Practice Tai Chi Regularly To Up Your Cancer-Fighting Game
The best forms of healing might not always visit us in the form of a pill, or an external source, instead, we might have to seek it within our body. Internal healing or mind-body interventions sometimes deliver unexpected results by improving the overall health and quality of life and also by aiding Cancer Treatment and making it effective.
One such internal healing practice is Tai Chi. Tai chi, pronounced as tie chee, is a form of Qigong. Sometimes referred to as moving meditation, Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that focuses on slow but precise body movements and deep breathing techniques. Tai Chi was originally practiced to enhance self-defense skills, but with time, it evolved to take the form of a gentle exercising maneuver, and today, it constitutes an integral part of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).
The stolid, relaxed movements of Tai Chi help enhance coordination, balance, and flexibility. Tai Chi involves a series of graceful steps where your body is in constant motion, and while you move, you must practice the breathing techniques associated with the exercise program and enter a state of meditation, that’d help you find your inner calm.
There are different variations of tai chi, but basically, they all follow controlled body movements with focused breathing.
Tai chi as an alternative or complementary therapy
Although there is no definite evidence that warrants Tai Chi as an effective solution to cure cancer completely, recent studies indicate that Tai Chi as a health practice can benefit cancer patients greatly, by boosting immunity, relieving anxiety, pain, and Stress in both cancer patients and cancer survivors. The slow and rhythmic movements combined with deep breathing can help calm the mind, incite a sense of peace, and provide the perfect grounding needed for emotional strength to fight cancer. Lorenzo Cohen, Ph.D., feels that Tai Chi is an efficient mind-body practice since scientific literature and evidence point out that it can influence the physiological functioning of the cancer patient by enhancing the immune system and reducing Stress.
A meta-analysis that involved 13 randomized controlled trials of Tai Chi with 592 participants by Yingchun Zeng, Taizhen Luo, et al. revealed that Tai Chi had positive effects on cancer fatigue, immunity, and cortisol level of patients. Another meta-analysis by Yuanqing Pan, Kehu Yang, et al. showed that Tai Chi served as an effective therapy for enhancing psychosomatic capacity and upper limb functional mobility among Breast Cancer patients and survivors.
As a form of complementary therapy for cancer, practitioners believe that Tai Chi creates a positive energy force by balancing the conflicting (yin and yang) internal forces within the body. It is this healthy balance between the two forces that decide the flow of qi or the life force, which, according to Chinese healing experts, is the vital energy of the body. When this balance is achieved, Tai Chi can help the patient in the following ways.
- Improves muscle strength and balance
- Enhances flexibility, coordination, and overall wellness
- Reduces blood pressure
- Reduces Pain and stiffness in the body
- Decreases risk for depression
A 2004 study conducted at the Wilmot Cancer Center in Rochester, NY, studied 21 women undergoing Treatment for Breast Cancer who either practiced 12 weeks of Tai Chi or attended a psychosocial support group for 12 weeks. Women who practiced Tai Chi showed a significant improvement in self-esteem when compared to women who attended psychosocial support groups. According to researchers, Tai Chi has a greater impact on self-esteem for the following reasons.
- The physically engaging aspect of Tai Chi perhaps carries more meaning for Breast Cancer patients and survivors.
- Since Tai Chi is all about being physically active, it moves the patient from a passive role led in a support group to a more active role. This enables patients to have a sense of control over themselves.
What to expect in a session
- During a Tai Chi session, the practitioner or instructor will take you through a series of movements practiced in pairs of opposites, for instance, a twist to the left is followed by a twist to the right. A sequence of movements is called a routine or form. If you are a beginner, your instructor will help you decide what forms and movements would be appropriate for you.
- A routine or form can comprise 20 to 100 movements and might take around 20 minutes to complete.
- While you perform the movements, the instructor will ask you to focus on your breathing.
- Apart from paying attention to your breathing, you will have to concentrate on the area just below your navel, where the qi is believed to originate and travel throughout the body.
Things to remember
Tai chi is considered to be a relatively safe, low-impact exercise, but when battling cancer, there are certain precautions you must take. If you are planning to join Tai Chi classes, then do keep the following points in mind.
- Talk to your doctor: It’s important to discuss things with your oncologist, especially if you have osteoporosis, if you recently had Surgery or if you haven’t exercised in a while.
- Start slowly: It’s wise to start slow and steadily develop your Tai Chi experience. Take your time and learn to position your body at first. Rushing through the motions can cause your muscles to strain or sprain.
- Practice at the right time: Avoid practicing on a full stomach or if you’re recovering from an infection.
- Limit yourself: Practice only those moves that suit your health condition. If you cannot stand for extended periods, then you can engage in modified versions of Tai Chi.
Before getting enrolled in a Tai Chi class, inform your instructor regarding everything about your condition, your overall health, cancer diagnosis, and the treatment you have been undergoing. You may have to avoid certain forms, postures, or movements while performing Tai Chi. As with any type of exercise, you might experience a little soreness or stiffness in your joints or muscles when you start practicing tai chi, especially if you haven’t been physically active for a long time.