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Yoga, Tai Chi, and the State of Zen

Some people have a foolish way of not minding, or pretending not to mind, what they eat. For my part, I mind my belly very studiously, and very carefully. For I look upon it, that he who does not mind his belly will hardly mind anything else.--Samuel Johnson (poet, essayist, biographer, lexicographer) Nowadays, people are so conscious about their health and body figure. Many people regularly visit the gym for weight training, cardiovascular exercise, or to simply have friends who share their passion for fitness. Many fitness gyms offer the latest in weight and cardio-machines.

Others specialize in special fitness programs or routines like Pilates, Tae-Bo, Belly Dancing, Hip-Hop Exercises, and even Pole Dancing. But lately, Yoga and Tai Chi classes have been gaining popularity especially among women and above-40 fitness buffs. These Indian and Chinese methods of meditation and exercise are popular due to the health benefits experienced by those practice them. Many health buffs claim that they now enjoy a stress and anxiety-free lifestyle because of their Tai Chi and Yoga lessons. Studies show that these kinds of exercise do have beneficial effects on the mind and body.

These religious-philosophical movements gave emphasis to the state of Zen. According to Buddhism, the term “zen” refers to the attainment of a stage of “awakening.” This belief was introduced in China by a Buddhist monk named Bodhidharma in A. 520. According to studies, people who cling to the teachings of Zen endeavor to achieve “satori” which is also called “nirvana”. “Satori” in general can only be reached through a meditation called “zazen” which, in turn, leads to a state of mushin or “no mind”. Mushin is the ability to see things more clearly mentally. It means that one's judgment will not be blurred with negative thoughts. Although this belief originated from the south, many Western students and practitioners of Yoga and Tai-Chi are satisfied with the health and vitality it brings.

Yoga benefits Practicing yoga increases flexibility because stretching exercises the different tendons, ligaments, and joints of the body. Studies also say that yoga is probably the only form of activity that massages all the internal organs and glands in the body. These may include the prostate, which according to medical specialists hardly receives stimulation. This massage or stimulation may keep certain individuals from diseases and other forms of illness. Yoga ensures the best supply of blood to the body. This helps detoxify the body of toxins and, in the process, delays aging and renewed energy. Muscles are also toned because of repeated stimulation through yoga. Tai Chi benefits Medical researchers and Tai Chi practitioners claim that immediate benefits occur from day one of practice. These may include a more relaxed and clearer mind. Clinical studies in the US show that improved balance and peace of mind took place after only eight weeks of training.

These benefits were immediately evident after performing very simple set of movements taken from different Tai Chi styles. Other benefits of this “soft” martial arts include improved internal organ functions, improved breathing, and better sleep. Additional reports show that people who practice Tai Chi enjoyed improved strength and reduced stress, aside from gaining the ability to better deal with anxiety attacks. However, people with a history of heart disease, back injuries, and those who have undergone recent surgery should consult a physician before starting a Yoga or Tai Chi routine. In general, Tai Chi and Yoga are very effective routines to bring back health and a sense of peace of mind to a devoted practioner. Done properly, these ancient arts of exercise and meditation can help provide anxiety relief and alleviate other forms of stress.


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