Tai Chi & Surya Namaskar In Clinical Cardiology
by Dr. Dhan Raj Jangid
In spite of tremendous advancement in medical diagnostic and therapeutic technology, cardiovascular ailments continue to account for a large percentage of morbidity and mortality. A significant proportion of this is because of the “Organic / Medical-Model approach” rather than the “Mind-Body-Soul approach” for the disease-prevention and therapeutic-paradigms in Clinical Cardiology. Alternative Therapies hold a promise through the ‘holistic body-mind-soul approach’ for maintenance and restitution (post-episode as well as post-interventional) of Cardiovascular Health.
Coronary-Ischaemic Heart Disease (CHD) and Paroxysmal Supra-ventricular Tachyrrhythmias (PSVT) are two common group of diseases seen in the routine clinical practice of Cardiology. A Cardiac-Disease can be the cause or the effect of a mind / body disease. Many cardiovascular ailments have an underlying strong emotional element as a ’cause’. On the other hand, many of the cardiovascular manifestations of a disease process are physical-effects of a diseased-mind. Thus, the rational management of cardiac diseases should involve a complete ‘mind-body-soul approach’ so that the holistic-health of a person is restored. Since the soul element is relatively abstract and involves a personal belief system it is difficult to use in the therapeutic paradigms. However, the Mind-Body as a system complex can be more objectively tackled through therapeutic approaches towards the disease processes. Yoga can offer a delicately balanced therapy for both the Mind (the Emotional Space) and the Body (the Kinesthetic Space).
Yoga has a power of offering a holistic mind-body-soul therapy. Under the Yogic paradigms ‘Tai Chi’ from the Chinese-Oriental traditions and ‘Surya Namaskar’ from the Vedic-Indian traditions are the methods which have the most potential for healing cardiovascular diseases and maintaining cardiovascular health. Thus, ‘Tai Chi’ and ‘Surya Namaskar’ can be advantageously used as Kinesthetic-Emotional Yoga-Psychotherapy (KEYP) in the practice of Clinical Cardiology. We have used both ‘Tai Chi’ and ‘Surya Namaskar’ for the management of Coronary-Ischaemic Heart Disease (CHD) and ‘Paroxysmal Supra-ventricular Tachyrrhythmias (PSVT). Both these disease groups have significant Mind-element and Body-element components.
In Kinesthetic-Emotional Yoga-Psychotherapy (KEYP), while the effects of Tai Chi are mainly Meditative (Emotional), the results of Surya Namaskar are mainly Hatha (Kinesthetic). Still both these methods offer complete KEYP in the management of cardiovascular diseases.
Yoga For Psychological and Emotional Problems
Yoga therapies, such as Tai Chi and Surya Namaskar, are perfect complements to psychotherapy and other approaches to a variety of psychological conditions, including anxiety and depression. Primarily yoga therapy is more visibly useful for the physical problems, but a major subject area in yoga is the mind, making it particularly useful for treating mental illness. Yoga helps relieve stress and burnout, anxiety and panic attacks, and depression.
One of the great beauties of yoga is that it’s not just about taking our patients from a negative state of mind to feeling “normal”, which is the goal of most psychologists and physicians. Yoga aims much higher, seeking to put its practitioners in touch with a state of peace, joy, and equanimity that yogis insist is everyone’s birthright. The key is getting our mind to work for us, not against us. Millennia ago, yogis (in India) and Taoists (in China) discovered a wide variety of practices to help achieve this end.
The Gunas (The General States of Mind): Yoga and Ayurveda, and the Samkya philosophy from which they both sprang, identify three general states of mind, called gunas; they are Tamas, Rajas, and Sattva.
Tamas is the state of heaviness or lack of movement; metaphorically, being stuck. The kind of depression in which a person sleeps excessively would be considered tamasic.
Rajas implies movement, and a rajasic mental state is characterised by restlessness, agitation, and even panic.
Sattva is the state of clarity, peace, and balance.
Even when two people carry the same diagnosis; say post-surgical depression, if one is tamasic and the other rajasic, our approach as a yoga therapist may need to be very different.
In general in yoga and yoga therapy, the idea is to raise people who are tamasic to a rajasic state. A vigorous practice involving repeated Surya Namaskar might be appropriate. Once they are out of a tamasic slump, we can shift our focus to moving them from rajas toward sattva, perhaps with yoga-inversions followed by deep relaxation (Savasana, or Corpse Pose).
Patients who have reached the state of physical and emotional burnout or vital exhaustion, even if their condition is rajasic, may not be capable of a strong yoga practice. Rather than giving them a workout, we’ll need to focus on more soothing practices, perhaps flowing from one gentle pose to the next, as in case of Tai Chi. Or, we use guided imagery exercises such as Yoga Nidra (yogic-sleep) to keep their busy minds occupied while not taxing their bodies too heavily.
When the guna of rajas dominates, it can be very useful to use an invigorating practice to “burn off steam.” Afterward it may be possible for patients to settle into restorative practices or Meditation / Tai Chi, for which their minds may have been too “busy” earlier.
Svadhyaya (Studying the Mind): Yoga teaches that the more we have certain thoughts, or certain kinds of thoughts, the more likely we are to have them in the future. These are mental samskaras. Modern science is confirming the truth of this ancient yogic insight with new understanding of neuroplasticity. Scientists now understand that the more we think or do something, the stronger the neural pathways become that connect the specific brain cells (neurons) involved. Thus the more we beat ourselves up emotionally, the more likely we are to do it again and again.
Before we can change a pattern, however, we first need to see it clearly. Often people aren’t fully aware of recurrent thoughts that may be undermining their health and well-being, or they may not be aware of how pervasive they are. Therefore, part of the yogic remedy is to encourage our patients to consciously tune in to their inner dialogue. A good place to begin such ‘svadhyaya’ is during ‘asana practice’ in “Hatha-Yoga” or ‘coordinated motion sequence’ in “Tai Chi”.
Ask yourself “are they judging themselves as they attempt a pose?”, “is fear limiting them from attempting practices, such as handstands, that their bodies are ready for?”, “are they telling themselves that they’ll never be any good at yoga?”. Students who have such thoughts during their practice are likely to have similar ones at other times, and these thoughts may be limiting their lives. The habit of self-study we help them to cultivate on their yoga mats can spread to a broader awareness of their mental habits;allowing them to bring greater precision to the work they do with a psychotherapist.
While it is not always possible for people with psychological problems to meditate, meditation is probably the most powerful yogic tool for studying the mind, and in the long run it often proves to be the most useful tool for dealing with psychological problems. But trying to get people who are seriously depressed or panicking to sit and meditate can be next to impossible, and potentially even counterproductive. However the more ‘sattvic’ they become from other practices, the more likely they will be to eventually tackle a sitting practice successfully, and reap its many benefits.
Yoga’s ability to deal simultaneously with both body and mind is its great potential. Emotional issues that might take years to tease out in conventional therapy were instead brought to the surface physically, and causes of physical disease could often be deduced through conversation.
Yoga for Mental Illness (Surya Namaskar and Tai Chi for for the modulation of emotions): Mental illness (rather than mere depression) is one of the important etiological factors in Coronary-Ischaemic Heart Disease (CHD) and Paroxysmal Supra-ventricular Tachyrrhythmias (PSVT).
Yoga classes usually come with an unspoken promise: “if you breathe and stretch, if you follow instructions and tune in to your body, you’ll come out feeling better”. It’s probably not an exaggeration to say that most people do feel some level of relief; physical, spiritual, mental, or otherwise after a yoga practice, most of the time. But what happens when there’s something serious troubling one of our patients? What if they are struggling with ongoing psychological issues such as depression? Can yoga help them do more than just feel a little bit better? Can it heal their mental illness?
The short answer, according to experts in the fields of yoga and psychotherapy, is yes. But though they give yoga the nod as a potential mental health panacea, practitioners warn that for certain ailments, including depression, it’s typically best to combine yoga with intensive supervision by a trained therapist to ward against the possibility of negative effects.
Yoga has long been seen as a tool for improving mental health, although concepts of what that entails have shifted over time and are distinct in different cultures. Today, many therapists incorporate yoga and other body-focused practices in their therapeutic work. There are several schools of yoga that focus specifically on the connections between asana practice and emotional health, and a growing body of studies indicates that yoga is often an excellent tool to treat the troubled mind.
Yoga is incredible in terms of stress management. Stress is an important factor in the causation of heart disease. It brings a person back to homeostasis (equilibrium). For people who have anxieties of many kinds, yoga helps lower their basic physiological arousal level. For the general person, yoga greatly enhances mental health: mood, sense of self, motivation, sense of inner direction and purpose, as well as physical health. And physical health is so important for mental health. All these benefits are of immense complementary value in the management of Cardiac Disease. In the therapeutic context, yoga lowers the ego boundaries, so you are more receptive to other people’s input, including the therapist’s. The person becomes more somatically comfortable, so they can actually hear what’s being said and can reflect on it. It also enhances sleep and increases contact with dreams, which can be useful tools in therapy. Negative emotions drop while positive emotions rise. Even more encouraging, there is a greater increase in positive moods in those with more severe depression.
Reverse Effects: Dr. Sophia Reinders, a Jungian-oriented psychotherapist, emphasises the importance of working closely with a therapist attuned to body-centred emotional healing. “An emotional release during the practice of asanas (yoga postures) can lead to an unexpected experience of joy and ease; or it can bring up fear, sadness, or other difficult feelings”. She explains. “If we get frightened by what is coming up, we might push it back down, which means back into the body.” A therapist’s guidance through the process of dredging up emotions helps patients settle into a new sense of themselves, as they begin to let go of old hurts and bad patterns. Before we can shift out of an imbalance, since we have used the imbalance to feel safe, we need to find a new way to feel safe, a new place to dwell. And for this, it is important to first find or create a sense of empowerment somewhere in the body.
For those dealing with mental illness, there’s at least some potential for yoga to be harmful if it’s not monitored. Without proper supervision, a patient can have increased sadness or suicidal tendencies, so you’d want to be really on top of whether the yoga experience is beneficial or not. Sometimes depressed people can feel more depressed with relaxation. That doesn’t mean yoga is inappropriate, it’s just that those with imbalances should embark carefully on a practice that can open them up so deeply. The same is true for post-traumatic stress sufferers, people with psychotic tendencies, or manic-depressives. Sometimes yoga can increase the manic state. Sometimes that’s a good thing, and sometimes it’s not. In general, what you see in a yoga class is people becoming happier, but it needs to be within a manageable range.
Yoga-Psychotherapy as Mind-Body Healing
When our physical body, our mental-emotional body and our intuitive-spiritual body are in dynamic and harmonious alignment with each other, our living body becomes the wisdom-body; fully and joyously alive. Our body is the receptacle of all our positive and negatives experiences, our fears and our hopes, sculpted in the flesh of our being. It is also the guardian of our insights and intuitions, our longings-to-become and our celebration of life on earth.
Psychotherapy and Yoga are two healing journeys that encourage spaciousness, fluidity and rational integration of our experiences in body, mind and soul. This healing finds expression in a growing ability for intimacy and joyous, creative engagement with self, others and life all around. Psychotherapeutically, by bringing embodied awareness to those aspects of our experience that were wounded and silenced, we can grow into richer and more fulfilling ways of being. And, when we perform yoga (Asanas or Tai Chi) and breath-work (Pranayamas) as a practice of embodied-awareness, our bodies stretch, both physically and psychologically, into new postures and new attitudes of openness and well-being.
Yoga and emotions bring harmony to body and soul. Yoga, Tai Chi, Surya Namaskar and Pranayamas (breath practices) allow kinesthetic-emotional-imaginal experiences, often restricted in the body, to come to awareness and be integrated into consciousness. This freeing through awareness from restrictive physical and mental/emotional holding patterns creates a more organic balance in the body and mind, which finds expression in a greater range of motion, as well as in more constructive, enhancing emotions. In association with guided imagery, active imagination, painting, and/or creative writing, as one practices asanas (e.g. Surya Namaskar), kinesthetic awareness meditation (viz. ‘Tai Chi’), and breathing one will give symbolic expression to the kinesthetic-emotional-imaginal experiences encountered in one’s body, and may celebrate one’s embodied intuitions of harmonious and joyful transformation.
In the world of body-mind healing, we see that not only do thoughts affect the body and create emotional and physiological experience, but also that emotional and somatic experiences affect our neuro-physiology and our thoughts. In body-centred and other non-verbal therapies, we can change how painful experience from the past, live on in the body-mind, broaden our tools for working with current experience, and increase health and well-being at many levels.
Kinesthetic-Emotional (Body Centred) Psychotherapy
An effective conventional psychotherapy involves understanding a person’s phenomenological world and speaking their experiential language. The more our communication reflects this understanding, the greater the effect. For many clients, particularly people who have a history of trauma, talk and insight alone are not sufficient for healing and change. In order to help them heal the therapy needs to work at a deeper level than words alone, affecting the client at a level that makes a difference in how the problem is represented or coded in the mind and body.
Non-verbal body-cantered psychotherapies have the power to work with the client at a primitive biological level and therefore body-centred and other non-verbal therapies are an essential part of effective psychotherapy and healing.
While conventional psychotherapy focuses on the intellect and the mind, deep healing often involves the heart. The heart’s most basic physiological function is the life-giving pump, whose rhythm signals that we are indeed alive. Without the heart, no other organ can function. In this sense, the heart is our life source.
In a different sense, the heart is also our emotional and spiritual life source, tightly linked to our somatic sensory experience. The reason we use the word “heart” to refer to something which has nothing to do with our pump, stems of an intuitive understanding of the role of the heart chakra. If we set our mind on doing something that isn’t really right for us, we are likely to feel a sinking feeling in our heart. Without the heart, the mind cannot really function. When our thoughts and intuition cannot agree, we feel pulled by the opposing forces of what the intellect thinks ought to be and what the heart knows as true.
While the ego’s intellect can study isolated facts without linking them, the heart naturally links them, seeing the relationships among them all. Where the mind’s intellectual arguments divide us, the heart unites us. This is not only in relationships with other people, but also intrapsychically, in the relationships between and among the different inner parts which collectively comprise the self.
Researchers at the “Institute for Heartmath Research” in Boulder Creek, America have found that the heart is a highly intelligent system that plays a far more central role in perception of mental/emotional balance and stress than previously believed: They claim that the heart’s electrical system is similar to that of a radio transmitter, generating 40 to 60 times more electrical power than the brain. Negative mental and emotional processes electrically scramble the natural rhythms of the heart, creating jerky rhythms as well as incoherent patterns in the heart’s electrical frequency. Since the heart’s electrical signal is so strong, these frequencies are radiated through the entire body and permeate every cell. Due to the increasing level of stress in society, most people’s electrocardiogram (ECG) frequency spectrum is scattered and incoherent.
This information suggests that when a person goes through an emotionally painful experience, the electrical patterns of the heart and the whole body are affected. To heal from a traumatic experience, therapy must intervene at the level of the Heart-Body. Emotional-Kinesthetic Psychotherapy (EKP) is a heart-centred, psycho-spiritual method ensuring a healing that can take place when using body-centred psychotherapy methods. EKP facilitates a client’s ability to heal through grounding the client in his or her heart and body. While talk is part of the EKP process, its role is to create a context for deeper healing that may move beyond words alone. The tools EKP include:
The quality of attention and holding that is created by the therapist’s embodied emotional and spiritual presence in relationship with the client;
Meditation as a way of slowing down the client’s pace and helping him or her connect to somatosensory experience both in the heart, and the rest of the body; and
Safe touch (with permission) to facilitate emotional process and to help the client learn to relate to their felt experience moment by moment.
All of these tools can have a healing effect at an energetic level. As healing takes place in the emotional field, one could speculate that the healing power is radiated through the entire body and permeates every cell. The Institute for Heartmath Research has found that the ECG can become dramatically ordered and coherent while a person is sincerely feeling love, care, or appreciation. They claim “it is as though the heart, brain, and rest of the body were designed to function best when we experience positive emotional states.”
Many of the principles and techniques of EKP are designed to create a safe, loving, holding environment that enables the heart’s rhythm to become coherent. In a state of “heartfulness” the client has a safe environment for moving deeper into vulnerability, power, forbidden feelings, body process, untold story, and unmet needs. The therapist offers the client a sense of sacred respect, welcoming both the whole of the client and all parts that comprise him or her and an ability to truly hear and respond to the client at whatever level they are “speaking.” This experience allows the client to heal and get what they need.
The Neurobiology of Body-Centred Psychotherapy
Body-centred psychotherapy is a way of using a focus on sensations in the body, together with mindfulness as vehicles for inner exploration and resolution of symptoms. Now lets look at the neurobiology as associated ideas involved.
The Right Hemisphere of the Brain appears to be where non-verbal, emotional components of memory are stored. A growing body of literature suggests that the right hemisphere mediates the production of negative emotional states, while the left hemisphere mediates the positive emotional states. Research on alexithymia, which is characterised by an inability to express one’s emotions and a tendency to develop somatic problems, implicates the right hemisphere as the “storage house” of painful emotions. Recent magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) research with combat survivors has shown that traumatic emotions, generated in people with post-traumatic stress disorder, activate regions in the right hemisphere.
This research points to the right hemisphere as playing a central role in both the processing of emotional information in general and the generation and storage of negative emotional responses. So it is possible that therapeutic interventions that incorporate inferential communication, music and imagery, could bypass the logical, rational form of thought of the left brain, and “talk to” the non-logical, associational right brain. Dr. Milton Erickson, a master of speaking to the right brain, was famous for telling jokes, stories, and riddles – all forms of communication mediated by the right hemisphere.
The Limbic System is a primitive region of the brain that plays a central role in the transduction of thought into emotion and physiology. It is also believed to play a major role in psychosomatic symptoms. When problems are not communicated verbally, they are often communicated by the limbic system through “organ language,” somatic sensations, and psychosomatic symptoms. Therapeutic approaches that involve work with the body speak this language.
This is important because the limbic brain, although primitive, exerts powerful control over our more intellectually sophisticated neocortex. The emotional states generated by the limbic system colour and can even override the cognitive processes mediated by the neocortex. Such statements as “I saw red” and “I was so shocked, I was speechless” reflect common experiences of the cognitively advanced neocortex being controlled by the primitive limbic brain. To help a client shift an emotional state and therefore to move forward, therapy needs to affect awareness at the limbic level.
In EKP, the therapist pays attention to both the symptoms the client brings into the therapeutic process (for example, insomnia characterised by recurrent intrusive thoughts, a nervous stomach that won’t let up, tension in the throat that makes it hard to speak ) and to the gestures and felt experience (the sensations that take place inside the client) within the therapy session. The therapist tracks the client’s somatic sensations just as closely as he or she tracks the content of the conversation that is also taking place. For example, as a client explores the tension in his throat, he might experience a racing in his heart. When asked what the racing part might say, if it had a voice, the client might answer, “Let me out!”
When questioned further about the heart’s voice, the client begins to cry, and says that the tears are expressing, “I’ve never felt safe to have a voice, to say the things I’ve been yearning to say.” The therapist then asks what truth the client needs to feel safe to speak, and the client responds, “to know that if I get angry you won’t go away.” The therapist affirms that this is true, and the client reports a sense of relief, experienced as a calmness in the heart and relaxing of the throat. The limbic system’s knowing, at a felt-sense level, corresponds with the experience of knowing something to be true in one’s heart. The EKP therapist literally incorporates the felt experience of “heart” into the therapy process. In fact, in EKP the heart is viewed as an anchor for the client’s emotional and sensory process. The emotional-kinesthetic charge, an energetic current within the client that has both emotional and somatosensory content, is tracked by the EKP therapist in order to follow and work with the emotional currents that move within the client. The heart enables the therapist and client to monitor the pacing and safety of the therapy process.
Only ‘Present’ (and nothing ‘Past’) in Body-Mind: The past does not exist in the body-mind. All we have is our current cognitive, perceptual, somatosensory, and physiological representations of our experience. For instance, when we recall a childhood experience, we re-create it in this moment. The thoughts, emotions, and biochemical reactions we have about this experience all happen in the present.
When we have a thought, an image, a memory, or any mental event, something happens physiologically in the brain. Synapses are firing, neurotransmitters are being released, and various brain regions are being activated. Since the brain isn’t separated from the body, these physiological processes cascade throughout the whole body. This is evident whenever we think about a frightening experience or any other emotionally evocative memory. As we recall such an event, our body begins to feel different. The emotions and sensations that were associated with the experience are activated by the memory. The memory is being recalled by the whole body.
Just as thinking about an experience can bring up the bodily sensations and emotions associated with the experience, working with bodily sensations and emotions can elicit the cognitive aspects of memory.
Short-circuiting the Hippocampus: The hippocampus is a part of the limbic brain located under the temporal lobe. It plays an important role in memory and spatial navigation and is essential for any form of memory we can consciously recollect and talk about. Like other mammals, humans have two hippocampi, one in each side of the brain. During a traumatic event, a person’s ability to process the event is overwhelmed by the emotional/physiological effects of the event. During states of overwhelming arousal the hippocampi get short-circuited. This temporary short-circuit results in the memory not being coded explicitly. The person has no conscious recollection of the event, but the experience still gets stored.
The traumatic experience cannot be organised on a linguistic level and this failure to arrange the memory in words and symbols leaves it to be organised on a somatosensory or iconic level: as somatic sensations, behavioural re-enactments, nightmares, and flashbacks. These non-verbal forms of memory do not lend themselves to linguistically-oriented therapeutic approaches. Non-verbal interventions are required to access and heal them.
Tai Chi As A Kinesthetic Meditative-Yoga Form
T’ai Chi Ch’uan is a Chinese martial art. There are different styles of T’ai Chi, although most modern schools can trace their development to the system originally taught by the Chen family to the Yang family starting in 1820.
T’ai Chi is often promoted and practiced as a martial arts therapy for the purposes of health and longevity. It is considered a soft style martial art, an art applied with as much deep relaxation or “softness” in the musculature as possible, to distinguish its theory and application from that of the hard martial art styles which use a degree of tension in the muscles.
Traditional T’ai Chi training is intended to teach awareness of one’s own balance and what affects it, awareness of the same in others, an appreciation of the practical value of one’s ability to moderate extremes of behaviour and attitude at both mental and physical levels, and how this applies to effective self-defence principles. Some call T’ai Chi a form of moving meditation, and T’ai Chi theory and practice evolved in agreement with many of the principles of traditional Chinese medicine.
The physical training of T’ai Chi is described in the writings of its older schools, as being characterised by the use of leverage through the joints based on coordination in relaxation, rather than muscular tension, in order to neutralize or initiate physical attacks. The slow, repetitive work involved stimulates the internal circulation of breath, body heat, blood, lymph, peristalsis, etc. Over time, proponents say, this enhancement becomes a lasting effect, a direct reversal of the constricting physical effects that stress has on the human body. This reversal allows much more of the practitioner’s native energy to be available to them, which they may then apply more effectively to the rest of their lives; families, careers, spiritual or creative pursuits, hobbies, etc.
The study of T’ai Chi Ch’uan
The study of T’ai Chi Ch’uan involves three primary subjects:
- Health: An unhealthy or otherwise uncomfortable person will find it difficult to meditate to a state of calmness or to use T’ai Chi as a martial art. T’ai Chi’s health training therefore concentrates on relieving the physical effects of stress on the body and mind.
- Meditation: The focus meditation and subsequent calmness cultivated by the meditative aspect of T’ai Chi is seen as necessary to maintain optimum health (in the sense of effectively maintaining stress relief or homeostasis) and in order to use it as a soft style martial art
- Martial Art: The ability to competently use T’ai Chi as a martial art is said to be proof that the health and meditation aspects are working according to the dictates of the theory of T’ai Chi Ch’uan.
In its traditional form every aspect of its training has to conform with all three of the aforementioned categories. Many modern variations exist which ignore at least one of the above requirements.
Studying of T’ai Chi Ch’uan is studying how to change appropriately in response to outside forces. In order to be able to protect oneself or someone else by using change, it is necessary to understand what the consequences are of changing appropriately, changing inappropriately and not changing at all in response to an attack.
The Health Benefits of T’ai Chi Ch’uan
Researchers have found that long-term T’ai Chi practice had favourable effects on the promotion of balance control, flexibility and cardiovascular fitness and reduced risk of falls in elderly people. The studies also reported reduced pain, stress and anxiety in healthy subjects. Other studies have indicated improved cardiovascular and respiratory function in healthy subjects as well as those who had undergone coronary artery bypass surgery. Patients also benefited from T’ai Chi who suffered from heart failure, high blood pressure, heart attacks, arthritis and multiple sclerosis. T’ai Chi has also been shown to reduce the symptoms of young Attention Deficit and Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) sufferers.
T’ai Chi’s gentle, low impact movements surprisingly burn more calories than surfing and nearly as many as downhill skiing. T’ai Chi also boosts aspects of the immune system’s function very significantly, and has been shown to reduce the incidence of anxiety, depression, and overall mood disturbance. A pilot study has found evidence that T’ai Chi and related Qigong helps reduce the severity of diabetes.
Tai Chi Chi Gun Techniques for the Heart and Blood Vessels
Chi Gun is an ancient Chinese meditation and self-healing technique. Chi means the “life force”, and Gun means work. The work of chi. It is easy and not physically challenging, yet it can make dramatic changes in person’s physical and mental health. In a mater of minutes it allows one to relax, both physically and mentally, with a corresponding reduction in stress.
There is a set of Tai Chi Chi Gun techniques, called Chi Gun (Dao In) 8 forms. Dao In is an ancient name of the Chi Gun or Energy Work.. Each form is a rather complex, involving more than one motion. The “Dao In 8 forms” techniques are designed to improve general health, however the most effect they have on heart conditions (including both heart and blood vessels). The exercises combine dynamic meditation and self-massage. They work with pressure points and energy channels.
Surya Namaskar (Salute to the Sun) is a modern form of sun worship, self-vitalization and exercise introduction. This sequence of movements and yoga-poses can be practised on varying levels of awareness, ranging from that of physical exercise in various styles, to a complete ‘sadhana’, which incorporates asana, pranayama, mantra and chakra meditation.
Despite numerous and persistent claims of ancient, even ‘Vedic’ origin, the prevalent Surya Namaskar sequence probably has no ancient foundation, but is rather a 20th-century invention of Bhawanrao Pantpritinidhi, the Rajah of Aundh. Based upon ‘vyayam (exercise)’, the fitness regime of traditional wrestlers that develops strength with flexibility and muscle bulk, it was first described in 1929, and only gained popularity after he taught it to an admiring British journalist whilst studying Law in London, in 1937. A book soon followed The Ten Point Way to Health and thus Surya Namaskar spread throughout the world.
Today, the late Rajah’s Surya Namaskar routines remain the preferred cardiovascular exercise for the older wrestlers in India, as a safe way in which to maintain their physique and stature.
The physical base of the practice links together twelve asanas (Yoga postures) in a dynamically performed series. These asanas are ordered so that they alternately stretch the spine backwards and forwards. When performed in the usual way, each asana is moved into with alternate inhalation and exhalation (except for the sixth asana where the breath is held in external suspension).
A full round of Surya Namaskar is considered to be two sets of the twelve poses with a change in the second set to moving the opposite leg first through the series. Proponents of the use of Surya Namaskar as part of the modern yoga tradition prefer to perform it at dawn, as a salutation to the rising sun.
Surya Namaskar is basically a gentle practice. This makes it open to people of all ages and levels. However, it is also a very powerful practice and that it is not always obvious, while performing the series, how much effect it is having on the body. The number of rounds should be decided on the basis of physical-status and the ‘gunas’ (mental-status) of the patient.
It is important not to eat for at least three hours before practicing Surya Namaskar, do not overdo the exercise and rest adequately afterwards. After the session, the practitioners usually rest in ‘shavasana’ (the corpse pose) while their respiration and heartbeat return to normal. As with all exercise, maximum benefit is obtained by performing the practice regularly, rather than excessive performance in any one session.
49 Patients were chosen for the suitability of therapeutic management for their cardiac ailment. The sequence, cadence and extent of the yoga practice (‘Tai Chi’ or ‘Surya Namaskar’) were tailored to the physical, mental and the disease-related need of the patient. 21 patients had Coronary-Ischaemic Heart Disease (CHD), and 28 had Paroxysmal Supra-ventricular Tachyrrhythmias (PSVT). Patients with Coronary-Ischaemic Heart Disease were mainly Males. The male to female ratio was 19:2.
These patients were subjected to the supervised practice of either ‘Tai Chi’ or ‘Surya Namaskar’ for a 30-60 minutes session (depending on the tolerance and compliance of the patients), at least 5 days per week, for a period of 3 months.
Coronary-Ischaemic Heart Disease (CHD)
n=21: Male=19; Female=2
|Yoga Ischaemic Episodes per Week||Reduction (%) of Nitrate Drugs|
|(a). ‘Tai Chi’ (n=11):||37.0+4.3 – 26.0+3.2 (p<0.05)||20.0+4.8|
|(b). ‘Surya Namaskar’ (n=10):||42.0+3.3 – 38.0+4.1 (p<0.05)||19.4+2.9|
There is a significant reduction (p<0.05) of Ischaemic-episodes in both the groups; however, ‘Surya Namaskar’ fared significantly better (p<0.05) as compared to ‘Tai Chi’. Both the methods showed similar extent of reduction in Nitrate-Consumption, roughly in the range of around 20%.
Paroxysmal Supra-ventricular Tachyrrhythmias (PSVT)
n=28: Male=8; Female=20
|Yoga Paroxysms per Week||Reduction (%) of Anti-Arrhythmia Drugs|
|(a). ‘Tai Chi’ (n=13):||13.0+2.9 – 6.0+3.7 (p<0.001*)||21.0+4.2|
|(b). ‘Surya Namaskar’ (n=15):||9.0+2.6 – 8.0+1.1 (p=NS*)||16.4+3.8|
‘Tai Chi’ showed a highly significant reduction (p<0.001) in the paroxysms of Supra-ventricular Tachycardias. Although ‘Surya Namaskar’ did reduce the number of paroxysms, yet the effect did not reach a statistical significance. Both the methods showed reduction in consumption of Anti-Arrhythmia drugs, but ‘Tai Chi’ still fared better (p<0.05) as compared to ‘Surya Namaskar’.
There is a significant reduction (p<0.05) of ischaemic-episodes in patients with ‘Coronary-Ischaemic Heart Disease (CHD)’ undergoing either ‘Tai Chi’ or ‘Surya Namaskar’ therapy; however, ‘Surya Namaskar’ fared significantly better (p<0.05) as compared to ‘Tai Chi’.
Both ‘Tai Chi’ and ‘Surya Namaskar’ showed similar extent of reduction in Nitrate-Consumption in CHD, roughly in the range of around 20%.
Tai Chi’ showed a highly significant reduction (p<0.001) in the paroxysms of Supra-ventricular Tachycardias.
Although ‘Surya Namaskar’ did reduce the number of Supra-ventricular paroxysms, yet the effect did not reach a statistical significance.
Both the methods showed reduction in consumption of Anti-Arrhythmia Drugs, but ‘Tai Chi’ still fared better (p<0.05) as compared to ‘Surya Namaskar’.
Tai Chi For Beginners (DVD or VHS) by Paul Lam
Simply Tai Chi with DVD by Graham Bryant and Lorraine James
Dr. Yoga: A Complete Program for Discovering the Head-to-toe Health Benefits of Yoga by Nirmala Heriza
Yoga and Ayurveda by Merlin’s Magic (Music CD)
Healing Secrets of Yoga and Ayurveda by David Frawley
Yoga Therapy: A Guide to the Therapeutic Use of Yoga and Ayurveda for Health and Fitness by A.G. Mohan
The Only Way Out Is In: Yoga, Ayurveda and Psychology by Reinhard Kowalski
Easy Guide to Ayurveda: The Natural Way to Wholeness by Roy Eugene Davis