Yang Family Tai Chi School Promotes Tai Chi Practice for Brain Health

Tai Chi Practice for Brain Health

Yang Family Tai Chi School director and adjunct tai chi professor, Holly Sweeney-Hillman, explores new research showing evidence of tai chi practice connected with improved cognitive capacity and overall brain health.

​Local Tai Chi School director, Holly Sweeney-Hillman, brings tai chi research on brain health to her practice. Tai chi research has exploded in the past decade, with as many as 15 tai chi research articles published each month. Quite a lot of this research has focused on brain function. Research has provided excellent evidence that tai chi improves cognitive capacity, slows the progression of Parkinson's disease and reduces the severity of depression. What is it about tai chi that contributes to brain health?

Tai chi is a multi-focus form of exercise that requires on-going attention for extended periods of time on exact body position in space, precise movements of the limbs, breathing, spatial orientation of movements and specific body sensations. Tai chi movements are meant to be exquisitely deliberate, controlled and synchronized. 

"Tai chi is a fun and challenging exercise that can be done by anyone at all skill levels," says Holly Sweeney-Hillman. "The gentle movements require our central nervous system to create millions of “myelinated neural circuits” that offer tremendous health benefits with no adverse side effects."

Myelin is the body substance, secreted by special cells, that allows the nervous system to grow into a complex and reliable communication and information storage system. Myelination allows neurons* (*the cellular network responsible for all our thoughts and actions) to function with energy efficiency because myelin stops energy leakage in communications from one neuron to the next. One could compare myelin to insulation on an electrical wire, the insulation ensures the electrical energy will stay within the wire. Myelin deficiencies are the underlying factor in many disorders of the nervous system, for instance, Parkinson's disease which displays symptoms of neural circuits “shorting out.”

As more and more brain imaging has been conducted, it has become clear that the more myelin is present, the more neural traffic can be directed through the brain. Skill-building activities, such as tai chi, increase myelin production by creating a demand for more neural circuits. 

Tai chi is the perfect practice to stimulate myelin production because tai chi is learned by repeating a formal sequence of complex movements, termed “a form,” until the form can be performed with repeatable precision. By the time precision has been reached in the form practice, the tai chi student has developed myriad myelinated neural circuits for each movement and posture of the form.

People can maintain robust brain function throughout their lives by focusing on myelin building activities. Tai chi is the perfect exercise to stimulate myelin production because it requires so many different neural circuits to execute and remember each unique movement within a flowing sequence of movements. The result: a healthier brain.

Media Contact: Chris Wilson, chris@todaystaichi.com

Source: Yang Family Tai Chi School