Tai Chi’s gentle movements have shown that they are effective in lowering your blood pressure. It’s just as effective as higher-intensity activities such as aerobic exercise.
High blood pressure can damage your body in many ways. When you have high blood pressure, your arteries can be less elastic, thereby reducing the flow of blood to your body parts, especially the heart. Blood pressure above 120 over 80 (120/80) raises cardiovascular disease risk. As your blood pressure increases or rises, so does the risk.
The common method of lowering blood pressure is to make your heart pump more strongly and faster. You can do that by using the treadmill or doing any type of aerobic exercise.
Tai Chi lowers your blood pressure by doing something very different. When you do Tai Chi, you are stimulating your veins and arteries. In doing Tai Chi movements, you create pumping actions that act directly on your blood vessels.
These movements involve the gentle, rhythmic bending and straightening motions of your limbs. The bending and unbending, folding, and unfolding actions create internal pumping actions in the body. Remember, the pump is a device used to move fluid along.
There are pumps within your body that regulate blood pressure.
When your pumping mechanisms in the body are working properly, blood pressure is balanced. Pressure is even throughout your body. It helps prevent the blood from moving slowly in one part of your body and fast in another part of your body. Everything smooths out when you do Tai Chi practice and your blood vessels will thank you for it.
In addition to the pumps, the breathing techniques gently massage the heart muscle. The breathing and pumping techniques combine to strengthen the heart and keep it toned just like a regular massage does for ordinary muscle. Give your heart a massage.
How do you massage your heart muscle with Tai Chi practice?
Three mechanisms work together to create the heart massage.
1. Use your diaphragm. This is called diaphragmatic breathing. It’s sometimes called dantian breathing, belly breathing, or abdominal breathing. The diaphragm is a dome-shaped sheath of muscle that sits on top of your stomach and liver. When the diaphragm is relaxed, it assumes a domed upward shape. When you inhale it contracts and pushes downward. This opens up your ribcage, decreases the pressure of your lungs, and it creates a vacuum drawing outside air in, all the way down to the bottom of your lungs.
Upon exhaling, the diaphragm returns to its relaxed, upward dome-shape, compressing the lungs and squeezing the air out. The heart benefits from this diaphragmatic breathing.
2. The second mechanism for heart massage is expanding and contracting your internal organs during inhaling and exhaling. Here, you imagine your belly as a balloon and your balloon is expanding and deflating as you inhale and exhale.
You can mimic this expansion and deflation with your arms and hands. Coordinate the opening and closing movements of the hands and arms in front of your abdomen as you exhale and inhale.
- Exhale, relax, sink.
- Inhale, open out, expand, filling up like a balloon.
- When you exhale, relax, imagine the balloon is deflating and sinking.
- Inhale open, expand, fill up the balloon and imagine it float up.
- Exhale, close, sink back down. The balloon deflates.
Make sure that you take slow deep, rhythmic breaths as you expand and contract your internal organs.
3. The third and final mechanism to massage your heart: Breath from the back of your lungs rather than from the front of your chest.
In our culture and daily life, when we push ourselves and when we need to get something done, we use our chest to project out and move forward. We breathe from the front of our chest. We open up our chest and stick it out as if this gesture drives all of our efforts. This puts pressure on your heart and creates more tension there than the heart desires.
Rather than putting all that tension up in front of your chest, why not breathe from the back of your lungs?
Breathe from the back of your lungs. Also, breathe from the bottom of your lungs. When you do that, you get air into regions of your lungs that are not normally used during the day.
When you do Tai Chi, be mindful and practice breathing from the back rather than from the front of your chest.
Let’s do some Tai Chi pumping action, follow along with my video.
- Start by exhaling and relaxing fully.
- Step forward, and energize. Turn into position.
- Exhale, relax and sink back down.
- Energize the fingers up (from the pumping action).
- Exhale, relax and sink back down.
- Energize and pump up your hands and fingers again.
- Slowly drop your fingers and hands, relax back down, exhaling all the way.
- Using your left foot, pump up and make your shape.
- Shift the weight. Exhale.
- Then pump, energize the fingers up.
- Relax by exhaling and sink back down.
Let’s do that again from the beginning:
- Exhale, relax completely.
- Step forward and shift your weight. Turn into position.
- Exhale, relax all the way.
- Energize by lifting your fingers in front of you, pump, open.
- Exhale, sink back down
- Energize, pump up.
- Exhale. Relax, sink back down into your feet.
- Using the left foot, energize. Pump and open up, expanding out.
- Shift the weight. Exhale all the way.
- Using your left foot, energize, pump up and make your shape.
- Relax back down, exhale completely.
These exercises allow you to make pumping actions that can improve the blood circulation in your body. What about the circulation of all the other fluids in your body? How can you improve overall body circulation with Tai Chi practice? Follow me on YouTube and watch the videos to find out how. Follow my Facebook page for more tips and exercises of Tai Chi.