Feeling stressed? Tai Chi may be your antidote. Tai chi, with its soft, flowing and deliberate movements, is like watching poetry in motion or a beautifully choreographed classical dance. The practice of tai chi is composed of slow, gentle and purposeful movements that, along with meditation and deep breathing, are designed to improve overall wellness. As both a spiritual and physical practice, tai chi strives to balance the body, mind and spirit to create harmony and good health. When practiced properly and routinely, tai chi is believed to unblock the flow of qi (pronounced chee), or energy, within the body to relieve stress, fight disease, improve tranquility, and create health.
This centuries old, non-violent Chinese martial art is meant to be a full body experience, enhancing both mental health and physical fitness. Literally translated to mean “supreme ultimate,” many refer to tai chi as relaxation in motion as it allows participants to become one with the body while promoting muscle strength and spiritual growth. The practice of tai chi is a lifelong journey that not only commands relaxation but also a cleared, more focused mind.
Tai chi is believed to improve balance, posture, mood and flexibility, and have a positive influence on stress relief and blood pressure. Learned and practiced at any stage of life, tai chi is safe and beneficial for all, including the elderly and those with chronic health conditions. Tai chi may be especially beneficial for those whose bone density markers place them at high risk of fractures, as improved balance is often associated with a decreased risk of falling. While usually performed in a standing position, the many movements of tai chi can be adapted for those with physical limitations, including those who may be bedridden or confined to a wheelchair.
Although not a cure all, there is something magical about tai chi training. While western researchers continue to study the health advantages of tai chi participation, students and practitioners alike are convinced the benefits of this ancient art form are numerous and real. For thousands of years, the practice of creating dynamic inner movement by combining mindfulness with low-intensity aerobic exercise has helped many to correct health imbalances, improve life quality and support healthy aging.
How the basic principles of tai chi can benefit wellbeing:
- Movement – To improve balance, strength, flexibility and coordination, tai chi movements encompass all major muscle groups and joints, significantly improving both upper and lower body endurance and positively aiding bone density.
- Meditation – Commonly used for relaxation and stress relief, meditation helps to focus attention and promote a tranquil mind. By eliminating stress inducing thoughts, meditation can bring on a sense of peace that may benefit your emotional wellbeing and overall health.
- Deep breathing – Breathing impacts the entire body by regulating heart rate and blood pressure and supplying the body with oxygen and nutrients. Deep breathing allows for the elimination of toxins while promoting increased lung capacity and enhancing circulation to the brain, boosting mental alertness.
When used as an adjunct to standard medical treatment, studies show tai chi may help improve certain medical conditions including:
Arthritis – A Tufts University study showed that people with severe knee osteoarthritis significantly improved flexibility and reduced pain by practicing tai chi twice a week for 12 weeks.
Heart disease – A study at National Taiwan University showed that a year of practice boosted exercise capacity, lowered blood pressure and improved cholesterol and triglyceride levels in people at high risk for heart disease.
Parkinson’s Disease – A pilot study from Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis showed improved balance, walking ability and overall wellbeing in people with mild to moderately severe Parkinson’s disease.
Hypertension – A randomized controlled study found that practicing tai chi three times a week for 12 weeks significantly reduced both diastolic and systolic blood pressure, improved both serum cholesterol and HDL cholesterol levels and reduced anxiety in participants.
Sleep issues – A University of California study showed improved sleep quality and duration in otherwise healthy older adults with moderate sleep complaints.
After your tai chi practice, enjoy a nice cup of restorative, delicious tea:Tulsi Tea Honey Chamomile by Organic India – Abundant in antioxidants, this soothing, caffeine-free tea provides a delicious antidote to stress. White Tea by Extended Health – This relaxing and mood enhancing organic tea is minimally processed to maintain high antioxidant levels. Green Tea also available. Tulsi Green Tea by Organic India – This fine green tea provides a natural energy boost along with stress relief and digestive support.
Nell Porter Brown. Online: http://harvardmagazine.com/2010/01/researchers-study-tai-chi-benefits
Julie Hasel. Online: http://www.vanderbilt.edu/AnS/psychology/health_psychology/taichi2.htm
University of Maryland Medical Center: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/treatment/tai-chi
Richard Weil, MEd, CDE.: http://www.medicinenet.com/tai_chi/page2.htm