By Michilea Patterson, The Mercury
Martial arts practitioners around the globe are inviting the community to join an international health activity with World Tai Chi & Qigong Day.
The free and educational annual event showcases the health benefits of traditional Chinese practices. The world celebration is always on the last Saturday of April. This weekend, cities throughout the United States and the rest of the world will have community Tai Chi and Qigong demonstrations.
“It’s an event to really highlight Tai Chi and introduce it to the public that wants to know more about it or at least wants to see it in action,” said Charles Brynan of Pear Garden Tai Chi & Reflexology.
Brynan teaches Tai Chi throughout the region including in parts of Montgomery and Chester counties. He will have a special event this Saturday at Green Lane Park. Brynan said the world event will begin at 10 a.m. in every city that celebrates it.
“So, the idea is to start it at 10 wherever you are and move around the entire world, the globe. It actually starts in New Zealand first at 10 a.m.,” he said. “Then goes from country to country, time zone to time zone.”
About 80 countries will participate in the global event including even third world counties, Brynan said. Some of the countries that have participated in past years include Australia, Egypt, Iran, Israel, Hong Kong, Greece and the U.S., according to the World Tai Chi & Qigong Day website worldtaichiday.org. On Saturday, people will be able to watch some of the world events live on Facebook at bit.ly/2qa2GgI.
“It kind of supersedes politics,” Brynan said adding that anybody can learn about the health benefits of Tai Chi and qigong, no matter where they live.
He said Tai Chi has roots in martial arts and Qigong has roots as specifically a health activity. Tai Chi incorporates the breath and slow body movements of qigong, Brynan said.
“Qigong is probably the most ancient of a health exercise, more so than martial arts,” he said.
Tai Chi is a slow-moving and low-impact exercise that involves the body and the mind, according to an online 2015 Harvard Medical School publication found at bit.ly/1QTc9B2. The publication explained several health benefits of the Chinese practice. Physically, Tai Chi can help with flexibility, stamina and muscle strength. Mentally, the ancient practice helps with stress relief and body awareness. There has also been research on how Tai Chi can help people with painful conditions such as arthritis or tension headaches.
Dr. Margaret Chan, director-general of the World Health Organization, made a statement about the benefits of Tai Chi during her remarks at a 2012 roundtable discussion in Switzerland for World Health Day.
“Regular moderate physical activity has a rejuvenating effect, working to turn back the clock. Ancient Chinese Tai Chi exercises can restore balance in older people and help prevent falls,” stated Chan in her remarks which were published on the organization’s website at bit.ly/2qa5Sc9.
Tai Chi instructor Betsy Chapman said in recent years, the practice has been used as a health art especially in the U.S.
“A lot of studies show that it’s good for senior citizens … It can help stabilize blood pressure,” she said adding that it can help people improve their quality of life.
Chapman teaches Tai Chi at Final Results Fitness in Gilbertsville and at Ursinus College in Collegeville. She has been teaching the ancient art since 1995 and practicing it since 1980. Chapman said she fell in love with the art form and that it teaches people “efficient movement.” She said in people’s daily lives they can become “lazy” with their posture which Tai Chi can help.
Chapman will attend a World Tai Chi Day event in Wyomissing on Saturday. She said the purpose of the global event is to bring attention to Tai Chi and how beneficial it is for health.
“As our population ages, it’s more and more important to help people remain healthy, remain mobile and active,” Chapman said.
Not only is the day a movement of health but also of world peace, she said. Chapman said Tai Chi is really about balance which means more than the physical aspect of that word.
“It’s also about a balanced philosophy, a balanced mind,” she said.
Chapman said an important idea or principle of Tai Chi is “neutralization” which includes knowing how to disagree gracefully and how to come to a consensus. She said nothing is “black and white” and it’s important for people across the globe to see both sides of an issue.
The motto for World Tai Chi & Qigong Day is “one world, one breath.”
“We all breathe the same air. We all breathe together,” Chapman said.
The concept of yin-yang balance is an important one in Chinese culture. Brynan said yin and yang are opposites but are also essential to one another.
“If you have strong, you need to be contemplative, you need to be relaxed. If you have fast, you need slow,” he said.
For more information about World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, visit the website at www.worldtaichiday.org.