Questions and Comments on Tai Chi

by on Jun.25, 2013, under - Show All Posts

Excerpted from an email:
…Secondly, I’m really interested by what you said about analyzing the fourier transform of ECG (was it ECG?) data. Specifically, when you said that you thought the 4-minute release point on the qigong Embrace the Tree exercise might reflect some peak on the spectrogram, did you mean that you thought there might actually be a peak, a biological rhythm, beating at the absurdly low frequency corresponding to period 4 minutes? If so, that’s EXTREMELY cool, and I think this kind of thinking might shed light on a lot of the rhythms that subtly guide people in their day-to-day lives as they work and play. (It inspires in me many questions: What other invisible hands are there guiding us that we generally don’t sit still long enough to become consciously aware of? If we sit still long enough, can we learn to consciously control them? What distinguishes that which is controllable by the consciousness from that which isn’t? Can those elements of the brain which are under consciously control be identified through neurological imaging studies? Do the brains of people with and without that conscious control look different? How can the pathways of information transfer that enable this conscious control be found? Tangenially relatedly, I want to see if EEG data can distinguish between activity perceived as work and activity perceived as play, as this is a fascinating and very relevant distinction.)
(repeat from prev. post) This is doubly interesting to me because the more I live the more I think that the single easiest, highest-impact thing that we could do as a society to make people’s lives better (and, in the process, society more efficient) would be to start a tradition in which everyone did 20 minutes of tai chi or qigong every day and got the feeling I get (I say tai chi/qigong because I have not yet found anything with the same effect). It’s so energizing, focusing, sensitizing, clarifying, inspiring, and edifying for me. It brings the day into my body. When I do tai chi in the morning, it helps me organize myself and focus on the critical goals, and be at my most alive when accomplishing them. It brings me to a state where I work with passion towards my dreams and do not get distracted.  Moreover, because it serves as a centerpoint around which my whole day organizes itself, if I take 20 minutes to do tai chi, I end up saving 40 minutes (or more often hours!) for having done it. It seems to be a win in all directions. So I’m really interested studying and raising awareness and understanding of this wonderful thing!
I’m so happy that such studies are going on right now at UCSD, and in case you’re interested,  I wanted to give you some already-established, solid results on the subject:
A Randomized Trial of Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia http://www.nejm.org/doi/pdf/10.1056/nejmoa0912611 — By my Tai Chi master Ramel Rones!
Tai Chi is Effective in Treating Knee Osteoarthritis: A Randomized Controlled Trial http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3023169/ — By my Tai Chi master Ramel Rones!
Tai Chi and Postural Stability in Patients with Parkinson’s Disease http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa1107911
Really though, I am less interested in studies on tai chi’s effectiveness, though they are a necessary first step. I want to try to analytically understand what’s going on in tai chi. I want see what’s happening electromagnetically when tai chi masters get “tai chi hands” — I know that when a tai chi master touches me with tai chi hands, I often have this irresistible peaceful smiling laugh feeling deep within that is profoundly good, and my intuition tells me there’s a measurable aspect to it. The feeling is more than that which I think plain gentleness would induce, and I haven’t yet seen a proper study of it. Subjectively, it feels like an analogue of slowed encelographic activity — alpha, delta, and theta brain activity (which has been demonstrated in brains of tai chi masters)– is actually going on in my hands! I would love to see this happen or perhaps orchestrate it myself.

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