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Balanced Life with Tai Chi

From the instant we wake up and put on our work clothes, to the time we dress down to our pajamas, we subconsciously look for balance in our lives. Incidentally, it is this very principle embodied in Tai Chi which may lead people with diabetes to healthier days.

Everyday, individuals pit two opposite aspects of their lives side-by-side in an imaginary weighing scale. We balance work and leisure, wants and needs, healthy foods and unhealthy ones. We balance decisions. We do this to keep from going overboard—too much of something is bad, after all. Try being all work and no play, and soon enough, you’ll turn into crazy dad Jack from The Shining. On the other hand, too much play and very little productivity is no good either, turning you into someone incompetent. Hence, it may be good to stay on the middle ground, if only to keep our wits about us.

Unfortunately, this takes tremendous discipline, something that many lack. The lure of one aspect is too strong at times that we totally neglect its counterpart. Thus for most of a person’s life, striking a balance has become a constant struggle, a pursuit that is both an obsession and a frustration.

It’s amazing then how people like Tai Chi instructor Remy Pastor can attain harmony on a day-to-day basis with relative ease, whereas others fail miserably.

Having been exposed to a steady lifestyle during her formative years may have given her the mental fortitude to do so. She recalls growing up with a Iola, who was a stickler for her grandkids’ diet.

“She was very strict. She told me that I should have ‘balance’ inside myself, starting with what I put inside my body, like my food intake,” recalls Remy. “She told me not to imitate my classmates or kapitbahay who put whatever they want in their body.”

Her food list only grew shorter upon meeting her Tai Chi master Dada Shivesh, and she was forced to cross out two more items in her food list: eggs and garlic, which, according to Dada Shivesh, was the root of a person’s angry personality due to the food’s “hot” property.

Nonetheless, the sacrifice paid off in heaps as Remy was able to attain the balance needed to master the art of Tai Chi, and in return, share its health and healing benefits to all those willing to learn it.

The healing art
According to Remy, Tai Chi is the “first and longest running of the martial arts”. It combines the serenity of yoga with the movement of martial arts, giving it the moniker “meditation in motion.”

“There are three branches of Tai Chi: the Performance aspect, the Healing aspect and the Martial arts aspect,” says Remy. The Performance aspect is the one that most people are familiar with. The actions are graceful and look as if you are simply dancing. It is generally demonstrated on-stage, and is the common exercise of the elderly, but more and more of the younger generations are getting into it. The Martial arts aspect, on the other hand, is when you already apply strength and chi—the energy inside us that is also believed to be our life force-to subdue an opponent. Tai Chi was first and foremost a martial art before it progressed into its demonstration form. Here, with proper training and technique, you can throw down an opponent. This form is the ideal martial art for women, children and the elderly.

The last one, the Healing aspect, is a bit more complicated. It requires constant meditation and intense training to utilize the chi inside an individual. Using the chi, one is able to transfer energy to another person and draw out the “bad” energy out of the individual, which is usually the cause of the sickness.

“In healing, the breathing is so vital,” explains Remy. “Most of the time, sickness starts from the improper way of breathing: oxygen is not distributed to our cells and to parts of our body.”

Remy admits to having given up the Martial arts aspect of Tai Chi, to focus more on the Healing aspect. She believes that this is more beneficial and useful for her, given her role as a mother to six children.

“I have three boys and three girls. As we know when you have children, they get sick and get all kinds of flu,” says Remy. “The skill that I learned from my master, combined with the proper breathing, is something that I have developed and injected in my home.”

“And it worked!” she adds. “I didn’t have to buy medicine. All I had to do was ‘converse’ with my children and give them some of my energy through touch and through the right techniques.” She aids the explanation with a demonstration of the proper hand movements she takes during the healing ritual: her hands move fluidly back and forth like an ebbing tide, inches above the person’s body. Then, the fingers make a sprinkling movement, like giving energy and showering it to the receiver.

Remy says that the healing part does not happen instantaneously. What she usually does when a person is sick is to ask him or her to meditate first, to get them in a state of mind void of worry to the point that even the illness is forgotten. Then, she teaches them the proper way to breathe: the chest should not be the only one expanding but so too should the stomach. Through this proper breathing exercise, they are able to get energy and expel the bad energy within, like a cleansing ritual.

Tai Chi and diabetes
You don’t have to be a Tai Chi master to benefit from the healing aspect of the art. Doing the exercises alone may already place you on the road to recovery.

In fact, a recent study found that doing the aerobic exercise seen in Tai Chi is actually good for obese diabetic patients, as it improves blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels. The study evaluated 155 patients with type 2 diabetes and obesity, broken down into two groups. One group performed Tai Chi and another performed conventional exercise for three months. Researchers found that the Tai Chi group had a reduced body mass index, blood cholesterol level, and oxidative stress. In addition, their blood triglycerides dropped by 28.3 mg/dL, compared to the 17.4 reduction in the conventional exercise group.

Another study, featured in the June issue of The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, studied the health benefits of Tai Chi on Korean women with diabetes. It showed that Tai Chi – despite being a low-impact exercise – was nonetheless able to improve glucose control and give higher levels of vitality and energy to the women. Remy credits this to the proper breathing techniques required in Tai Chi.

“Because of the proper breathing, even the inside of your body – the bronchial pockets, the diaphragm – gets worked out. Nagagalaw yung cells and enzymes, makikita mo na lang na pinapawisan ka,” she says.

“Diabetic patients have so many toxins, and they need to expel this through proper breathing,” says Remy. “We have students who, after doing Tai Chi, said that they didn’t need their insulin anymore. They were able to heal themselves properly through (Tai Chi’s) proper diet and proper exercise.”

Whatever the reason is, Tai Chi looks to be beneficial for obese people with diabetes. The slow movements, coupled with the needed control to attain proper breathing, make for a good workout. It is only fitting that in people with diabetes, it was an excess of one thing that led them to their predicament, and now it is an art rooted on self-control and avoidance of excess which will bring them back to their healthier days.

For now, Remy Pastor will continue teaching that art to all those who seek it. She will probably continue serving as her children and grandchildren’s “doctor” and have a busy load attending to all 12 of them.

“With all of my three boys and three girls now married, we were all gifted with beautiful children,” says Remy. “Before I knew it, I had twelve grandchildren, 6 of whom are girls and 6 are boys!”

“You see, it’s like Tai Chi—everything starts from movement, breathing, and creation—indeed, God’s grace!” she says.

Truly balanced, even to the last detail.

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