Beat osteoporosis with Qigong, Taichi

Osteoporosis literally means “porous bones”. As we age, our bones weaken. Women have less bone tissue and lose bone density more rapidly than men. The greatest change in a woman’s bone density comes in the five to seven years after menopause. According to the International Osteoporosis Foundation one in three women and one in five men aged over 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures.

Bones are tissues made up of collagen, the most abundant protein in the body, and calcium phosphate. Throughout our lifetime, our body continuously rebuilds old or damaged bone with new bone.

As we age, we lose more bone than we replace. Therefore, the health of our bones depends on proper nutrition, exercise and lifestyle. Smoking, excess alcohol consumption and diets low in calcium and vitamin D make us vulnerable to osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is preventable if a conscious effort is made in food choice and physical activity. Intensive exercise done in early childhood and adolescence help improve bone mass. As we move to adulthood, it is important to continue our physical activities.

We could choose less intensive cardio exercises like swimming and cycling for general fitness. However, we need to include in our daily routine weight-bearing exercises such as running, jogging, walking, racquet games, Qigong and Taichi etc, in order to strengthen the bones.

When people with osteoporosis fall they are likely to sustain fractures. Bones are piezoelectric, that is, when they are stressed, mechanical energy is converted to elec-
trical energy or Qi (bio-electricity).

Better Qi circulation
The gentle load bearing and stress on the bones with the practice of Taichi and Qigong enable better Qi circulation in the body and help to slow down the loss of bone density approximately three fold. Many studies have shown that practicing Taichi and Qigong helps improve one’s balance and, thereby, helps prevent falls.

Nirmala Reddy says, “Just two months into Taichi and I find there is a spring in my
step and a better mobility of my limbs. For someone in her sixties, this is really a
gentle form of exercise for the body and soul”.

Usha Rao, a 66-year-old retired research scientist, used to suffer from anxiety and confidence issues. Now, she joyfully expresses, “I enrolled for Taichi classes and I am happy to say that I have gained a lot both in terms of confidence and health!
“I can now freely walk up and down the stairs without feeling a strain on my knees. I carry out my household chores without feeling tired and my bones don't ache as before”.  
Sundar Oblan, a 23-year-old professional working in a Support and Call Centre, states: “The constant interplay of yin and yang in the Taichi forms has enabled me to be balanced physically and mentally. Within a few months of practicing Qigong and Taichi, I was able to stay low with my centre of gravity rooted to the earth. My spine is much more erect and my posture has improved tremendously.”

Safe to practice
People with osteoporosis often have arthritis and loss of function due to age and weakness. Research conducted by Harvard Medical School indicate that regular Taichi and Qigong practice is a safe and effective way to maintain bone density, relieve pain, improve balance and the ability to do daily activities. Taichi and Qigong help people feel more relaxed and improve mental strength so they can cope better with their conditions.
According to Usha Nayar, an educator, aged 54 years, “I had been suffering from an arthritic condition with chronic joint pain and stiffness for several years and was quite miserable. Then I began attending Qigong and Taichi classes.

“My flexibility started to improve and the pain and stiffness around my joints began to reduce. I practice regularly every day and am a happier person now. These gentle and graceful art forms have a powerful healing ability and have brought about a transformation in my life!”

Qigong and Taichi is for people of all ages and conditions! When you begin young, you are likely to enter middle age a lot more lightly. But remember, youth is in the spirit, so whatever your age, it’s never too late to care for your bones and break free from osteoporosis!

(The writer has learned Taichi and Qigong from several renowned teachers and has been teaching the art forms since 1998)

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