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Vasodilation a health benefit of tai chi explained. Tai Chi/ Taiji Quan is a martial art that has been unfortunately bastardised in the West. It has been reduced to simple movements for “health.” Focusing only on the form, many people think the slow form is all tai chi is about. They forget like all martial arts there are the various weapon forms and the different drills. Amongst the popular drills are tui shou (push hands) all for the readiness of combat.  

The slow rubbish taught is but bastardisation that should be flushed and forgotten in the toilet of all that is abominations. There is the philosophy of Taiji Quan and many more things. On the matter of health, one of the basic benefits is the result of vasodilation.  

What is vasodilation?

A simple definition is that vasodilation is the expansion of blood vessels which decreases blood pressure.

With a decrease in blood pressure, one may avoid strokes and heart attacks. The expanded blood vessels from the vasodilation means there is an increase in blood flow. And with this increase of blood flow, is the supplement of nutrients and oxygen from the blood to rest of the body. In simple words there is an increase of blood circulation.

How does this occur doing Tai Chi? 

Vasodilation is experienced when one releases the tension held by the upper body. This done by adhering to principles of Taiji Quan. Such as, keeping the crown of the headed suspended from above, as if pulled by a string. The raising and slight rounding of the upper back, simultaneously with the dropping of the sternum a few millimetres down. The coccyx is tucked in, the knees relaxed and bent. As if you about to sit. All the joints, sinews and connective tissues relax. 

All the tension on the upper body can flow down to the feet and to the ground, the sinking. With the mind connected to the dan tian, a point a few centimetres below the navel. From here, your mind then connects to yong quan (the bubbling well) a point in both feet. Meaning the weight distribution both in the heel and ball of the foot are equal. 

The sinews open. And people usually feel discomfort as the blood vessels begin to open. When they refer to strong legs in traditional Chinese martial arts this what they refer to. Flexible sinews, so the discomfort would be during the expansion (this the eating bitter part for beginners). Afterwards after a pump from the expansion, one may feel the legs are tired. 

So, when the slow form is done properly, vasodilation occurs. People would have big thighs for example however, as my teacher says after two years they go back to normal. As the sinews are opened. But the goal is not having big leg muscles, no. The goal is relaxation, allowing the mind to settle.  

This a light explanation, and introduction, as I am still learning with practice. However, it explains the biology of one of the reasons Taiji Quan and traditional Chinese martial arts have health benefits. And the slow “relaxed movements” that do not adhere to these principles is not tai chi. But an empty shell of movements.  

Written by Narcisse Sadi who is a Tudi (student) of Dr Jeff Lan.  He is a certified 1stDuan Health Qi Gong by the International Health Qigong Federation. And  a 1st Duan Yang Style (Cheng Man Ching lineage) Tai Chi Chuan Instructor, certified by Dr Jeff Lan. 

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