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While some people practice Tai Chi and Qigong just for the fun of it, most of us practice with a purpose in mind.
We may want to improve our health, or relieve stress, or become more fit. We may want to recover from an illness or disease, or become more balanced and flexible, or just to bring some peace and relaxation into our lives. And of course, we might be practicing for martial arts or self-defense purposes.
So if you are practicing for a given purpose, you may be wondering - "Does my Tai Chi and Qigong actually work? Is it actually bringing me the benefits I want?"
Of course, if your purpose of practicing is martial arts or self-defense, it's easy to tell if your art works. After all, in martial Tai Chi, you can usually tell if a movement works or if it doesn't work by how well you "handle" your opponent. You generally get immediate, direct (and sometimes painful) feedback on how well you have or haven't responded to a martial situation.
But when it comes to evaluating effectiveness, people that practice for health actually have a more difficult time evaluating results than those who practice for martial arts. After all, which is the easier question to answer: "Did this Tai Chi move prevent my opponent from hurting me?" or "Did this Tai Chi move improve how my liver functions?" I think most people find the second question much more difficult to answer.
That's because many of the health changes provided by arts like ChiFusion Tai Chi and Qigong can be subtle and easily overlooked. So you might find yourself asking, "Is my practice really making me healthier? How can I tell?"
If you are practicing ChiFusion Tai Chi and Qigong to improve your health,
here are three important "signs"
that can help you check the results of your practice.
And if you aren't noticing these signs, we have some
hints on what to do to make sure you do notice them.
If you are practicing to improve a certain aspect of your health, seeing a positive change in that health aspect is a sure sign you are on the right track. This may seem obvious, but it's important that you actively search out and look for examples that your condition has improved.
For example, a bad back is one of the most common health conditions that leads people to ChiFusion Tai Chi and Qigong. We hear this from students like Martin all the time. "The lower back is a concern for me," Martin wrote, "because I work in construction and do a good bit of lifting."
Martin practiced ChiFusion Level 1 daily for several months, and knew that his back improved - the day he could go ice skating! "I just went ice skating for the first time since before doing this program and was just enjoying immensely the ease with which I could skate. Every other handy man project around the house has been so much easier as well."
So if you are practicing to improve a certain illness, disease, or physical condition, make sure you actively look for improvements in your health. Beyond just "feeling better", look for signs of physical healing, improved capacity, the ability to perform tasks you couldn't perform before, or other obvious indicators.
One of the best signs that your practice is working is when your doctor, chiropractor, naturopath, acupuncturist, or other health care professional notices changes.
It might be changes in the results of tests and measurements, (for example, lower blood pressure readings or improved T-cell counts), or it might be just the considered opinion of your health expert.
For example, Joan, one of our students in Massachusetts, was a retired schoolteacher. She sent me this email, "I just want to tell you that I visited my chiropractor for the first time [since starting the ChiFusion course] and he said that whatever I'm doing to keep doing it, because he hasn't seen my body as mobile as it is now. So something is working."
Don't be afraid to ask your health care advisor for his or her opinion. Because they are "objective", they may actually notice signs that you've missed.
However, make sure you ask them the right question. DO NOT ask them "Is my Tai Chi or Qigong helping me?", because many of them only have a passing familiarity with the arts, usually based on what they've read about them. Hence, you'll get their opinion (or more likely the opinion they've borrowed from what they've read) rather than the objective answer you want.
Instead, ask them to evaluate your condition. Do they see signs of improvement? What do they see in any tests and measurements they perform? Do they notice any indicators of healing, improved capacity, or improved physiological responses?
Even if their opinion of Tai Chi and Qigong is positive, it's not what you want. What you want is their opinion of your health. Asking them to evaluate your condition (rather than your practice) will give you a more objective picture.
I first learned about the concept of "body signals" from my teaching partner (and certified nutritional advisor), Carole Taylor. Carole uses "body signals" with her health clients to make sure they are on the right track to getting the proper nutrition for health and longevity.
Carole says that your body sends you clear and easy signals that tell you if you've eaten properly. Most people, however, don't know to look for these signals, or how to interpret them if they receive them.
Well, your body does the same thing when you practice Tai Chi and Qigong, and you have to know how to look for these signals. Specifically, your body signals the effects of your Tai Chi through (1) your energy level, (2) your mental reactions, and (3) your emotional reactions.
Be aware though that, unlike food-based reactions, which happen generally within 1 to 2 hours of eating, Tai Chi and Qigong-based reactions can sometimes actually take longer. While some people experience signals during or immediately after practice, it's not unusual for there to be a "delay effect" of several hours up to a full day in body signals from Tai Chi and Qigong.
For example, one of our students who had numerous physical problems once told us his peak always occurred about three hours after practice. "I don't know what it is, but I just feel great after about 3 hours," he said, despite having constant pain from a hip injury. "The pain just seems to disappear and stays gone for several hours. I've never had that happen before."
This delay effect has been identified by psychoneuroimmunology (PNI), which studies how the nervous system, endocrine system, and immune system interact. PNI has also studied how these systems interact through chemicals that are released by practices like Tai Chi and Qigong.
Generally, these systems interact through chemical secretions, including a variety of chemicals known as "neuropeptides". According to the late Robert Anton Wilson, Ph.D., "Since neuropeptides travel through virtually all body fluids (blood, lymph, cerebrospinal fluid, etc.) as well as between neurons, the neuropeptide system acts more slowly but more holistically than the central nervous system."
What this means is that while the effects of practice may be happening "during" practice, your brain may delayed in getting the "signals" from these effects. So in looking for body signals from your Tai Chi practice, make sure you pay attention to how you feel over a 2 to 24 hour period after practice. Check your energy level, look for how mentally sharp your thinking appears, and notice any feelings of happiness or well-being.
Most people find that there will be a "peak" in these body signals somewhere during the 24 hours after practice. And if you practice at the same time each day, often times you'll notice that the peak will occur at the same time each day as well.
So what if your health condition doesn't improve, your doctor or chiropractor doesn't notice any differences, and you don't notice any body signals? Should you give up practicing?
Instead of abandoning your practice, first check some important points about your practice. In Part 2 of this article (click here), we'll give you a checklist will make sure that you are giving your body "what it needs" to improve.
With these checklist items, you can be sure that your ChiFusion practice is bringing you the health benefits you want - and that you have Tai Chi that works!
As always, you have my best wishes for Chi Development,