Sometimes learning more about the science behind the benefits of T’ai Chi Chih is helpful in explaining the positive benefits so many teachers and students experience. Still, there’s a lovely bit of mystery in considering what the Chi is, and how it works, to bring about the scientifically-explained results.
Beneficial Healing Of Hands
By Diana Daffner, Sarasota, Florida
For almost 20 years, my husband Richard and I have led a free, weekly T’ai Chi Chih practice session at sunset on Siesta Beach here in Sarasota. Tourists and other visitors often stop by; sometimes they realize that they have encountered the movements before. One such visitor was Dr. Alan Dattner, a physician of Integrative Medicine and Dermatology in New York City. He shared with us this important story about the benefits of Around the Platter Variation:
“On a particularly cold morning on Stratton Mountain in Vermont, my fingers practically froze trying to deal with my skis outside of the lodge. On that day, when I was in my 20’s in medical school, we decided it was too cold to ski. Unfortunately, my hands never seemed to be the same after that. When it was cold, my hands would get cold and the vessels seemed to tighten up so that the blood couldn’t flow to warm them up.
Years later, in the early 1980’s at a T’ai Chi Chih class in Northeast Connecticut, I experienced an exercise of making a ball and pushing it away at shoulder height, and I found that my hands got warm. I realized that something about this movement relaxed the constriction of the blood vessels in my fingers and caused the blood to flow into my hands. I presumed it broke a localized sympathetic nervous system controlled vasoconstriction in my fingers that cut down blood flow and made my fingers cold. I was extremely impressed by the ability of this technique to change the response of my fingers to cold, then, and any time that I repeated the exercise.
As a result, I have showed this movement to patients with cold hands caused by Renaud’s disease and other similar conditions with cold hands. I believe that this maneuver is very important for regulating the autonomic response in the hands and upper extremities, and hope that formal research studies are done to demonstrate this. I have done different forms of T’ai Chi on an infrequent basis over the past 36 years, and have found that doing this particular exercise to be one of my most vivid experiences of immediate benefit.”