Everett Chiropractic Center Blog

May 12, 2013

The Harvard Medical School Guide To Tai Chi – A Book Review2

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From the Introduction

“East Meets West at Harvard Medical School”

“In July 2009, along with six other Tai Chi and mind-body researchers representing leading US medical schools, I found myself sitting on a panel with five of the most renowned living grand masters of Tai Chi – the equivalents of Dalai Lamas of Tai Chi.” “This unprecedented meeting between Tai Chi researchers and masters was part of the First International Tai Chi Symposium on the campus of Vanderbilt University Medical School, a landmark event for the world of Tai Chi.”

“For me, the fact that this evening’s symposium was devoted to exploring the role that Western scientific research might play in informing Tai Chi’s development and integration into Western health care was even more remarkable.”

[It’s important to understand all that is going on here. “Western scientific research” is a tool being used to integrate Tai Chi into Western health care. There are reasons and there will be results. It will be interesting to watch the progression from being “outside” of “Western health care” to being “inside”.]

“In many ways the symposium was very successful.”

“Yet, … I found myself a little dissatisfied and wanting much more.”

“… I saw clearly how much work still was needed to build bridges. Part of my calling, and a central purpose of this book, is to explore this interface between the East and West through Tai Chi.”

“This Eastern holistic and ecological view of the body, mind and health now is becoming increasingly appreciated and adopted within the Western medical community.”

Harvard Looks to the East

“Today, nearly all of the Harvard hospitals have programs that provide some form of integrative medicine.”

“This book seeks to show, in a scientifically balanced and objective manner, the clinical promise for Tai Chi and to provide insights into the underlying physiological processes that explain how Tai Chi improves health. Tai Chi includes a rich mixture of therapeutic components – what I’ve organized as the “Eight Active Ingredients.”

[Through out the book he refers back and forth to the Eight Active Ingredients. They are (1) Awareness (including mindfulness and focused attention), (2) Intention (including belief and expectation), (3) Structural Integration, (4) Active Relaxation, (5) Strengthening and Flexibility, (6) Natural Freer Breathing, (7) Social Support, and (8) Embodied Spirituality (including philosophy and ritual). In the same way that we break down the bodies nerve system into central, peripheral, sympathetic and parasympathetic it is all just a way of trying to take something complicated apart and look at the pieces in order to understand the whole. The point is that we never really do fully understand and that Western science is one useful way to try to understand better.]

“With this knowledge, we have formulated a variety of simplified Tai Chi protocols that have been tested in numerous clinical trials at Harvard Medical School and affiliated hospitals, the essential elements of which I share in this book.”

[Realize that though this is a necessary step, we right off the bat begin to lose something. The “knowledge” that he refers to is what he knows about the Eight Active Ingredients, which he is quick to admit is limited. The fact that he takes his limited knowledge, then “simplifies” things means there is going to be something lost.]

About the Photo

In the previous photo the hands had reached their maximum height, here the hands have come back and are going down. As the hands descend the knees bend and the hips “hinge” in order to avoid allowing the knees to travel forward beyond the toe-foot junction. This is a functional squat with all the necessary components: neutral “straight” spine maintained – notice the chin is held down, hinged hip, and not breaking the knee rule. The practical application is in pulling something down; rather than just using your arms you use your whole body and you move from your center of gravity. This motion may be useful whether you are a nurse or a ninja.

A daily Tai Chi practice eventually trains the body to bend in this way which is safe, functional and conserves energy rather than being dysfunctional, unsafe and tiring. A daily practice of the former makes you strong and healthy; a daily practice of the latter makes you ready for an injury in the short term and for arthritis in the long term.

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1 Comment »

  1. Excellent post. I was checking continuously this blog and I’m impressed!

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    I wwas looiking for this particular info for a long
    time. Thank you and best oof luck.

    Comment by do chiropractors work — June 3, 2014 @ 3:43 pm


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