Thursday, July 21, 2011

Fibromyalgia & Tai Chi

Hi Everyone!

Our speaker for this evening was Dr. Cynthia Cortez, DD, the owner of T'ai Chi Meditative Lifestyle. She has been a T'ai Chi and meditation instructor for many years and found it helped her body actually heal after a very severe auto accident. She was in the passenger seat when her side of the car was broadsided by a truck. She had had many many broken bones - clavical, hip, leg, arm, etc and had been in extremely poor condition overall. After all the surgeries and time spent in the hospital, the pain was still excruciating and she was on many pain meds.

But then she discovered T'ai Chi and began practicing the art daily, in fact many times daily. She said she had actually become obsessive compulsive about it and practiced it nearly all day long because the more she did it, the better she felt. Soon she got off the pain meds altogether, and she hasn't looked back. She became an instructor and is quite successful in the area.

Cynthia began this evening by giving us a bit of background of this ancient Chinese practice, reminding us that Tai Chi has been practiced since the 16th Century, but only "arrived" here in the U.S. in the early 1970's! Tai Chi is a non-combative form of martial arts. In fact, it is a gentle exercise program that is an integral part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, in much the same way as is Acupuncture. That is, both use the key concept of balance in all things -yin-yang- and both use the concept of Qi (chee) as being the life force that runs through our body. And when this Qi is blocked, throwing the balance off, then we must work to bring back that balance in order to heal.

Cynthia has found that Tai Chi can accomplish this by helping the body stay in balance in the day to day world.

She affirms however, that practicing Tai Chi is not a case of "attend 6 classes and you're fixed." Tai Chi is a lifestyle, meant to maintain this balance for a lifetime - day to day, day after day. After all, you are exposed to stresses every day. It only stands to reason that you must bring back that balance every day to maintain an even keel, so to speak. And so to this end, one must literally make room for Tai Chi as a part of your lifestyle. In other words, make it a routine or habit.

Note: I began doing Tai Chi in 1999. I have practiced it every morning of my life since I began. It is as much a part of my morning as brushing my teeth or meditating. I would never consider NOT doing it. I practice it in the afternoons, if I've had a stressful day, too.

The benefits? According to The University of Maryland Medical School it is beneficial for: "...chronic pain, gout, heart disease, high blood pressure, arthritis, osteoporosis, diabetes, headaches and sleep disorders. Tai Chi is also beneficial for the immune system and the central nervous system, which makes it especially good for people with chronic illnesses, anxiety, viral infections, depression or any stress-related condition. The deep breathing of Tai Chi regulates the respiratory system, helping to treat respiratory ailments such as asthma, bronchitis, and emphysema. It also stimulates the abdomen, which aids digestion and helps relieve constipation and gastrointestinal conditions..." There's more, but follow the website's link for that:

Unlike Yoga (also very beneficial for health and well-being) where the postures are stationary, Tai Chi consists of "moving postures." You may have seen TV shows, or even commercials, where a group of people are in a park, doing a synchronized, slow-moving, dance-like exercise - this is Tai Chi. As you move your torso, head, arms, legs and feet, these gentle, slow movements not only exercise the outer body and muscles, these movements also exercise each internal organ as well, strengthening and fortifying the liver, lungs, heart, stomach and so on!

This is why these low-impact, aerobic, moving postures need to be done on a regular basis as a healthful, immune-supporting, stress-relieving, sleep enhancing form of exercise for people of all ages from 6 to 106! These exercises maintain the health of the organs, and help maintain a balance, while moving your Qi - your life force - freely throughout your body to avoid any blockages which may create illness, or add to an existing illness. Daily stress, for example, among other things, can create numerous blockages.

Cynthia demonstrated the five element moves of earth, metal, water, wood and fire. Each move, or moving posture, flowed very slowly into the next posture as she focused on the slow action of her move and her deep breathing (as I wrote about in my June newsletter ). The earth posture moved into the metal posture; moved into the water posture; into the wood posture and into the fire posture - all in a very graceful, gentle, flowing motion. It was relaxing just watching her!

The moving postures, the meditative focus on the action, and the breathing all work in concert to achieve the ultimate benefits of this exercise. They involve the body, the mind and the spirit - pulling them all together as one, bringing you into the now, where thoughts of past troubles, or future fears are a non-entity, because you are focusing on what you are doing at the moment.

Cynthia spoke a bit about meditation as a stress-relieving, mentally healing exercise all by itself, noting that there are many ways to meditate. Many people start out by focusing on a candle flame, gazing at its slow easy flicker, much as one would find it relaxing to stare into the flickering light of a campfire. One can meditate with neutral, gentle music, or nature sounds in the background, or without any sound at all.

The idea in this meditation is to release the thoughts that are running rampant in your mind - thoughts of pain, of tomorrow, of yesterday, of what ifs, of what I need to do today, etc. Recognizing, then releasing these thoughts, allowing them to float away, in favor of the sound of the music or the nature sounds or the tick of your wristwatch, allows the stress to calm. Doing this on a daily basis - again, as a newly created habit - even if only ten minutes per day, is extraordinarily helpful for chronic stress and chronic pain.

The benefits are accumulative, as are the benefits of Tai Chi. The more often and more regularly they are practiced, the less stress, and less pain you experience. We are talking about a long-term healthful lifestyle here. A method of improving your health - your stress, your immune system, your very being - from the inside out. Pulling yourself together, as it were...body, mind and spirit.

Dr. Cynthia Cortez, of T'ai Chi Meditative Lifestyle can be reached at
P.O. Box 684
South Bend, IN 46624
ph: 574-254-8358, fax: 574-259-0256