TAI CHI THERAPY written by Carolyn Ridding
As winter is rapidly approaching, we are all looking for ways to boost our immune system and hopefully fend off any nasty bugs and viruses. Therefore, I thought now would be a good time to share some research I have done on our body’s Lymphatic System.
Your lymphatic system is crucial to keeping your body healthy; it is a major part of the immune system.
The lymphatic system is a complex network of vessels that transport lymph fluid around the body. Lymph nodes are the filters along the lymphatic system, their job is to filter out and trap bacteria, viruses, cancer cells, and other unwanted substances, and make sure they are safely eliminated from the body. Your lymphatic system is crucial to keeping your body healthy; it is a major part of the immune system. Unlike the circulatory system the lymphatic system is not a closed system and has no central pump. Lymph movement is maintained by:
1. Smooth muscle tissue in the lymphatic vessels spontaneously stretching and contracting.
2. Pressure changes caused by breathing also help pump the lymph. As you breathe out a vacuum is created in the chest cavity, which forces the lymph on and draws it into heart and the circulatory system.
3. The contraction of skeletal muscles compresses the lymphatic vessels propelling the lymph along.
TAI CHI AND THE LYMPHATIC SYSTEM
Understanding how lymph is circulated in the body immediately shows us how Tai Chi can be beneficial to the lymphatic system. The lymphatic system is stimulated by the gentle muscular work in Tai Chi, the soft relaxed movements of Tai Chi massage the lymph nodes improving their function and flow and in turn leading to a boost in the immune system. Regular gentle movement can help to prevent fluid accumulating and so reduce lymphedema.
Abdominal breathing, encouraged in all tai chi and qigong practice, and our unique ‘middle path’ breathing, (encouraging the involvement of the whole torso in the breathing process), also improves the flow of lymph fluid
ARTHRITIS literally means ‘inflamed joint’, ‘art (h)’ meaning something joined or put together, ‘itis’ meaning inflamed
There are more than 200 forms of arthritis (most being quite rare).
Arthritis causes persistent pain, stiffness and difficulty in using the affected joints. Sometimes there is swelling, tenderness or heat in the joints and you can feel tired, sluggish or unwell.
Osteoarthritis – is the most common form of arthritis. The cushion of cartilage at the end of the bone becomes thin and flaky and begins to split, the amount of fluid in the joint increases, leading to swelling, stiffness and pain.
Rheumatoid arthritis- inflammatory arthritis Rheumatoid translates from the Greek as ‘similar to flowing pain’, and it is the most crippling form of arthritis. Inflammation starts in the membrane surrounding the joint, ligaments and tendons that surround and support the joints then become stretched and destabilise the joint.
Gout – a breakdown in body chemistry the joint becomes inflamed because the body fails to break down harmful crystals of uric acid, which form inside the joint causing extreme pain. Commonly affected joints are the big toe.
Medical research tells us that movement is necessary for the proper nourishment of joint cartilage. When properly performed exercise enables the synovial fluid, which lubricates the joint, to carry the needed nutrients to the joints and to remove waste products. If you don’t use a muscle or joint, you’ll lose strength and mobility, and thus, function. All joints should be put through their full range of movement other than acutely inflamed areas. Improvement in power and tone of muscles and flexibility of joints will make it easier and less painful to move about.
‘One of the most important things you can do to help your arthritis is to exercise, if you do it right. Unfortunately, many people with arthritis think exercise is harmful. Others think discouraged because progress is slow or their exercises are painful. Maintaining a proper balance between rest and exercise, and exercising properly, are keys to successful arthritis exercise program’ Kate Korig ‘the Arthritis Help book’
Stress. Some people tend to develop arthritis after periods of prolonged worry- or sufferers can experience 'flare ups' at stressful times. Stress or worry interferes with the body's ability to produce its natural cortisone. The amount of stress and tension in your life can affect your pain. Emotional stress, for instance, becomes physically ingrained in the muscles; these tensions often contribute to cause weaknesses in your general health, resulting in aggravated joints and pain.
Deep relaxation (relaxing from a tai chi perspective means more than just sitting down and taking it easy for a while). Deep relaxation naturally benefits many arthritic and related rheumatic conditions, including inflammatory, degenerative, and muscular types. Being calm promotes a feeling of well being, just as stress makes everything worse.
By stimulating the meridians and clearing any blockages in them we can stimulate the body’s endorphins (natural painkillers) to kick in and encourage the body’s own ability to heal.
Tai chi and qigong helps to relieve joint pain by relaxing the muscles, enabling blood to flow freely. An increase in circulation also brings more oxygen and other nutrients to affected areas. And when our blood and energy are circulating properly, we experience not only a natural decrease in pain, but also a greater sense of aliveness and well-being.
When chi is flowing unrestricted throughout the body, when a natural balance has been achieved in mind as well as body and a persons spirit is raised, their pain and stress levels will be not only reduced but their ability to cope with pain and stress will be increased.