Taoist Arts Center:  News and Research:

On these pages you will find articles and research on the healing effects of tai chi, chi kung (qigong), Taoist Meditation, and Traditional Chinese Medicine. Doctors and medical researchers continue to investigate the effects of these arts on conditions including diabetes, arthritis, high blood pressure, pain, and stress management. This page presents a selection of health articles along with others on Chinese philosophy and culture.

Chi Kung, Tai Chi, Meditation
Chinese Philosophy and Medicine

Tai Chi Lowers Blood Pressure
T'ai Chi -- the slow-motion form of exercise popular in China -- can  reduce blood pressure in older adults as much as regular aerobic  exercise, but without speeding up their heart rates, according to  researchers.

These findings "suggest that (exercise) intensity may be less important  than other factors" when it comes to lowering high blood pressure,  conclude researchers led by Dr. Deborah Rohm Young of the Johns Hopkins  Medical Institutions in Baltimore, Maryland. Their study is published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

 The researchers focused on a group of 62 overweight, hypertensive  individuals over 60 years of age. Subjects were assigned to 3 months of  either moderate aerobic workouts or T'ai Chi, with each regimen  consisting of 30 to 45 minutes of exercise four to five times per week.

 The authors chose the popular Yang style of T'ai Chi, which they  describe as "13 movements practiced in sequence in a slow, fluid and  continuous manner." They report that at the end of the 3-month period,  the T'ai Chi program "reduced blood pressure to an extent similar to a  program of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise." Systolic blood pressure (the first number in a reading) declined by an average of 8.4 mm Hg in  the T'ai Chi group, and by 7.0 mm Hg in the aerobics group. Diastolic  pressure (the second number in a reading) fell by an average of 3.2 mm  Hg and 2.4 mm Hg, respectively.

 According to Young's team, these results suggest that even low-intensity exercise can produce real health benefits for older individuals with  high blood pressure. They point out that "many older adults,  particularly women, have had little or no experience with exercise and  may find even moderate-intensity activity undesirable." T'ai Chi, which  can be performed anywhere and requires no special clothing or gear, "may be desirable to older adults who do not identify themselves as  'exercisers'," they conclude.

 SOURCE: Journal of the American Geriatrics Society March, 1999;47:277-284.
The research abstract,"Tai Chi Lowers Blood Pressure" was found at

Symptoms of Parkinson's Disease reduced by Tai Chi
Research at the Oregon Research Institute (ORI) has found that patients  with Parkinson's disease had fewer falls after taking up Tai Chi. The  study of 195 participants in four Oregon cities demonstrated significant benefits for patients with a mild-to-moderate form of the disease. At  the end of the 24 week study participants demonstrated improved postural stability, increased walking ability and reduced slips and tumbles.

 In Parkinson's disease, nerve cells in the brain that produce the  chemical dopamine begin to die, leading to tremors, balance problems,  stiff facial expressions, muffled speech and difficulty walking.  Medication and brain surgery help, but have their limits since they may  make a person more mobile but don't help with balance. As the disease  progresses, many patients loose the ability to walk smoothly, have  trouble with many of life's daily activities and fall often.

 Tai Chi the ancient Chinese slow-motion meditation and martial art is  today, mostly practiced for health. Medical research has shown it  improves equilibrium, benefits many health conditions and is safe during convalescence. In its calming exercises weight flows smoothly from one  posture to another, arms are moved in harmony with the legs and  breathing is relaxed: tasks that require increased mental focus,  awareness of balance and coordination of movement.

 In the 4-year project funded by the National Institute of Neurological  Disorders and Stroke (published in the New England Journal of Medicine)  ORI scientist Fuzhong Li and his team, randomly assigned 195 patients to one of three exercise groups: Tai Chi Chuan, resistance training, or  stretching. The patients participated in 60-minute exercise sessions  twice weekly for 24 weeks in a program that consisted of six Tai Chi  movements united into a short routine emphasizing movement and awareness of one's center of gravity, controlled ankle sway, front, back and side to side steps and conscious weight-shifting.

 The results of the study showed the Tai Chi group performed consistently better than the stretching group in how far they could lean in any  direction without losing balance and demonstrated better directional  control of the body, increased stride length and walking ability. Tai  Chi participants also outperformed those in the resistance training  group. Finally, Tai Chi training was shown to significantly lower the  incidence of falls. a major problem in Parkinson's Disease. Patients  assigned to resistance training reported 133 drops, while the Tai Chi  group had only 62. The Tai Chi group outperformed the stretching group  in every test.

 These results are clinically significant. They suggest that Tai Chi  could be used in combination with current therapies to reduce postural  instability, increase flexibility and expand range of motion.

 In the words of Dr. Li. "There are a number of practical advantages to  using Tai Chi to improve motor dysfunction of Parkinson's disease - it  is a low cost activity that does not require equipment, it can be done  anywhere, at any time, and the movements can be easily learned. It can  also be incorporated into a rehabilitation setting as part of existing  treatment. Similarly, because of its simplicity, certain aspects of this Tai Chi program can also be prescribed to patients as a self-care/home  activity."

 Practitioners report that Tai Chi is soothing, calming energizing and  enjoyable to do. It can be done in a small space, needs no special  equipment and just a little practice leads to feelings of well being and increased health. This is very important says Madeleine Hackney, a  kinesiologist at Emory University and the Veterans Affairs Medical  Center in Atlanta. "Patients may know something is great for them, but  if they don't like it, that's a problem."

 Information in this article was originally published at:,

Run Safe with Tai Chi
The desire to avoid injury and continue running as we age has spurred a  new approach to the sport. One popular technique is ChiRunning, a  practice in which the physical alignments and mind-body awareness of Tai Chi Chuan are integrated into the run. Chi runners, like Tai Chi  practitioners are in constant conversation with their mind and body,  allowing their mind to relax their muscles and noticing what their body  is saying to their mind. Practitioners of these arts use their brains  more - and their body less - and as in swimming downstream, relaxation  is the tool, efficiency the result.

 Borrowing from the basic ideas of Tai Chi, ChiRunning utilizes mental  awareness, physical alignment, gravity and the physics of movement to  accomplish its ends. It focuses on posture, leg swing and location of  the pelvis and explains how awareness connects them all together.

 Ultra-marathon runner, Danny Dryer, developed ChiRunning after years of  experimentation. He says that a light lit up in his brain after he took a Tai Chi class, learned to relax, use his mind to feel his body and let  his limbs follow his core. When he applied these basic internal arts  concepts to his running trials, he was amazed by the difference.

 Katherine Hobson (Wall Street Journal Health and Medicine reporter)  wondered about Chi Running, took a class and was surprised to learn that the run is only the end of the process. Her lesson began by helping her to align her feet, continued upward to straighten her spine and relax  her chest, raised her head and dropped her mind downward with the flow  of gravity. She learned to rest her torso on a stable, balanced pelvis,  align her knees and metatarsals, allow gravity flow through her legs to  the ground and check her posture by looking at her feet (you can see  your shoelaces when you're correct). It felt strange, but good when she  put it all together and to check her responses called two tri-athletes  and asked them about the ChiRunning workshops they had taken a few years earlier.

 Frank Lee, after becoming such a running grump that his wife told him to find a new hobby, says he's enjoying the sport again, thanks both to  the technical tips and the chi philosophy. "It made me focus more on the mechanics and purity of the running." Mark Seale, replied that the  philosophy angle left him cold but the technical tips were invaluable.  "For the same effort, I'm not necessarily a lot faster, but at the end  of the run, I'm not nearly as tired," he says.

 Tai Chi and ChiRunning practitioners say that their joints improved and  they felt better and more energized after adding the principles of the  internal arts to their runs. Susan Rabinowitz, director of New York  City's Taoist Arts Center is not surprised. "The principles of Tai Chi  are universal", she says, "their addition can make almost any exercise  more efficient, healthier and fun".

 These reports are anecdotal, but researchers are impressed and believe the method deserves more study.

 Dr. Rick Hecht, professor of medicine at the University of California,  San Francisco, is a distance runner who was intrigued by the promise of a more relaxed running form. "I could do my long runs, but I would feel  pretty beat up afterward, sore in my muscles; my joints would feel  really stressed," he said. Then he learned Chi Running, and says running is no longer painful. "I feel like I could do the same kinds of  distances I was doing before, and I don't feel beat up in the same way.  It feels much better running, particularly long distances."

 Dr. Hecht is in the midst of a diet and fitness study of about 200  people that includes Chi Walking. His personal experience sparked an  interest in a scientific study of the method and the planned pilot study designed to see whether Chi Running has benefits for blood pressure  will now include several new tests as well as a measure of foot-strike  forces.

 Sports physiologists have long known that there's a huge connection  between awareness and running. The research is clear, says Tom Holland  MS, sports performance coach, and lecturer for the American Running  Association. "Studies show that when athletes dissociate, when they wear a walkman when they run, they don't do as well. Many runners want to  think of anything but the running. But our thoughts literally change our physiologic reactions.

 Like anything worthwhile, ChiRunning takes time to incorporate. Practice at least once a week. Think about alignment, balance and posture and  make adjustments as you run. Stay relaxed and move efficiently. You may  not be faster, but you'll most likely feel better and be active for  years to come.

 The information for this original report was found at
Finding a Sustainable Running Stride, by Tara Parker-Pope, June 25,  2012,
 Might Chi Running Improve my Form, by Katherine Hobson,
5 Elements of Chi Running, by Kristin Harrison
Mindful Chi Running, by Charlotte Grayson Mathis MD,

Exercise Changes DNA
Exercise has long been known to have lifelong mental benefits, but until now, scientists did not know why until  Dr. Juleen Zierath of Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, recruited 14 men and women in their mid-20s who didn't usually exercise, tested them before and after exercise and found that after a short but intense spin on a stationary bike, samples of their tissue showed  temporary, but big, changes in the muscle fibers to help individuals  meet increased energy demand and work more efficiently.

 J. Mark Davis at the University of South Carolina reports that these  epigenetic signals create new mitochondrial DNA (the body's powerhouse  cells) positively effect the expansion and growth of new neurons,  improve mental function, reduce dementia and regulate emotions (The  Journal of Applied Physiology). This is important since it is generally  thought that cells loose mitochondria as we grow older, causing age  related illnesses and declines in brain function. June Chan, ScD, compared men who exercised vigorously for at least 3  hours per week with those who exercised less, demonstrating that  vigorous activity for 3 or more hours a week regulated many genes,  including the tumor suppressor genes BRCA1 and BRCA2, and those involved in cell cycle and DNA repair, and found that these improvements were  linked to a lowered risk of prostate cancer progression and death  (Genitourinary Cancers Symposium in San Francisco).

 The changes happen fast. Exercise sets signals in motion almost  instantly that determine which genes get turned on and off. (Romain  Barres et al. "Acute Exercise Remodels Promoter Methylation in Human  Skeletal Muscle"). But lazy exercising won't do it. In testing gene  activity of participants who exercised at two different levels, the team found that those who cycled at 80% of their maximum capacity showed  significantly more cellular activity than those who had only used 40% of their ability.

 Susan Rabinowitz, director of New York's Taoist Arts Center notes that  research finds it unnecessary to use 100% of our exercise ability to  change our health and believes that these findings are in harmony with  the practices of Water Method Tai Chi and Chi Kung offered at the  school).

 Potentially life changing as these studies are, much work remains. Researchers believe the current studies offer that hope these conditions may be modified by exercise. They are still studying what other  lifestyle changes can positively affect our DNA and whether these  modifications can be transferred to the next generation. The public can't wait to find out, but one thing is certain: exercise can improve our health both now and in the future.

 We thank the following sources for the information in this article.

Scientific American: How exercise Jogs the Brain. By Stephani  Sutherland, February 29, 2012. Scientific American: Exercise Instantly Affects DNA. By Katherine  Harmon. March 6, 2012 Time Magazine: Healthland How Exercise Can Change Your DNA. By Alice  Park March 7, 2012 Modern Medicine: Gene activity may explain how exercise lowers prostate Ca progression risk.

Old Brains: New Neurons
Modern research has overthrown conventional wisdom about the workings of the brain. We now know that we keep our brain cells throughout our  lives, and that if we keep our minds active, we can access what we have, grow additional neurons and retain the plasticity of our cerebral  pathways as long as we live. "The secret" says Barbara Strauch of the  NYTimes "is focused learning".

 Jack Mezirow, professor emeritus at Columbia Teachers College, echos her report, adding that adults learn best when presented with what he calls a "disorienting dilemma" or something that "helps you critically  reflect on the assumptions you've acquired." Such new discovery, he  says, is the "essential thing in adult learning." As we age our brains tend to forget more easily, yet mature minds have  advantages, says Kathleen Taylor, a professor at St. Mary's College of  California, who reports that mental activity increases during learning  and that people over forty tend to be more resourceful, better at seeing the central point of an issue and at making connections between  multiple things.

 She encourages adults to learn something new in order to awaken their  neurons and jiggle their synapses. The more it forces them to leave  their comfort zone and challenge their most dearly held assumptions, the better, In a related issue, Daniel Coyle and Geoff Colvin (in their books The  Talent Code and Talent Is Overrated) delve into the nature of brilliance to tell us that genius is made not born. Mozart, we learn, began as a  smart, but not exceptional musician, whose talent was honed by years of  focused practice and relentless dedication to his art.

 Mozart studied music, but the lesson for us today is that the subject  itself, is not as important as the manner of its practice and slow,  painstaking, training which is meant to reduce automatic action and  internalize better patterns of performance, has been shown to produce  the best results.

 As a example of this type of learning, Coyle describes a tennis center  in Russia where they play without a ball in order to focus on precision  of technique. (This might seem weird to you, but if you try to slow your golf swing, or your push-up till it takes 90 seconds to finish you will  most likely find errors you've never noticed.)

 The primary trait possessed by exceptional people is not mysterious,  it's the ability to develop a deliberate, difficult, error-based  practice routine - and stick to it.

 "The Chinese internal healing and martial arts of tai chi, chi kung and  meditation can be particularly helpful in this regard," says Susan  Rabinowitz, Director of Manhattan's Taoist Arts Center. "They consist  almost exclusively of practices that challenge an individuals  assumptions and while they offer benefits to all practitioners, those  who wish to reap their greatest rewards employ the sort of focused,  error-based, repetitious routines encouraged by Calvin and Coyle."  These ancient practices unify body and mind, utilize the effects of  gravity, center energy in the belly and create toned rather than tense  muscles. The ideas are intrinsically different from the ones most  westerners have learned and for many they are mind boggling concepts  that challenge long held assumptions and create a new manner of looking  at the world.

 Expanding our views and seeing the connections between things may not be easy, but it's vital to keeping our brains healthy. If we use the  internal arts as a tool, the mind is offered a challenge to its usual  manner of cognition, the body learns to experience itself in a new way,  our awareness of self deepens and the brain creates additional neurons.

 Rabinowitz believes it is this unity of mind, body and intention that  accounts for the repeated tales of internal arts practitioners remaining alert throughout the length of their lives. She recounts a story told  by her tai chi teacher, about a Chinese mathematician who studied chi  kung in order to improve his memory. Until he practiced it, he could  hold only three hundred equations in his mind; afterward, he could hold  hundreds more. While it's only anecdotal evidence, Rabinowitz, who has  been studying tai chi, chi kung and meditation since the early 1970's  believes it's likely to be true and although she can't hold even ten  equations in her mind, she finds that these arts have helped her to keep her energized, alert and available to new information.

 In addition to retaining brain plasticity, she says, "the internal arts  offer an ideal tune-up for mind and body, promote health and well being  and keep the brain active, relaxed and focused: offering practitioners a balanced merger of Colvin and Coyle's concentrated, repetitious,  error-based practice, with Taylor and Mezirow's cognitive challenges. "Everyone can experience the benefits of tai chi and chi kung" she says, "all they have to do is find a teacher, join a class and practice,  practice, practice".

 The original information in this article was found in the following articles.
Genius: The Modern View, by David Brooks, 2009/05/01 at  (  and Gray Matter: Neurons make new connections during learning. By  Barbara Strauch, published 2009/12/29 at (  Susan Rabinowitz is the Director of the Taoist Arts Center (

Taoist Arts Center 342 E 9 Street, NY, NY 10003
Copyright 1998 -2024

Taoist Arts Center   Meditation   Chi Kung   Tai Chi Chan   Free Events   Workshops   Class Schedule   Who We Are   Personal Training   Tuition   News & Research   Reviews   TAC-INSIDER