empowering benefits of Tai Chi is that every practice teaches you more about the power you have to self-regulate. For anytime support, you can subscribe to MeTime 24/7. You can access your own video library for Tai Chi, Qigong and meditation lessons and practice, anytime and anyplace you feel like it’s a good time to work on you. Follow the link and try it free for 14-days.
How will Tai Chi improve my mental health?
Qigong coordinates and balances right and left-brain hemisphere dominance promoting deeper sleep, reduced anxiety, and mental clarity.
Qigong induces alpha and, in some cases, theta brain waves, which reduces heat rate and blood pressure, facilitating relaxation, mental focus, and even paranormal skills; this optimizes the body’s self-regulative mechanisms by decreasing the sympathetic activity of the autonomic nervous system.
According to Dr. Roger Jahnke the author of The Healing Promise of Qi, Qigong initiates the “relaxation response,” which is fostered by any form of focus that frees the mind from its distractions. This decreases the sympathetic function of the autonomic nervous system, which reduces heart rate and blood pressure, dilates the blood capillaries, and optimizes the delivery of oxygen and nutrition through the body and to the brain.
What is chi?
Simply put, Qi is "life-force” energy, breath.
Practically speaking, Breath by definition is to be alive; to live. Science defines Breathing as "the process that moves air in and out of the lungs". Taoism defines it as "the animating force behind all forms of life". The Chinese defines it as “Qi” - "The vital life-force. Energy. The active principal forming part of any living thing".
Expanded more broadly, "Qi is a resource so essential it is impossible to define or translate, Qi infuses all of life - humans, plants, and the transformation of the caterpillar into the butterfly” When people cultivate Qi through Qigong (Chi Kung) and Tai Chi (Taiji), they are purposefully accessing and then circulating natural healing resources in such a provocative way that contemporary science has only begun to explain it.” ~ Dr. Roger Jahnke
What is the difference between Tai Chi and Yoga?
The most honest answer is that I don’t really know. What I do know is that deepening the breath accelerates circulation of the lymph and relaxes the nervous system. I know that relaxing downshifts the brain-wave frequency toward the alpha state, the level associated with natural self-repair. I know that relaxing also shifts the neurotransmitter mix out of the adrenaline mode-which actually diminishes healing potential, into a cholinergic, self-healing mode. I know that moving the body gently pumps the lymph and other fluids to mildly accelerate metabolic function and oxygen diffusion. I know that these and many other benefits are derived from Qigong, Tai Chi and Yoga. The difference is really best discerned by you and your assessment when you experience both.
I currently co-lead a Qigong and Yoga class on Tuesday mornings at 9:30 am at Tranquil Heart Yoga with another masterful teacher, Mr. Tom Pierson. Come and see for yourself, then you can tell me what you think the difference is between them.
Do I need to have any prior experience before attending my first Tai Chi class?
The only experience you need before getting to each Tai Chi class is the skills you’ve learned will actually take get you to your first class. After that, if you can breathe, if you can move slowly and intentionally and breathe as you move, you have all the experience you need to develop more of the skills that live within you, waiting to be discovered.
Does Tai Chi take some flexibility, similar to yoga?
Tai Chi will enhance whatever range of movement and flexibility you have now but does not require flexibility for you to start. The objective is to be present with yourself and cultivate a mindful relationship between your parts. You will learn to use your breath to expand muscle fiber and release muscle tension. As you practice, you will breathe to stretch and increase your flexibility in the process.
Henderson Smith is the Founder of Living Well Therapies and specializes in teaching Qigong and Tai Chi as the exploration of applied physical, mental and energetic self-mastery. He began the exploration of Qi (breath or energy) as a medium for healing and maximizing power with Sei Bu Do Martial Arts. Under Grand Master Dr. Donald Swansey, he earned a 2nd Degree Black Belt and studied Acupressure, Pressure Points and Medical Qigong for natural healing. Henderson continued his study of Qigong as a system for self-awareness, self-care and self-control earning a 350-hour Professional Certification with the (NQA) and a 200-hour Teacher Certification with the (IIQTC) under Master Teacher Dr. Roger Jahnke, where Medical Qigong was encouraged as a way to access and activate the natural healing capability within every human body.
Huge thank you to Henderson Smith of Living Well Therapies for taking the time to answer some of the questions you submitted on our social media pages.