''Whenever I get the urge to exercise, I lie down until it passes.''
We have chosen to look at the ''swing'' or chi machine, among so many other devices, because of requests from our readers and friends. This machine has gained wide acceptance in hospitals and chiropractice offices nationwide. We even purchased one for our own office. Getting on the chi ''swing'' machine after a long day in front of the video monitor is a great way to chill out.
Gilbert Keith Chesterton
And if what the literature claims is really true, using this device is the next thing to exercising in your sleep.
Physically, it's a little box with places to rest your ankles while lying on the floor or an exercise mat.
When you get into this machine and turn it on, it moves your feet rapidly back and forth, which results in a side-to-side motion all the way up the spine. Watching someone on this machine, you see that the whole body, including the head, is moving back and forth in an undulating motion, like the effect when you shake out a carpet a sinous ''fishtail'' rippling from head to toe.
Our spines are capable of sideways motion, like a fish or a snake, but because of tension in the body our spinal movements have been reduced. We've all experienced the reflex to raise our arms, stretch, and yawn, and this process flexes the spine from side to side. ''Instantly,'' as the chi machine literature explains it, ''we feel a pleasurable sensation of energy movement and alertness of the mind. As our lungs fill with air, greater oxygenation of the cells occurs, and the pressure on the intervertebral discs is momentarily released.''
It is said that only 40 percent of the exercise benefits occur when the chi machine is on. The other 60 percent occur, as with the practice of QiGong/ChiKung and T'ai Chi, because of the overall increased movement of chi throughout the body.
The Machine's Inventor, Age 94
The original Chi Machine was invented by Dr. Inoue Shizuo, Director of the Japan Health Association, Chairman of Japan's Oxygen Health Association, and author of Health and Oxygen Efficient Aerobic Exercise. In his book, Dr. Shizuo states that the ''efficient use of oxygen will form a healthy body. This is the secret to longevity. I am ninety-four years old, I have good health, maintaining emotional stability, clear minded. I feel deeply about the importance of oxygen to human bodies.''
Dr. Shizuo has about ''seventy years of meditation experience,'' he claims, and adds, ''Currently, I formed a Japanese Meditation Association. In order to supplement the oxygen, we need to have correct posture with straight back bone, to focus Chi in the diaphragm, and adjust breathing through correct attitude of meditation.''
The Chi Machine and the Lymph System
A main effect of the chi machine is allegedly to help remove blockages in the lymphatic system, thus alleviating water retention and promoting the healthy functioning of the immune system. The lymphatic fluid is not controlled by the pumping action of the heart so, according to the literature, the chi machine becomes in a sense an external lymphatic fluid pump.
Currently, leading lymphoedema specialist Professor Neil Piller, in conjunction with Flinders University Medical Centre and the Hsin Ten Company, maker of the original Sun Harmony Chi Machine, is conducting scientific studies of the machine's effectiveness. We talked to Professor Piller, who told us, ''We are undertaking clinical trials using the chi machine under controlled conditions for normal, lymphoedematous, and venous edema patients.''
The results are not yet in, and so we'll update this article when they are. But the findings to date, Piller said, ''are in line with our expectations and pilot trial.''
Reports from Two Long-time Users
Our friend Flicker Hammond first experienced the chi machine during a visit to her chiropractor's office in Dallas, Texas. She'd lie on the machine for five minutes prior to her chiropractic adjustments, she said, and found that after just five minutes she ''had an amazing tingling sensation all over ... a really pleasant, delicious sensation.'' That sensation prompted her to buy one.
With regular use of her chi machine, Flicker began to notice amazing changes in her body. For twenty years, she'd had slightly enlarged lymph nodes on the back of her neck, ''nothing large enough to worry about but they just shouldn't have been hard like that.'' By initially using the machine because it made her feel good, she found that her swollen lymph nodes had ''completely vanished.''
Additionally, Flicker had a major fall four or five years ago, breaking her left femur. The bone healed completely, but she still had a deep pain, and thought that she was just going to have to live with it. Instead, she said, her pain ''cleared up pretty quickly after I started using the chi machine.''
Another physical change Flicker has noticed in her body is that she feels more space in her ribcage. ''All those intercostal muscles have been freed up. When I breathe, it just opens up so much more, and not just in the front but in the back as well. The ribcage can get so tight. There is three-dimensional movement that comes in.'' Another benefit she's experienced is that she feels ''much freer under the shoulder blades.''
Today, Flicker, is a chi machine distributor and still uses hers twice a day for ten minutes.
Another friend who has been using the chi machine is Dawn Burrows. Like Flicker, Dawn ran out and bought a chi machine after her first use.
''All the chiropractors in this area have them,'' she says. ''They compare it to a fish in water. It's freely moving your spine back and forth and you just lie there, and when it finishes you can just feel this rush of energy all through your body.''
Detailed Instructions for Using the Chi Machine
Three arm positions are suggested by the manufacturers. Each variation supposedly enhances a different result:
- hands under your head with elbows akimbo to relieve migraines and arthritis
- arms resting at your sides to relieve insomnia and constipation
- arms stretched out over your head, lying loosely on the floor to aid weight loss and release muscular tension
Here are some other recommendations the chi machine companies make:
- After the machine stops, rest two to three minutes with your eyes closed and feel the movement of chi throughout your body.
- Following the rest period, perform a gentle spinal twist, as follows:
- After removing the feet from the chi machine
- place them flat on the floor with the knees at a 45-degree angle
- take a gentle, deep breath, hold it, and lower both bent legs to one side as far as possible.
- hold this position for a moment, exhale, and bring your knees back to their resting position
- pause for a moment, then perform the same movement on the other side
- Repeat on both sides two to three times, making sure to keep the upper portion of your back in contact with the floor.
- Use the machine on an empty stomach, or at least thirty minutes after eating.
- To assist in the cleansing of toxins, drink a small quantity of water before using the chi machine, and a larger quantity after your session.
- Start out slowly, and work up to anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes; you may find that 10 minutes twice a day is more helpful than one 20-minute session.
Possible Health Benefits
Whatever else may be true, it is undeniable that when you have been on the chi machine for even a few minutes, the moment you turn it off you feel that rush of tingling energy throughout your entire body, right to the tips of your fingers. This is a universal experience and easily verified.
The possible medical benefits, however, have not yet been proved. We offer the following claims, made by various manufactures of these devices, simply for your consideration. In addition to possibly normalizing the lymphatic system, the chi ''swing'' machine may
- oxygenate the body's cells
- help to correct spinal misalignments
- increase globulin production
- increase spinal marrow blood production
- unblock the chi pathways to restore normal function of the internal organs
Selecting Your Machine
In addition to the original invention, manufactured under patent as the Sun Harmony Chi Machine and quite expensive, there are many look-alikes, some with various bells and whistles like varying speeds and foot-massage add-ons. Most are called ''swing'' or ''chi swing'' machines, and some are a lot less pricey.
The original manufacturers say that their machine is more finely calibrated and safer to use than the wannabes. We don't know whether that's true or not. We simply suggest, if you decide to get one of these machines, that you select the one that seems to best meet your own needs.
The chi machine literature also says that the ''body oxygenation that occurs within fifteen minutes on a chi machine is equivalent to ninety minutes of aerobic exercise.'' And unlike aerobic exercise, with the chi machine there is no stress.
As we mentioned, we have one in our office now, and our webmaster has been using it for about two weeks. She says she has more energy and can perform regular exercise more comfortably.
Dawn believes that ''if you use it on a regular basis, you'll start losing weight.''
Now wouldn't that be grand!
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