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If you’re looking for another way to
reduce stress, consider
tai chi (TIE-chee).
Tai chi
is sometimes described as
“meditation in motion”
because it promotes serenity through
gentle movements - connecting
the mind and body.
Originally
developed
in ancient China for
self-defense,
tai chi
evolved into a
graceful form of exercise, that’s now
used for
stress reduction
and to help with a variety of
other
health conditions.
Understanding tai chi
Tai chi, also called tai chi chuan, is a
noncompetitive, self-paced system of
gentle physical exercise and stretching.
To do tai chi, you perform a series
of postures or movements in a slow,
graceful manner. Each posture fows into
the next without pause, ensuring that
your body is in constant motion.
Tai chi has many different styles, such
as yang and wu. Each style may have
its own subtle emphasis on various tai
chi principles and methods. There are
also variations within each style. Some
may focus on health maintenance, while
others focus on the martial arts aspect
of tai chi.
The result of all this variation is that
there are more than 100 possible
movements and positions with tai
chi, many of which are named for
animals or nature. Regardless of the
variation, all forms of tai chi include
rhythmic patterns of movement that
are coordinated with breathing to help
you achieve a sense of inner calm. The
concentration required for tai chi forces
you to live in the present moment,
putting aside distressing thoughts.
Who can do tai chi
The intensity of tai chi varies depending
on the form or style practiced. Some
forms of tai chi are more fast-paced and
exerting than are others, for instance.
However, most forms are gentle and
suitable for everyone. So you can
practice tai chi regardless of your age
or physical ability — tai chi emphasizes
technique over strength. In fact,
because tai chi is low impact, it may
be especially suitable if you’re an older
adult who otherwise may not exercise.
You may also fnd tai chi appealing
because it’s inexpensive, requires no
special equipment and can be done
indoors or out, either alone or in a group.
Although tai chi is generally safe,
consider talking with your doctor
before starting a new program. This
is particularly important if you have
any problems with your joints, spine or
heart, if you are pregnant, if you have
any fractures, or if you have severe
osteoporosis.
Why give tai chi a try
Like other complementary and
alternative practices that bring mind
and body together, tai chi can help
reduce stress. During tai chi, you focus
on movement and breathing. This
combination creates a state of relaxation
and calm. Stress, anxiety and tension
should melt away as you focus on the
present, and the effects may last well
after you stop your tai chi session.
Tai chi also might help your overall
health, although it’s not a substitute for
traditional medical care.
Despite its long history, tai chi has been
studied scientifcally only in recent
years. And although more research is
needed, preliminary evidence suggests
that tai chi may offer numerous benefts
beyond stress reduction, including:
Reducing anxiety and depression
Improving balance, fexibility and
muscle strength
Reducing falls in older adults
Improving sleep quality
Lowering blood pressure
Improving cardiovascular ftness in
older adult
Relieving chronic pain
Increasing energy, endurance and
agility
Improving overall feelings of well-
being
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