This is a continuation of my Integrative Pain Management series, based on content selected from my chapter of the book Integrative Pain Management: Massage, Movement, and Mindfulness Based Approaches.
For in-depth routines to deal with upper back pain, lower back pain, and other conditions, check out my video courses on Udemy!
Tai Chi is not like other martial arts or physical activities in the western world. Tai Chi is about body, mind, breath, energy, and spirit. Rather than being focused on building explosive strength or aggressive action, tai chi cultivates calmness, stillness, and balance.
This balance is well-represented in the yin-yang symbol, and in the relationship between the body and the mind. In Chinese philosophy, the mind and body are made of, and connected by, qi. Qi can be thought of as the energy that circulates through the body. By connecting consciously with our qi, we can affect the body and the mind in positive ways. But this connection exists even when we aren't familiar with it, and mental and emotional stress can cause physical symptoms, such as chronic pain.
When pain occurs in the body, eastern philosophies typically diagnose it as an 'imbalance.' This imbalance could be tension in certain areas of the body, stiffness in certain tissues, or any number of other things. To reestablish balance, tai chi develops the opposite, and yet complementary, sides of the yin-yang relationship. Strength and flexibility. Movement and stillness. Breathing in and breathing out.
It is helpful to think of pain as the body's way of sending the mind a message. It is saying, "Hey! Something is not working properly! Pay attention to it." As you begin to do a regular tai chi routine for chronic pain, you will learn to connect your mind with more specific details of your pain than just "hurting" or "not hurting." You will be able to idetify where the pain originates, and what movements and exercises help it the most.
Next week, we'll discuss the components of a tai chi practice and how it actually increases function in the body as a whole, and fights pain as part of a holistic, integrative treatment.
Speaking of balance and imbalances, coming up on Sunday June 26th, I am teaching a 3 hour class on Balance and Stability at YMAA in Andover, MA from 11am-2pm. Please register and join us! I hope to see you guys there.