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Beachside Qigong & Tai Chi

Tai Chi for Brain Plasticity in a Changing World

Updated: Feb 9, 2023

As we age so does our brain. Changes in memory function, ability to multi-task and focus are all affected by the many aging processes. The ability of the brain to process and adapt to new information quickly and efficiently is known as brain neroplasticity and typically declines with age, making it more difficult to adapt to new situations in our ever-changing world. Fortunately neuroplasticity is activated through tai chi and qigong exercises.

It's been my own experience as a practitioner, that the repetitive motions of qigong often lead me into a mindless almost unaware self-hypnotic state that is extremely useful for healing. Tai chi, on the other hand, with it's complex footwork integrated with specific arm movements, places me into a state of absolute mindfulness; a state that rarely has a drifting, hypnotic-like effect but rather more of a completely aware and focused state; on-point some would call it.

Learning new complex tai chi sequences requires my full focus and attention. Even now, with over 20 years of training, when I learn a new tai chi move, my brain is challenged in new ways and it actually feels like my brain is making new grooves while I'm trying to learn a move like Leisurely Tying Coat from the TCA2 and Sun 73 forms. Once I've learned the basics of how the movement is done and with years of practice it becomes "repetitive," and now my mind must remain fully focused or I lose where I am in the form or perhaps move into an entirely different form through a posture that the two share. So even with years of practicing the same form, my mind stays fully engaged, fully aware.

Complete and utter focus is required for me to be successful in tai chi. This is not the case for yoga where I can move through postures with a breath or two while making a list for the grocery store after class. Riding my bike and running have always opened up my mind like a broken sprinkler head with a continuous stream of seemingly unrelated random thoughts spewing forth. When I really think about it, only tai chi and surfing require my full and unmitigated attention and in that actually feed the health of my aging brain.

Ancient Taoists created numerous methods successful at maintaining brain plasticity without the labs and research funding of neuroscientists which currently are corroborating their age-old work. A recent article in Psychology Today presents a study showing tai chi improves not only brain health through better neuroplasticity but also muscle health as well.

The world will inevitably change around us. It only took 40 years to go from a telephone with a huge cord glued to the dining room wall to robots performing surgery and cars that drive themselves. We can keep our brains up to the task of life by learning just one tai chi form. This alone impacts brain and body health in ways even neuroscientists have yet to imagine.

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