health and well being, mind-body exercise, Qigong, Tai Chi, wellness

If mental state influence physical conditions, where does tai chi play a role?

If mental states affect physical conditions, and researchers don’t know how it happens, then how can the cause/effect relationship be proven? As Stephen Locke, MD, states in The Healer Within (1986), “‘Knowing’ that one’s state of mind influences one’s body does not prove that it does.” In his book he talks about the trend in research to discover how the mental states affect the central nervous and immune systems, thus our health.

The book covers amazing things, but I haven’t got to the part where he talks about tai chi and qigong. I’m not finished reading it, but I doubt it’s there. For me, practices, such as tai chi, qigong, and yoga, are addressing at least some questions that researchers are asking, or perhaps, not asking. Massage is another possible methodology of tapping into the central nervous or immune system’s influence over a person’s physical health. Other modalities, or practices, such as reiki, fall into the category of mind-body treatment.

By current scientific measures, these practices don’t prove the influence of mental states over physical conditions. But researchers continue to explore the causes and effects of the influence of mental states on physical health. In the meantime, tai chi practitioners are engaged in our own explorations. We know something is happening when we do our practice, even though Locke says “Common sense is not science.” Go figure.

Knowing is not proof, they say, yet millions of people who practice tai chi know that they experience both mental and physical changes from regular practice over time. They must, because who would keep making the effort and expending the energy to do something without seeing (feeling) beneficial results at some point? People are rewarded for doing tai chi, but that’s not proof of cause and effect, because science hasn’t figured out a way to prove it. Go figure.

The point I want to make is that practices such as tai chi and qigong actively seek the connection without having to explain it. They presume it, or maybe they don’t, but they trust the process and intend beneficial results. They activate the mind-body connection by virtue of engaging one’s whole being in doing their particular practice. The rest takes care of itself. They make it work somehow without having to prove it.

What I am attracted to in the case of tai chi, qigong and yoga is that they are practices individuals do on their own. We may have a teacher to lead us through the practice, but the work is done ourselves for ourselves. Massage, reiki, and other practices are done to, or on, us by a professional. They may be effective at times and at other times less so. Same with the practices you do yourself.

But to do the practice yourself on your own holds a special allure for me. But like Locke says, even though I “know” it works, I can’t prove the cause/effect relationship. However, I can talk about results that happen when I do enough tai chi and qigong, and I can talk about results when I don’t do enough of either. And that is enough for me. The immediate relaxation responses are enough. The longer-term sense of well-being that develops from practice and that I carry with me between practices is real enough.