Tai Chi - an energy therapy for cancer patients

A Review of Complementary Cancer Therapies

Tai Chi is an energy therapy and can be of much benefit to cancer patients.

James Man doing Tai Chi

Tai Chi: The Energy Within

When Westerners think about exercise, it’s often still about "going for the burn", "pumping iron" or other vigorous activities to get our heart rates up. But walk into any park in China, just as day is dawning, and there will be hundreds of people performing graceful, almost balletic, movements while breathing deeply and slowly.

They are practising Tai Chi.

Originally developed as a martial art for self defence, Tai Chi Chuan is nearly 2,000 years old and is a highly effective exercise system.

It has been described as "moving meditation", and is centred around breathing exercises (Qi Gong or Chi Kung) with the combination of motion and stillness.

"When practising Tai Chi, a person looks as though they are moving slowly on the outside, but on the inside the body’s metabolism is running at a much, much faster rate," explains Tai Chi master James Man.

What Is Tai Chi?

The words mean "supreme ultimate". It is the connection between the two energies that creates new life and everything that comes from that. From this interchange of the two opposing, yet complementary energies, everything else is created.

Although we talk about Tai Chi, what is actually practised is Tai Chi Chuan. "Chuan" means "fist" or "boxing", so it is the art of supreme ultimate boxing. As for chi (or qi), simply, it is the very essence of life. Not only in the air we breathe, but also the vital energy of the body. In Chinese belief, the body is a series of energy conduits and chi flows along systematic meridians.

Open quotesThe body is a series of energy conduits and chi flows along systematic meridiansClose quotes

When a patient is ill Western doctors look for physical or chemical abnormalities, whereas Chinese doctors search for hidden forces that are out of balance. They restore unseen harmonies by sticking needles into the body to intervene in an energy system. By using acupuncture, herbs and massaging pressure points, Chinese doctors are said to control the flow of chi.

Through Tai Chi they teach their patients to master the flow of energy in their own bodies, through combined mental and physical practice. Once you have learned to relax, to focus on your breathing and to let go of all thoughts, then you can actually find a spot in your body where your chi begins. They call this the dan tian point, which is just below your navel. You concentrate on the ball of energy and learn to move it.

The Benefits Of Tai Chi

Chinese sages taught that treating someone who is already ill is like beginning to dig a well after you become thirsty. There is an ancient idea that if you don’t move the body every day, it becomes stagnant. The body is like a hinge on a door: if it is not swung open it rusts. Ancient Chinese physicians only received a fee as long as the patient remained in good health, so it was their task to teach patients to stay healthy.

Open quotesTai Chi strengthens the immune systemClose quotes

"Tai Chi strengthens the immune system," says James Man. "It can balance the body when you practise it regularly, and breathe properly. It helps a person take in more oxygen than a normal person. It improves respiration and raises the internal core temperature of the body."

Mental Benefits

improved focus

clarity of thought

a calm, relaxed mind

more patience and understanding

less susceptibility to stress

balanced approach to conflict

Physical Benefits

improved immune system

greater flexibility

postural awareness

more effective use of the body

better balance

increased energy

less stress-induced pains

Tai Chi and Cancer

"Training like this can strengthen the weaker person, and fill the healthy person with energy. It gives the practitioner sound sleep, improved digestion, clear skin and an enhanced immune response," says James.

Open quotesIt gives the practitioner sound sleep, improved digestion, clear skin and an enhanced immune responseClose quotes

"This will improve and extend life expectancy and maintain youthful vigour. Most general chronic diseases and non-active ailments can be treated with these exercises. There are no exercises to avoid in Tai Chi, because it’s good for the body and helps cleanse you internally -ridding the body of toxins. It improves the bioenergetics of the body and the blood. All the internal aspects of the body move quicker. The chi works on every cell. It works on the cell walls and prevents the spread of cancer. Cancer can’t stick to the cells because they are moving so fast. I am not saying it will take cancer out of the body, but practising Tai Chi does make it easier to control."

One of James Man’s students, David Robinson says, "A colleague’s wife did some Tai Chi and Qi Gong in the final stages of her cancer. She was desperate to try anything that might help. My colleague said that of all the complementary therapies she tried, the one that gave her the most relief from the pain, and helped her anxiety and stress, was Tai Chi."

There are a number of variations of the original style of Tai Chi. As with any art form popularity spawns many imitations, so be careful you learn the authentic art. But how can you tell? James suggests that word of mouth is often the best way to find a good teacher, and that "if after 14 days of practising you notice a good reaction and feel warmth somewhere, then you know you’ve found a master".

Golf pro and teacher Ken Phillips would attest to this. He was diagnosed with non Hodgkin’s lymphoma last Valentine’s Day and has been going to James Man’s classes for five and a half months now.

Open quotesI get an uplift from Tai Chi and feel warmth in my palmsClose quotes

"Master Man concentrates on the internal, on the chi," he explains. When I finish a class I can feel this energy that I didn’t have before -or even during it. I get an uplift from Tai Chi and feel warmth in my palms. I call it a magnetic force, almost a pressure between the hands, and my palms are getting warm just talking about it now!"

A Footnote From Geoff Pike

In his inspirational book The Power of Chi, Geoff Pike wrote, "Five years ago, I was found to have cancer. Today at 50, I am fit, healthy and a great believer in the breathing exercises I have demonstrated in this book. I have no way of proving how much their daily practice had to do with my recovery, but I do know that they have given me a new outlook and renewed vitality.

Open quotesKeeping fit and able is not just a fad, it is a
dutyClose quotes

I had a tumour on my larynx and throughout the five weeks of super-voltage radiation, I practised The Eight Precious Sets of Exercises known to the Chinese as Pa Tuan Tsin. This was not only a great source of physical and mental well being, but it produced tangible and somewhat amazing results. Exposure to intense radiation is expected to have its negative side effects.. weight loss, loss of appetite, loss of sleep and a general downturn in spirit are the most typical. I am glad to say that at no time did I experience any of these. I slept soundly without sedatives, ate ravenously, drank my quota of draught Guinness at the ’local’ each evening, and maintained a steady certainty about the outcome. Even case-hardened doctors and nurses were impressed and asked me to demonstrate the Precious Set Of Eight.

So get your feet wet. The yogis of old were right: in this competitive and demanding age, keeping fit and able is not just a fad, it is a duty. A dutyto yourself, the one that gave you life and those who depend upon you to remain strong. Stop relying on those inadequate little breaths and start learning to fill your lungs the way you were intended to.

Start breathing for your life and love. And when you have found what it can do for you, teach it to others so that we can all live longer and love longer through the power of chi."

James Man

James Man

James Man is a Tai Chi Master and Mo Gik Mon kung fu expert, who has been passing on his skills both here and in China for 17 years. James came to the UK in 1989 and founded the Tai Chi Association, Yishin Tang, in 2002. As well as teaching Tai Chi teachers and students, James has a Chinese herbal shop in Newcastle. Mo Gik Mon has many substyles of which Tai Chi Chuan is just one.

About half the style shares similarities with other styles of Tai Chi Chuan. The internal aspects are taught first, followed by the external form. The movements of the form are very natural with the yin and yang movements being easily discerned. When training in the internal arts it is important to have a true master who can guide a student through training.

If a student develops a problem a good master can help the student correct the problem; James’ teaching is adapted to a student’s needs and wishes, whether they be martial or health.

To find out more about this style of Tai Chi call James Man on 0191 262 4404, send a fax to 0191 262 6002 or write to James Man Herbalist, Yishin Tang, 86-88 High Street East, Wallsend, Tyne & Wear NE28 7RH. If you would like to find a fully qualified Tai Chi teacher in your area, call the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain on 0141 638 2946, or log on to their website: www.taichiunion.com.

FURTHER READING: The Power of Chi by Geoff Pike (Harper Collins. If out of print, try www.amazon.co.uk), Healing and the Mind by Bill Moyers (Doubleday), Tai Chi (Collins Gem)

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