The Healing Power of Tai Chi

The Healing Power of Tai Chi

Here Joy Parsons, a cancer survivor, tells you about the healing power of Tai Chi and the effect it had in helping her defeat Triple Negative Breast Cancer (TNBC) alongside CANCERactive's advice on diet and supplementation. 


The healing power of Tai Chi


I started learning Tai Chi seventeen years ago, after a year's treatment for Stage III Grade III Triple Negative Breast Cancer. Treatment involved a radical mastectomy and lymph gland clearance, chemotherapy (pre and post op) and radiotherapy. At the end of that year, I was in remission, brief though I thought it might be. 


I was taking CANCERactive's advice on diet and supplementation, but wanted to do even more to stay cancer free. Having heard that Tai Chi was a gentle yet effective way to regain and maintain health, I found a local teacher and decided to give it a go. At that point, I knew nothing about Tai Chi except that it involved slow, flowing movement and was very good for your physical, mental and emotional health. Now, at the age of 64, I teach eleven classes of Qigong and Tai Chi a week and have a greater feeling of well-being than I've ever known!


I was just four weeks out of treatment when I joined a beginners' class. I was overweight and weak and could only sustain ten minutes of activity before having to sit out. As it happened, a more experienced group was working at the other end of the room, so I watched them. What they were doing was breathtakingly beautiful - so focused, graceful and powerful that I knew I wanted to be able to do what they were doing. I was determined to continue attending classes! 


As time went on, my stamina levels improved. I began to lose weight and started to feel that I was in control for the first time since diagnosis. I gradually increased the number of classes I attended each week and then became an 'inside the door' student, at which point Tai Chi became an integral part of my lifestyle. 


After several years of training with a Master instructor, I started teaching my own classes. I wanted to share the amazing benefits I was experiencing with other people. I've been teaching it for almost ten years now and have been responsible for starting up a class in our local Maggie Cancer Care Centre. I've also worked with the Lung foundation (Breathe Easy), the Ear Foundation (Tinnitus), and a Stoma group at a local hospital. The benefits of Tai Chi are so wide ranging and there's so much more to it than I ever realised.


Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese art which integrates body, mind and breath. It's actually a martial art, with self-defence applications and weapons work, but what I am discussing here is a particular aspect of the syllabus known as 'the Form'. 


The 'Form' is a sequence of choreographed movements specifically designed to restore natural balance and harmony. Movement and breath activate and balance 'qi', the vital life force/energy that Chinese philosophy believes sustains and improves health. The more your mind is focussed on what it's doing, the more qi you can develop and control. The more balanced the qi, the more your well-being improves.

Tai Chi gently, but powerfully, massages, energises and oxygenates your body using deep breathing, relaxation and continuous, coordinated movement rather than muscular tension or force.  Movements enhance your immune, cardiovascular, lymphatic, digestive and nervous systems. Your body works as a unified whole with hands, arms, legs and feet all starting and finishing a movement at the same moment. Your body opens and closes, rises and sinks, twists from side to side, moves forward, backwards and sideways in a slow, controlled and flowing way.


These movements are particularly powerful and effective because they are combined with relaxed, deep breathing and a strong mental focus. They bring vitality and tranquility to your body and mind, helping you combat the stress and tension that so often interferes with the body's natural healing processes.  Tai Chi soothes and calms your body and mind, easing stress, pain and anxiety.


The deep, regular breathing improves respiration, oxygenating your body (and as Canceractivists know, cancer cells hate Oxygen!). Along with the deep breathing, the twisting, waist-driven movements also gently massage your internal organs, helping them to function more effectively. The physical benefits are vast, so much so that Tai Chi is now recommended to help prevent falls in the elderly and improve conditions such as Arthritis, Fibromyalgia and Depression. 


Many of these benefits can also be achieved by practising the Chinese movement system known as Qigong (or Chi Gung). Both systems are very beneficial for overall health, but Tai Chi is generally more complex than Qigong and takes much longer to learn. Both systems are more powerful than they look!


There are many studies that support the beneficial nature of Tai Chi. The Institute for Clinical Research and Health Policy Studies in Boston concluded that “Tai Chi appears to be associated with improvements in psychological well-being including reduced stress, anxiety....and increased self-esteem”. A number of studies support its contribution to pain relief and improvement of mood and quality of life (eg. 1999 and 2000 University of Arizona, 2011 University of California.) 


I can certainly say that along with the CANCERactive dietary advice, it has helped me regain and maintain my health to a point that I would not have believed possible.


If you want to find out more about Tai Chi, please go to my website which has more detailed information:


Joy Parsons    


Go to: Tai Chi and Gi Gong, Traditional Chinese Medicine, benefits and philosophy 

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