Just the other day I posted about how meditation and happiness are connected, and the new book “Why Meditate” makes a case for how the practice fosters such positive outcomes. Now today in the Science section of The New York Times I read about how meditation, or at least certain “meditative poses” that one practices while doing tai chi, is especially good for both emotional and physical health.
Jane Brody, author of this article, “A Downside to Tai Chi? None That I See,” challenges readers with the following:
“After reviewing existing scientific evidence for its potential health benefits, I’ve concluded that the proper question to ask yourself may not be why you should practice tai chi, but why not. It is a low-impact activity suitable for people of all ages and most states of health, even those who “hate” exercise or have long been sedentary. It is a gentle, calming exercise — some call it meditation in motion — that involves deep breathing but no sweat or breathlessness. It places minimal stress on joints and muscles and thus is far less likely than other forms of exercise to cause muscle soreness or injury. It requires no special equipment or clothing and can be practiced almost anywhere at any time, alone or with others.”
Brody concluded this after looking at a number of studies, the latest of which came out of Tufts Medical Center in Boston, and reported that “tai chi reduced pain and fatigue and improved the patients’ ability to move, function physically and sleep. The benefits persisted long after the 12 weeks of tai chi sessions ended.”
As far as direct health benefits go, regular practice of tai chi can effect the following:
“If nothing else, this kind of relaxing activity can lower blood pressure and heart rate, improve cardiovascular fitness and enhance mood. . .Thus, it can be a useful aid in treating heart disease, high blood pressure and depression, conditions common among older people who may be unable to benefit from more physically demanding exercise.”
That’s about as ringing an endorsement as I’ve ever seen for this meditation technique that I see groups of people regularly practicing in the parks of New York City. Perhaps one morning I will go and join in.