Xianhao Cheng a Yang stylist from Hangzhou now in Philadelphia PA translated a document from China on Taijiquan Health function. He often writes for Tai Chi magazine. He has been one of my major influences in Taijiquan and his background is here: Xianhao Cheng webpage
Taiji is a traditional martial art from China. In addition to the efficient martial art application of this art, the soft, fluent, natural and elegant movement also allows people to enjoy Taiji as great entertainment. However, the health benefits of Taiji seem more likely to be appreciated in modern times because of the unhealthy lifestyles that often include the abuse of drugs. Because Taiji is an aerobic exercise, it allows for good and necessary amounts of oxygen intake to counterbalance our significant consumption of fat. Through this type of exercise, our bodies become more balanced, therefore being able to stay healthy and fit as well. Among the various benefits that Taiji provides to its practitioners, the medical benefits of the different Taiji postures is information that is not typically understood by most practitioners. What follows is information about individual postures of Taiji and the terrific benefits that it can provide to serious Taiji practitioners.
1. Beginning of Taiji: The soft lifting up and pushing down of the arms promote the stimulation of the large intestine and lung meridians and increases the “Qi” flow of the two meridians, which may prevent or heal the illness in our breathing system and facial features.
2. Grasp the Sparrow’s Tail: The motion of ward off, roll-back, press and push increases the toning of the arms. This posture also promotes stimulation to lung, large intestine, heart, pericardium and triple warmer (the 6 hand related) meridians, which can function as a release for the heart and a draining of the lungs of sick “Qi”. This posture can also help dissolve sluggishness, as well as nourish the heart and calm the mind. In addition, during the “Push”, communication between the practitioner’s “Qi” to the earth through the bubbling well accupoint also plays a role in increasing the strength of the kidney meridian.
3. Single Whip: As the waist turns left, the left kidney slightly sinks down and the right one slightly floats up. This soft motion is excellent for massaging the kidneys. This posture also exercises the stomach, the urine bladder and the “Ren Ma” and “Du Ma” meridians. Since the wrist is the spot where most meridians connect, the Single Whip wrist motion stimulates all the meridians at the same time, which helps the healthy coordination of the total body function.
4. Lift Hands: In this posture, one drops the elbows down, lifts the palms up, balances on the heel and lifts the toe up. These movements will benefit the heart, stomach, spleen, kidney, urine bladder, and gall bladder and liver meridians. Specifically, it may prevent or heal a stomach ache, a full abdomen, spleen weakness, menstrual abnormality, urination problems, impotence and other related problems.
5. White Crane Spreads its Wings: This posture combines an upward warding off, a large downward motion, distinct and strong waist movements and lifting the body in one fluid motion. This posture exercises the triple warmer meridian and adjusts the “Qi” and blood circulation. It functions as cleaning for the liver and nourishing the lungs, strengthens the stomach and spleen, and calms the mind as well. The motion in the feet and heels also stimulate the stomach and liver meridians, which helps to increase one’s vitality.
6. Brush Knee and Push: This posture emphasizes directing the mind to the “Laogong” and “Bubbling Well” accu-points. Because of this focus, it stimulates the lung, heart, pericardium and kidney meridians, which helps add good health to one’s breathing, nervous system and blood circulation. It also benefits the health of the urinary system and can help heal chronic back pain.
7. Playing Guitar: This posture stimulates the “He Gu” and “Shen Men” accu-points which can help unblock the Lung, Large Intestine, Small Intestine and Heart meridians, which in turn promotes healthy functioning of the heart and lungs, increases the lung capacity, and improves the blood circulation. In addition, it can also help prevent/heal pain in the neck, shoulder and back.
8. Ward Off Monkey: During this posture one side of the waist that steps back feels like it is floating upward, while the other side, with the substantial step may feel like it is sinking down. This motion massages one’s kidney which strengthens the kidney function and benefits the belt, “Ren” and “Du” meridians. It helps the circulation of “Qi” and the blood circulation so as to be helpful for balancing the body’s total function
9. Diagonal Flying: In this posture, the right arm stretches up high while the left arm moves downward. This forms a posture with a diagonal extended direction, which also extends the body upward. This allows the release of stale air and the intake of more fresh air. Thus, it exercises the lung meridian, and improves the flow of both “Qi” and blood. Because of the focus in the toes, it also stimulates the three “Ying” and “Yang” meridians of the foot.
10. Fist Under Elbow: This posture has us dropping the right wrist with the mind focused on the “Shen men” accu-point, while holding the right fist inward. This stimulates the meridians linked with the wrists and gets the “Qi” moving. With the right foot stepping on “Bubbling Well” accupoint and left foot unsubstantially stepping on the heel with the toes up, it efficiently exercises the heart, kidney, liver and spleen meridians, which adjusts and compensates the “Qi” of the heart and kidney, and also helps the “Qi” pass through the triple warmer meridian, and strengthens the waist and knee.
11. Picking Up the Needle From the Sea Bottom: This technique bends the waist, sinks the “Kua”, and drops the shoulder all at the same time, which extends and stretches the back muscles on the side of the spine. In addition, it stimulates the urine bladder, which can improve the blood circulation and promotes the healthy function of immune system.
12. Fan Through the Back: The opening and spreading out of the arms to the opposite directions opens the chest and the lungs, which stimulates the heart, pericardium and lung meridians. This posture can increase the lung capacity, raise the heart function, and improve the blood circulation. In addition, the stepping on the bubbling well accupoint can strengthen the “Qi” flow in the kidney meridian.
13. Turn Around and Chop: The turning in this posture flow enables the waist to loosen and tighten on each side. It exercises the urine bladder, liver and gall bladder meridians. When loosely holding the fists with middle fingers lightly pressuring on the “Laogong” accupoint, it stimulates the pericardium and triple warmer meridians and drains these meridians.
14. Wave Hands Like Clouds: The smooth turning of the waist to both sides along with the flowing arm movements exercises the neck, chest and abdomen muscles in a wide, effective range. This posture stimulates the related meridians especially “Ren” and “Du” meridians, which improve the “Qi” and blood circulation to the extremities and internal organs. This then can help the healing of related conditions such as spinal pain, nervous system problems, urination problems, and abdomen bloating or pain.
15. Fair Lady works on the Shuttles: Through the changing of “substantial” and “unsubstantial” weight distribution of the legs, the arms turning in different directions, and the distinct waist motion, this four-sequence posture exercises the muscles and meridians in head/neck, chest, abdomen, crotch and hip. The smooth contracting and releasing of muscles stimulate the production of heat and metabolic chemicals that increases the metabolic rate and activate the body’s meridians. More important, this motion will also activate the resting immune cells. Because of the rhythmical turning of the body, it also stimulates the front chest and causes the stimulation of the chest gland that can release substantial amount of active immune peptide compounds. These substances can play a role in the monitoring of mutation of cells (cancer) and destroying them.
16. High Pat On The Horse: This technique emphasizes the exercise of the abdomen muscles. The contraction and release of the abdomen muscles can improve the blood circulation of the organs in the abdomen area to stimulate “Qi” in the “Ren” meridian (Reception vessel), kidney and liver meridians.
17. Separate Legs ( left and right) The movements of arms and legs in large angles stimulate the twelve hand and leg meridians. These have certain functions in aiding the healing the chest, lung, eyes, throat, spleen, stomach, liver and kidney problems.
18. Turn Around And Kick: This posture stimulates the six (Ying and Yang) hand and leg meridians and has the same benefits as Separate Legs (above).
19. Hit The Tiger: The motion of the hands and fingers in this technique can exercise the twelve hand and leg meridians. In addition, the stepping on the “Bubbling Well” accu-points and the rolling on the heels will stimulate the kidney meridian, which will improve the facial “Qi” and blood circulation. This improved Qi and Blood circulation can act to produce positive reactions in the brain, which in turn can depress, or release possible pathological problems caused by chronic decease and then stimulate healing.
20. Hit The Ears: The high hitting with fists stimulates the six hand meridians. The extending and opening of the back muscles stimulate “Ren”, “Du”, “Belt” and “Chong” meridians and the urine meridian. The solid stepping on the “Bubbling Well” accu-points helps to strengthen the “Qi” of the kidney. All of these functions play an excellent role in adjusting the “Qi” and blood circulation, which benefits the healing and prevention of urinary and gynecological problems.
21. Kick With Heel: The smooth and big motion of the leg and arms in an extended range can help increase the blood circulation in the heart, and air circulation in the lung. This helps the “Qi” and blood flow fluently, which balances the internal organs. The arms split apart along with the kicking motion stretches the tendons and muscles, which is helpful for healing any damage in the joints and soft tissues.
22. Golden Rooster Stands on One Leg: Standing on one leg alternately exercises and strengthens the abdomen muscles, and stimulates the movement of the intestines. These movements can eliminate extravasated blood, promote good blood circulation, and regulate the function of the female reproduction organs. This posture can also help develop a healthy liver, gall bladder, spleen and eye health.
23. Snake Sticks out Poison Tongue: The rhythmic turning around exercises the gall bladder, and liver meridians. In addition, the closing and opening of the palms with one’s mental intent exercises the pericardium and triple warmer meridians. The exercise of these meridians has the function of calming the mind and sharpening the eyes, as well as prevents or heals problems in the liver, gall bladder, heart and blood system etc.
24. Punch Downward: This posture puts an emphasis on the alternate substantial and unsubstantial motion of one’s left and right chest muscles. It exercises the nervous system along the spine, and stretches the back muscles. The gall bladder meridian passes through on both sides of the spine. Stimulation of the gall bladder meridian can raise the body’s immune ability and heal related organs.
25. Snake Creeps Down: The opening of the hip ensures the replenishment of both “Qi” and blood in the abdomen area. Also, this posture allows for the release of tightness of the spine vertebrae one by one during the movement. This posture also makes the sacrum fit and loose, and internal energy pours into “Hui Yin” accu-point, which increases the “Qi” in “Ren”, “Du” and “Chong” meridians. This posture has the function of increasing the “Yuan Qi”, and improving kidney function, which in turn benefits the healing of any problems associated with urination, semen emission, prostate, hemorrhoids, and a prolapsed anus.
26. Step Up to Form Seven Stars: From Snake Creeps Down to Stepping up To Form Seven Stars, the internal “Qi” moves from the “Hui Yin” to “Chang Qiang” accu-points then to the “Bai Hui”accu-point. This posture strengthens the “Qi” in both the “Ren” and “Du” meridians, which has the function of releasing excess heat, being good for the brain, and massaging the liver. In addition, it can lift the internal organs for those who have internal organs that have dropped down.
27. Step Back and Ride The Tiger: As the arms form a ring like shape pointing in opposite directions, the upper body opens and extends, which can function in regulating the breathing, cleaning the liver and nourishing the lungs, stomach and spleen. This position of the feet can exercise the six foot meridians so that it benefits the adjustment of the triple warmer meridian, and in turn stimulates the circulation of the blood and causes the muscles and joints to relax.
28. Turn Around With Lotus Kick: The Lotus Kick allows the abdomen, back and chest muscles to have a spiral motion, which increases the stimulation of the twelve hand and leg meridians all at the same time. This benefits the circulation of blood and “Qi”, in the chest and abdomen, which prevents or heals any problems with one’s breathing, heart, blood circulation and nervous systems.
29. Shooting the Tiger: With this posture the “Baihui” will be up and “Yongquan” down. This technique strengthens the flow of the internal “Qi” from the “Baihui” to “Yongquan”. It stimulates the “Du Mai” and kidney meridians. The motion of the coiling fists and arms will also benefit the heart, small intestine, pericardium, and trip warmer meridians. According to modern medical theories, this coiling motion of the arms and wrists can relieve pressure on the neck arteries which can reduce blood pressure and expand the coronary arteries.
30. Twist Step and Chop: The coiling motion of the arms and wrists stimulates the small intestine, pericardium, heart, stomach, and liver meridians. This is helpful in healing problems with digestion, rib pain and the problems caused by these related meridians.
31. Apparent Closing: This posture stimulates both the “Lao Gong” accu-point (on the middle of palm), and “Bubbling Well” accu-point (on the bottom of foot). It strengthens the pericardium and kidney meridians, which is helpful in preventing and healing problems associated with the heart, blood circulation, digestion, reproduction and the urinary tract
32. Cross Hands: The opening and closing of arms in a large range of motion increases the oxygen intake by the lungs and heart, which also strengthens the meridians of the heart and lungs. Stepping solid on the “Bubbling Well” accu-point increases the “Qi” in the kidney meridian. This may efficiently increase the practitioner’s vitality so as to prevent or heal problems with the heart, circulation and breathing
33. Closing of Taiji: The lifting up and letting down of the arms along with the solid stepping on the “Bubbling Well” acu-points, stimulates the lung, large intestine and kidney meridians, which increase the “Qi” flow in these meridians and promotes the health for these meridian related organs.
The above information indicates the possible benefits that Taiji may bring to the practitioner. However, it must be emphasized, that to enjoy these benefits correct practice is very important. In addition to the Ten Essentials by Yang, Chengfu that we must strive to adhere to, it may also be helpful to pay more attention to specific acupuncture points within certain stages of your practice. In the beginning, for instance, the attempt to focus on “Laogong” (points on center of palm) may be helpful to loosen the arms and shoulders and to establish the ability to lead “Qi” to your hands. At the middle level of practice, the focus on the “Lower Dantain” and the “Mingmen” areas to activate the waist will be extremely beneficial. The next focus can be on “Yongquan” (points on bottom of feet) to develop a solid stance and to be able to direct “Qi” to where you want.