Tai Chi Chuan in Menopause

“A Doctor that Takes care of a disease after it has manifested is a mediocre doctor; a doctor that takes care of a disease before it is manifest is an excellent doctor”

The Yellow Emperor

By Dr. Vera Lazzeri

The menopause is not a disease, otherwise all the women from a certain age on would be sick! On the other hand, however, we do feel it, like all the hormonal changes, with various types of symptoms.
A study (*) conducted on a great number of resident women in the USA and of various ethnic origins, shows that symptoms such as the hot flashes and the night sweats are independent from the social class, from the ethnic group and from the culture and therefore unequivocally connected to the hormonal changes. Does this mean that we cannot do anything about it? Yes, but we can do something to decrease the bother. The Hormone Replacement Therapy can be a short path for this, however it is not exempt from dangers, presenting an increased of risk for cardiovascular diseases and breast cancer.
The other way, more demanding, but side effects-free, is found by changing our lifestyle. If we analyze the above survey in the depth, we notice some variations related to some symptoms: let us focus on these to draw some useful indications.
Hot flashes and night sweats: the Chinese and Japanese women suffer less in comparison with the western women.
Here we might think about the differences in the diet, in fact the Oriental women eat much more soy (rich in phytoestrogens) than the others.
Urinary incontinence: the Chinese women, in comparison with the westerners, show a markedly decreased prevalence, followed by the African-Americans.
This can indicate a different awareness of the pelvic muscles, due to a cultural difference. Besides that, the symptom is present among the Latin-Hispanic women in about a third more than in comparison with the westerners.
The cultural difference is in the different acceptance and awareness of their own body: the Oriental culture doesn’t make distinction between body and spirit, as in our Latin-Christian culture, that tends to deny the needs of the body.
I think that the thirty per cent increase in the Latin-Hispanic population (and I believe the Italians to be included) in comparison with the westerners, is related to the difference of background in sexuality among the Catholic women and other Christians.
I have been dreaming about this survey for a long time, when I was working as a urologist and particularly in my practice as a urodynamist. I became convinced that the Asian women must have less problems in the pelvic floor and that the common belief that the urinary female incontinence due to childbirths was incorrect. In my urodynamic practice I could see how contracting the pelvic floor, or even being aware of it, was difficult for the women I treated (they belonged, of course, to the previous generation: I hope that something has changed by now). I blamed our Catholic culture for this, especially in the phobic attitudes towards female sexuality, which was understood as something dirty and dangerous, something to deny.
Of course I could not demonstrate anything, especially at that time (about 20 years ago): in Italy there was only one ethnic group, only one religion. When I said that we should not blame childbirth for the urinary incontinence, instead we should think about how the women simply push to urinate (more times in the day, every day ) since they always squeeze their legs together, people looked at me as if I were mad, maybe also because there were very few female urologists at that time. This survey is supporting my viewpoint and I am happy to share it with you.
Stiff or sore joints, but also racing heart beats, forgetfulness and difficulty sleeping: increased physical activity was associated with lower prevalence of these symptoms.
As Master Yang Zhenduo said in his recent interview (Journal 18), when we live better we have also time to take care of ourselves and our health, we devote more time every day to our health, we practice Taijiquan, and our emotional condition will improve.
We can start practising Taijiquan at any age, in fact in Taijiquan you use mental intention, not brute strength, and if you practice gradually and constantly, you can achieve excellent results. This is not a pill that you take according to your needs. PERSEVERANCE and REGULARITY are basic requirements. By the way: the “regularity” is essential in order to enhance the natural defences of the human organism.
“But I don’t have time!” Do you shower in the morning? Or do you skip it because you don’t have time? Do you eat every day? Do you make up? Do you shave? Do you get dressed carefully? Of course, you do it! You have found the time for these things, and now they are part of your daily schedule. Well, if you want to practise Taijiquan, you should make it become a part of your way of life. This doesn’t mean becoming an ascetic, just simply taking care of yourself.
Urinary incontinence: will be controlled as the first thing. Sinking the breath into the abdomen and keeping the tail bone upright is good for your pelvic floor, which will become more and more toned, and present or future problems of stress incontinence will be solved. When we will have learned to relax our pelvis well, we will learn also to control our sphincter urethrae muscle, and hence control the urge of incontinence.

urethra female frontal section

Stiff or sore joints: after some months of practice our body will feel more flexible. By the time the movements have become more homogeneous and fluid; the joint pain will become a faint memory.

Hot flashes and night sweats: come from a surge of energy, therefore they need more time to be controlled, because one needs to develop a good mastery of one’s own energy. In any case the habit of applying intention, being watchful and relaxed will help to control the anxiety, which is an ever present component in the hot flashes. This will not only give a great benefit to ourselves, but also to our relatives. The millennial Chinese culture offers an immediate and easy remedy: breathing calmly, concentrate the intention on the dan tian, while you enter the nearest Chinese gift shop and buy a beautiful fan: you can find fans of all forms and for all purses. Choose the one you like most and fan yourself as much as you need with calm, cool demeanour. You will acquire an even more fabulous look!

The Journal of the International Yang Style Tai Chi Chuan Association. Number 19, summer 2006.
(*) Relation of demographic and lifestyle factors to symptoms in a multiracial/ethnic population of women 40-55 years of age; E.B. Gold et al., American Journal of Epidemiology, vol. 152, no. 5, 2000.

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