I recently caught an article in the New York Times about the effects of swimming and running on heart size and function in athletes. It resonated with me because it seems like something kind of similar happens from long-term tai chi practice.
For example, it’s reasonable to see that tai chi can reshape the body by virtue of improved posture, for one thing. Plus, physiological functions, such as breathing and blood and lymph circulation notably improve. Research shows as much. Maybe it’s possible that the internal organs of tai chi practitioners change shape, too. As the NYT article talks about, the hearts of running and swimming athletes do.
Other research findings show that physiological functions change with practice over time. Tai chi practice may not be athletic performance, but the two approaches to movement could have correlates.
Most of us who notice we are more inactive than is good for us are not going to jump into running long distances all at once in order to get back into shape. Especially if we are older in years. We’re not going to become a long distance swimmer or bicyclist all of a sudden. If we want to do that we know we have to train and build up ability.
The same is true for tai chi training…with a difference. In tai chi, we begin much more slowly. There is a very clear reason for this slow approach to learning in tai chi. It has to do with how we use our attention. It’s really a retraining and reshaping of the basic awareness of the basic components of movement. What is moving: the mind, the body, the energy, the spirit itself. How are these moving and, ultimately, what are the results of reshaping the body.
It’s not merely slapping on running shoes and taking off down the road, or diving into a pool and start stroking. Maybe the same facilities are used, but they used in different ways.
Try this article for more info or google “how tai chi changes physiology.”