Wellness

Tai Chi: A gentle way to fight stress

Tai chi can reduce stress and anxiety. It also helps to increase flexibility and balance.

If you’re looking for a way to reduce stress, consider tai chi. Originally developed for self-defense, tai chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that is now used to reduce stress and a host of other health issues. Often described as moving meditation, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements.

What is tai chi?

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese tradition that today is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It consists of a series of movements performed in a slow and focused manner, accompanied by deep breathing.

Tai chi, also called tai chi chuan, is a self-paced, non-competitive system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Each posture is linked without pause, ensuring a constant movement of your body.

Tai chi has many different styles. Each style can subtly emphasize various tai chi principles and methods. There are variations within each style. Some styles may focus on maintaining health, while others emphasize the martial arts aspect of tai chi.

Tai chi is different from yoga, another type of meditative movement. Yoga includes various physical postures and breathing techniques, as well as meditation.

Who can do tai chi?

Tai Chi is a low impact sport that places minimal stress on muscles and joints. Which makes it generally safe for all ages and all forms of fitness. In fact, because tai chi is a low-impact exercise, it may be especially suitable if you’re an older person who otherwise wouldn’t be able to exercise.

Tai chi may also interest you because it is inexpensive and does not require special equipment. You can do tai chi anywhere, including indoors or outdoors. And you can do tai chi alone or in a group.

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Although tai chi is generally safe, people with joint problems, back pain, broken bones, severe osteoporosis, or hernias should consult their doctor before trying tai chi. It may be recommended to modify or avoid certain postures.

Why try tai chi?

When learned correctly and practiced regularly, tai chi can be a positive part of an overall approach to improving your health. The benefits of tai chi can be as follows:

Reduced stress, anxiety and depression
With improvement of:

the mood
aerobic capacity
increased energy and stamina
flexibility, balance and agility
muscle strength and definition

There is some evidence that tai chi may also be beneficial for improving:

sleep quality
the immune system
Help reduce blood pressure
joint pain
symptoms of congestive heart failure
general well-being
Reduce the risk of falls in the elderly

How to start with tai chi

Although you can rent or buy tai chi videos and books, consider seeking advice from a qualified tai chi instructor to get the full benefits and learn the proper techniques.

You can find tai chi classes in many towns today. To find a class near you, contact the fitness centers and associations in your town. Not all tai chi instructors have gone through a standard training program. It is advisable to inquire about an instructor’s training and experience and get recommendations if possible.

A tai chi instructor can teach you specific stances and breathing techniques. They can also teach you how to practice tai chi safely, especially if you have injuries, chronic illnesses, or problems with balance or coordination. Although tai chi is slow and gentle, and usually has no negative side effects. Sometimes you can hurt yourself if you don’t use the proper techniques.

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After learning tai chi, you may eventually feel confident enough to do tai chi on your own. But if you enjoy the social aspects of a class, consider continuing with group tai chi classes.

Retaining the Benefits of Tai Chi

You may experience some benefits from a tai chi class in 12 weeks or less. But even better, you can get more out of it if you continue tai chi long term and become more practiced.

You may find it helpful to practice tai chi in the same place and at the same time each day to develop a routine. But if your schedule is irregular, do tai chi whenever you have a few minutes. You can even practice the calming concepts of tai chi for the body and mind without performing the actual movements when you are in a stressful situation. Like during a traffic jam or a tense work meeting, for example.

Sources

Bystritsky A, et al. Complementary and alternative treatments for anxiety symptoms and disorders: Physical, cognitive, and spiritual interventions. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Aug. 28, 2018.

Ma C, et al. The impact of group-based tai chi on health-status outcomes among community-dwelling older adults with hypertension. Heart & Lung: The Journal of Acute and Critical Care. 2018;47:337.
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mboden JB, et al., eds. Complementary and alternative therapies. In: Current Diagnosis & Treatment: Rheumatology. 3rd ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Education; 2013. https://accessmedicine.mhmedical.com. Accessed Aug. 28, 2018.

Tsai PF, et al. Tai chi for post-traumatic stress disorder and chronic musculoskeletal pain: A pilot study. Journal of Holistic Nursing. 2018;36:147.

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