When life throws too much stress your way, it’s beneficial to find a positive outlet that can help you stay strong mentally and emotionally. Some people choose to write or listen to music, but some people choose to do Tai Chi. The reason is because Tai Chi can keep both your mind and your body centered while keeping those feelings of stress and anxiety at bay.
What Is Tai Chi?
Tai Chi is a low-impact, slow-motion exercise that was created in China centuries ago. It’s a martial art that is often referred to as “meditation in motion” because of its power to relax and rejuvenate both the mind and body. Literally translated, Tai Chi means “supreme ultimate fist.” Although those sound like fighting words, Tai Chi is a noncompetitive exercise that allows each individual to work at his or her own pace. The moves are gentle, slow and flow continuously into one another so you never stop moving.
There are different styles of Tai Chi and each style has evolved into different factions over the years. Some of the more well-known styles include:
- Chen style
- Yang style
- Wu or Wu Hao style of Wu Yu-hsiang
- Sun style
- Wu style of Wu Ch’uan-yu and Wu Chien-ch’uan
Tai Chi Walkthrough
Although each style of Tai Chi is different, you can expect the routine to be similar from class to class. Here’s what you could expect:
- A warm-up – This gets the body relaxed and ready to move.
- Practice of the moves – The instructor walks the class through each of the moves, of which there could be dozens or hundreds, depending on how advanced the class is.
- Practice of Qigong – Qigong means “breath work.” This parts of the class focuses on deep breathing exercises combined with gentle movements.
Physical And Mental Benefits
Since Tai Chi is an exercise, it offers many physical benefits:
- It helps build muscle strength – A study conducted by Stanford University researchers found that Tai Chi can improve the upper-body strength and lower-body strength of both men and women. Tai Chi targets many muscle groups including the abdomen, upper arms, legs and back, so whatever muscle group you want to improve, Tai Chi can help you do it.
- It boosts flexibility – Stanford researchers also found that Tai Chi can improve flexibility in both men and women.
- It improves balance – Some elderly people take up Tai Chi to reduce their chances of falling. Studies show that regular practice of Tai Chi can improve your proprioception, which is your sense of how your body is positioned in space.
- It can offer some aerobic benefits – Depending on the style of Tai Chi you choose to practice, it may offer some benefits comparable to an aerobic workout.
Mentally, Tai Chi can boost self-confidence and it can help you to deal with others in a more effective manner. It also puts the mind and body in harmony by opening the lines of communication between the two. Here’s what else Tai Chi can do:
- It can reduce your feelings of stress.
- It can improve your sense of well-being.
- It can help you to relax.
- It can build a stronger mind.
One of the reasons many people practice Tai Chi is because of its therapeutic benefits. Tai Chi is often used as an adjunct medicine, which means that it’s used to help treat certain health conditions. For instance, those with arthritis or joint problems may practice Tai Chi to improve their circulation and increase their range of motion. These are some other conditions that Tai Chi is often used to treat:
- Back problems – Tai Chi can reduce compression and tension of the spinal disks as well as reduce the tendency to twist the back.
- Breast cancer – Studies show that women with breast cancer can improve their quality of life as well as increase their muscle strength, flexibility and overall functional capacity.
- Heart problems – Studies show that regular practice of Tai Chi can lower the risk of heart disease by improving the levels of triglycerides, cholesterol insulin and blood pressure. It can also reduce the blood levels of the protein that is indicative of heart failure.
- Parkinson’s disease – A study conducted at the Washington University School of Medicine found that those with Parkinson’s disease could improve their balance, walking ability and well-being by practicing Tai Chi.
Tai Chi can also help those who suffer from sleep problems, have had a stroke or have hypertension. Although Tai Chi may be able to alleviate the symptoms associated with these health conditions, it isn’t meant to replace traditional therapy or medicine. Before you take up the practice of Tai Chi, consult with your doctor to make sure that it’s right for you. But if you feel that Tai Chi can help your mentally or physically, give it a try – you may find that the health benefits far outweigh the cons.