Please note that the material below is what we have learnt from our Taijiquan masters. We have tried to re-express their explanations as simply as we could. However, the opinions expressed here are entirely our own (and our masters). You should make your own observations and derive your own conclusions of Chen Style Taijiquan.
Chen Style Taijiquan and Health
The chan si jin or spiral movements that are characteristic to Chen Style Taijiquan have evolved from the naturally rounded human form. As the body exerts itself to produce the chan si jin movements, the inner parts of the body are being massaged simultaneously. This can be likened to the cycles of an automatic washing machine; as the body executes a left chan si, a right chan si, then an upwards chan si, and a chan si downwards. This routine can give rise to a great amount of heat being generated in the body, in a very short time and causes the body to perspire. As the body heats up and perspires, good cholesterol will be built up, fatty deposits will be dislodged and toxins carried away from the body by perspiration. In this way, due to the constant internal activity the body is put through, the body’s metabolism is kept working at a healthy level, and may keep old age spots at bay.
There has also been much research done in the States on the healthy advantages of heavy perspiration. Thereafter, we see the consequent proliferation of many types of aerobic sports, and the fitness craze, which followed. However, these sports may result in breathlessness.
Breathing and Salivation
Chen Style Taijiquan uses the tu na breathing skill, or abdominal breathing. It is also known as reverse breathing. When inhaling, the chest expands and the abdomen contracts. When exhaling, the chest contracts and the abdomen expands. In performing the Chen routines, you concentrate on focusing your qi to sink into your dantian, and synchronise your breathing to the movements. Breathing in tandem with the movements prevents breathlessness. When taking long, deep breaths becomes a habit, the lung capacity increases and your lungs will be able to take in more air at any time. Consequently, fewer breaths are needed as one becomes accustomed to it. The abdomen is relaxed, the mouth is gently closed with the tongue lightly resting against the upper palate.
Within minutes of concentrated practice, salivation should occur. This form of salivation is known as tuo ye or spiritual discharge and should be swallowed back into the stomach. Hence, as the practice goes on, salivation should be frequent.
It is deemed that salivating promotes vitality and is beneficial to the complexion. The Japanese have been exploring how acupuncture can be applied to create salivation, and has become a research trend for the beauty industry in Japan.
Physical Flexibility and Balance
The practice of chan si movements builds flexibility. The twisting and spiralling fashion of the chan si movements require significant pivotal shifts in body orientation. This results in a lot of movement around the joints. In effect, the ligaments at the joints are being exercised.
A long-term, diligent investment in Chen Style Taijiquan also improves the sense of physical balance. A good sense of balance is essential even in the simple act of walking. The stronger the sense of balance, the more stable the step on the ground. This means that one will walk with a firmer step when in the twilight years. As your internal flux gears into shape, you will notice that one is not as prone to illness as well.
Practicing Chen Style Taijiquan with its tripartite requirement of consciousness, movement and breathing disciplines the mind. Not to mention the many health benefits it engenders. Experience for yourself the effect of Taijiquan on your health, and you will want to keep it up. It is never too late to start practicing now.