Health Benefits of Mu Wu Shyr Quan Fa
Way of the Shepherd Warrior system (Mu Wu Shyr Quan Fa) uses a great deal of Tai Chi in its practice. Since Yang Lu Chan started teaching publicly in the 1700’s all sorts of fantastic claims have been made concerning the potential health benefits of practicing Tai Chi. Most of these claims have centered around the development of chi energy. This is understandable since chi is of fundamental importance in Traditional Chinese Medicine. But one need not define chi as some ethereal energy, but the proper flow of natural human energy through the bio-rhythmical flow of blood and oxygen along the nervous, muscular, and skeletal system.
We teach that the health benefits of Tai Chi within the Way of the Shepherd Warrior are derived from four attributes of Tai Chi practice as well as a proper mental state through biblical meditation.
First: increased oxidation and circulation of the blood. Through diaphragmatic breathing combined with the physical movements of both the exercises and form practice, a student who is diligent will experience a higher level of oxygen in the blood and better flow of that blood into areas of the body that might otherwise be restricted.
Second: ergonomics. As the student becomes more aware of his/her movements in Mu Wu Shyr practice and how force is transferred through his/her skeletal structure, he/she is able to improve the efficiency of his/her movements outside of this practice.
Third: visualization/meditation. When we talk about visualization and/or meditation we are referring to the specific practice of focusing on our movements while practicing the Shepherd Warrior sets. This does not involve “emptying the mind”, chants, or the use of object or color visualization in order to gain extra power. It is specifically the practice of listening to your body and visualizing the intent of the individual movements as you progress through the set. In the Way of the Shepherd Warrior it also involves the element of meditation on biblical truths and worship of God which renews the mind and refreshes the spirit.
Fourth: progressive muscle relaxation. The way in which the Tai Chi student is taught to move through his/her forms involve the use of small sequential muscle usage; this differs from other forms exercise, which rely on large simultaneous movement. When done properly practicing a Tai Chi set will take the whole muscular system through a PMR routine.
If these four attributes of Tai Chi within the Mu Wu Shyr practice are the source of any potential health benefits, then what are the benefits themselves? We teach that there are three areas a student may experience improvement.
First: stress relief. All four of the health attributes mentioned are highly regarded in the area of stress relief, particularly diaphragmatic breathing, visualization/meditation, and PMR. It would be difficult to find any stress relief program that did not include these elements. And since “as a man thinks in his heart, so is he”, a proper renewing of the mind will reduce stress as one learns to connect with God and “cast all his cares on Him”.
Second: pain management. Again the four health attributes of Tai Chi are common elements of most pain management programs. Two such programs that have proven records are the Alexander Technique and P.A.C.E. The similarities to these programs and what is taught in Tai Chi for health is profound.
Third: balance and flexibility. Learning the Tai Chi postures and movements has been proven effective in increasing balance and flexibility. This is especially important in the spine and hips.
The cause and effect of these health benefits are significant and readily apparent. In addition these attributes have a positive cascading effect, also readily apparent. As pain is managed better, stress reduced, balance and flexibility improved then sleep are also improved, falls and injuries reduced, and depression decreased, and this in turn may produce other benefits. Since Tai Chi is enjoyable, challenging and can be adapted to any students needs, it could be considered one of the best forms of physical activities available today.
So, in conclusion, we might say that, since the Way of the Shepherd Warrior utilizes much of the Tai Chi movements and principles, coupled with biblical meditation, it is an ideal tool for the Christian's health, physically, mentally, and spiritually.