Eastern standard: Tai Chi works wonders

We were the only Asian people in the small town in Ohio where I grew up. In fact, many of the people thought we were Mexican because they weren't used to seeing Asian people. Ole!

So when my classmates learned I ate exotic foods like sushi, seaweed, and squid (aka calamari, which I think is just a euphemism Americans use instead of saying squid), they all pretended to become nauseated– long before Californians came up with the expression, "Gag me with a spoon."

Today, however, Americans seem to be realizing the benefits of Asian culture. Sushi is almost as common as tacos, which in my hometown would go together since they thought we were Mexican. Chai Tea might become the next double half-caff skinny mocha latte with a raspberry shot and a lemon twist.

According to Dr. Lee Litvinis and Dr. Alex Schult– who gave me information on Tai Chi– Tai Chi means, "The Ultimate Fist." You know the movies and commercials in which a bunch of people are moving gracefully in a park (not like the Diana Ross Central Park concert fiasco)? That's probably Tai Chi. Tai Chi is a kind of martial art, but instead of kicking someone's butt, you kick out stress and pain. Tai Chi is like Bruce Lee on Valium, Jackie Chan sleep-walking, Jean-Claude Van Damme Un-plugged.

Today when pain-killers are associated with so many problems, including bleeding ulcers and heart attacks, Americans are turning to the East for some help (just don't go East of Eden). In Annals of Internal Medicine 2004, a study showed that Tai Chi relieved symptoms of arthritis, improved balance and strength, and helped the cardiovascular system.

Tai Chi is exercise. Exercise is the best anti-oxidant out there. Exercise helps your flexibility and joints. For those with arthritis, stiffness can be a bear, so what is better than getting out and moving the body like Beyonce? Arthritic joints need strong ligaments, tendons, and muscles for support, so if you're a flabalanch with arthritis, your poor joints are going to be stressed by gravity, movement, and use.

The Journal of American Geriatric Society 2004 showed improvement in energy and sleep with Tai Chi. I've heard a thousand elderly people say, "I go to bed at 8pm and wake up at 3am. I don't feel like I'm sleeping well."

Well, it's still eight hours of sleep– but then again, who wants to be awake at 3am? There are only bad infomercials on TV at that time. It's true the pineal gland of the brain ages and older people don't sleep as much or as well. But people doing Tai Chi have less daytime sleepiness and the quality of their sleep is much better.

Though not proven at this point, Tai Chi might help slow down the process of osteoporosis (probably because it's a weight-bearing exercise). For the elderly, falling down and breaking a hip, wrist, etc. can be a sign of bad things to come. Tai Chi has been shown to improve balanceĀ­ which makes sense, since the movements are like doing "low impact ballet."

In one study, Tai Chi was shown to reduce blood pressure in middle-aged women. When you exercise, your muscles suck up blood, which in turn reduces your blood pressure. Also, exercise is great for relaxation. "On a clear day, you can see forever," so a clear mind can make you more productive and can help you feel happier.

You know something is big when it appears in a Dummies book. I wonder if the people in my home town will think this book is still for Mexicans: "I would like to tai Chi Chi's. I hear their fajitas rock!"