The great feeling that comes from doing T’ai Chi is a terrific incentive to keep you coming back to it again and again. T’ai Chi gives you that “special time” alone for yourself to just enjoy how your body feels as it lets go of stress and relaxes. This makes it a much easier routine to stick with. And the good feelings it promotes in your body help you learn to love your body more and to accept it the way it is. Surprisingly, the more we accept the way we are now, the easier it is to change to the way we want to be.
Another powerful component to T’ai Chi’s affect on weight loss is how it helps us let go of stress and nervous tension. Much of our evening snacking is “nervous snacking.” This is an attempt to repress feelings of unease by stimulating our taste buds and other sensations. That’s why we usually want really greasy, salty, or sweet foods to munch on at night when we are trying not to feel our stress; the strong tastes distract our minds.
Yet, T’ai Chi does even more to promote healthy weight loss. T’ai Chi’s physical, emotional, and mental centering helps us feel very pleasant. The Chinese call this state “smooth Qi,” while modern psychologists call it “homeostasis.” But no matter what you call it, it feels good.
As T’ai Chi get us more and more in the habit of “feeling good,” we become more aware of what habits reinforce that lovely feeling. We then begin to realize that certain junk foods take us away from our feelings of smooth Qi. We also begin to understand in deep ways that proper sleep, diet, and making time to enjoy life all contribute to our smooth Qi. The more we feel that way, the more we want to feel that way. This helps our body to find a healthy weight effortlessly as we learn to love things that promote this feeling, such as light healthy foods and our T’ai Chi.
Not only does T’ai Chi tone muscles but it does so while promoting a more elegant elongated form. Many exercises are designed to “buff us up,” giving us a shorter, stockier appearance. T’ai Chi, on the other hand, may actually lengthen the body over time, making us more lithe. As we age, it is our tension that shortens our bodies more than gravity. By practicing T’ai Chi’s relaxed movements every day, we allow the muscles to release tension as they seemingly let go of one another and release their grip on the bones and connective tissue. We can actually lengthen each time we do T’ai Chi.
Mobilty and T’ai Chi
T’ai Chi is also great for the joints. As we age we often lose mobility, feeling like the rusty Tin Man in the Wizard of Oz. In fact, this “rusting” can start at about any age; we need only to stop using our bodies fully. There are two reasons we lose mobility. The first is because calcium deposits that normal usage would wear off build up in our joints. The second is because our liquid systems function less well when we are sedentary. Therefore, our joints get more brittle and stiff.
T’ai Chi can solve both problems better than any other exercise. T’ai Chi movements require the body to rotate about 95 percent of the ways it can be rotated, thereby working out the potential calcium deposits wherever they may be lurking. No other Western exercise comes close to this. Swimming, for example, only rotates about 65 percent of the body’s potential movement. Secondly, T’ai Chi stimulates the liquid systems of the body to keep our joints and other tissue more supple, even into advanced old age.