January 8, 2014 | Posted in:In The Field

(Lupus Society) – “Tai chi is an internal kung fu,” says Dr. Zhi Gang Sha, a master-level tai chi instructor and author of Power Healing: The Four Keys to Healing Your Body, Mind & Spirit. “When used for self-defense, tai chi movements are powerful and fast. But tai chi for health uses slow movements to build energy and promote healing.” This is good news for people with lupus, who frequently experience fatigue and joint discomfort. Unlike some of the more intense martial arts, tai chi can be safely practiced by nearly anyone. “I have had the pleasure of studying tai chi for a number of years,” says Cindy Coney, an LFA board member and executive director of the Mendez Foundation in Tampa, Florida. “As a person with lupus, I have found that after a tai chi session, I am more relaxed and my energy is restored.”

According to traditional Chinese medicine, sickness is caused by the blockage of chi, or vital energy. Tai chi aims to eliminate those blockages and let the chi flow, which is why it has been used for centuries. In addition to improving people’s overall sense of well-being, tai chi appears to have physical benefits as well. “Tai chi increases flexibility, loosens your muscles, and relieves pain and discomfort,” says Dr. Sha. That’s why many experts recommend the practice for people with some musculoskeletal conditions.

Recent studies indicate that tai chi also may help lower blood pressure and keep your heart healthy. Its weight-bearing qualities may help stimulate bone growth and strengthen connective tissue. And since tai chi consistently requires shifting the body’s weight back and forth, it also improves balance. That translates into fewer falls–a whopping 47.5 percent fewer, according to a 1996 study where seniors practiced tai chi for 15 weeks. And fewer falls means fewer fractures, a great benefit for people with lupus who are at risk for thinning bones and osteoporosis.

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