The basic differences between “hard” Western style exercise and Traditional Chinese “soft” exercise.
Tai Chi & Qigong are done in conjunction with deep, slow, diaphragmatic breathing, which oxygenates and alkalizes the blood and tissues. Hard exercise on the other hand forces the breath into a shallow, panting mode that utilizes only the narrow upper sections of the lungs. This type of breathing in the upper lungs exposes only a very small fraction of the lungs surface area to incoming air, greatly reducing the intake of oxygen and the discharge of carbon dioxide. As a result, the blood and tissues become increasingly acidic and oxygen deficient for as long as the exercise continues.
As Tai Chi & Qigong require only minimal muscular exertion, avoids the accumulation of lactic acid in the tissues. By contrast, hard exercise causes a rapid accumulation of lactic acid in the tissues produced by muscular exertion.
Combined Tai Chi & Qigong with deep breathing and calm mind, effectively turns the diaphragm into a “energy center”, engaging it to help pump blood through the circulatory system by virtue of differential pressures in the abdominal and chest cavities. This takes a huge workload off the heart, and when practiced daily, the cumulative benefits to the heart can be life-saving. Hard exercise strains the heart by forcing it to race in order to accelerate circulation of blood to the muscles. Furthermore, since hard exercise makes the breath grow shallow, the diaphragm is not engaged in the breathing process, and therefore the heart must bear the full load of pumping extra supplies of blood through the body.
Soft exercise focuses on loosening and relaxing, thereby opening all the tissues of the body to the free flow of blood and energy while hard exercise contracts the muscles and compacts the joints, blocking circulation and retaining toxic wastes in the tissues for a long time.
Most importantly, Tai Chi and Qigong performed in conjunction with deep slow breathing shifts the autonomic nervous system into the calm, cleansing, and healing mode of the parasympathetic branch and keeps it in this mode. Unless we take effective measures to unwind, relax and keep the parasympathetic branch of the nervous system switched on, and the sympathetic branch turned off, for at least a few days, the body’s self-cleansing and healing responses will not be able to function properly, and the detoxifying process cannot proceed.
Doing soft exercise like Tai Chi and deep breathing like Qigong for an hour or two each day is a very good way to stay relaxed and keep your nervous system in the healing detoxifying mode.