Our world is a stressful place. We are constantly being bombarded with “news”. We also have access to many types of social media. We can watch as people die, get hurt, towns get destroyed, and a myriad of tragedies in our country or around the globe. Then there is family stress, work stress, stress from illnesses, financial stress, and on and on. Did I mention how loud the world is today? Another cause of stress in the body. Many of us live in a “state of constant urgency” and never relax. Is it any wonder we have stress? Or we can call it “tension”. No matter what we call it, stress damages the body, mind and spirit.
Stress can lead to headaches, stomach problems, fatigue, heart attack, cancer, and the list goes on and on. How can we deal with stress in a positive way? According to James Anderson, in the September 12, 2008 Reliawire, Tai Chi is “recognized and accepted around the world as a great exercise program and therapy by even the “traditional medical community as an effective means of reducing stress by calming the mind and conditioning the body including greater balance and increased flexibility.” Tai Chi has both immediate and residual effects on the mind and body.
Mayo Clinic recognizes the benefits of Tai Chi. In the September 26, 2018 issue of the Healthy Lifestyle – Stress Management, the staff writers call Tai Chi “A gentle way to fight stress.” The slow, flowing, gentle movements promote serenity. Even though you can learn it on your own, Mayo suggests having an instructor in order to avoid injury through improper techniques. They assert that greater benefits are achieved over the long term.
In Open Door Integrative Wellness (February 9, 2016) Carla Kimball declares that we are “stressed because we live in our heads.” Stress speeds up our heart rate, our breathing, and our thoughts; all related to the fight or flight reaction. Tai Chi allows us to respond with awareness and not simply react. It allows us to make conscious choices about how to respond. We learn to stay “soft” when faced with strong emotions, fear, adversity, or anxieties.
“Stress lodges in the body in different places” according to Taoist educator, Bruce Frantzis (founder of Energy Arts). He states that chronic stress has become epidemic. Rather than targeting a particular part of the body, internal martial arts (such as Tai Chi) target the entire body through the flow of the movements. According to Mr. Frantzis “Not many Western exercise programs can claim such systemic results.”
Alternative Medicine Zone, January 1, 2009, states that Tai Chi exercises “bring your body and mind together to reduce stress.” During a stressful period, breathing speeds up which causes more stress as you are deprived of oxygen. Tai Chi slows and deepens breathing. Focus on body movement and breathing results in calmness and relaxation.
According to D. Chenchen Wang, Director of the Center for Complementary and Integrative Medicine, Tufts Medical Center, “Tai Chi appears to be associated with improvements in psychological well-being, including reduced stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, and increased self-esteem.” Dr. Wang conducted a series of 17 randomized trials pooled with the results of 40 studies comparing Tai Chi with aerobic exercise. The researchers found that Tai Chi was more effective and that the longer you practiced, the greater the benefits.
Is Tai Chi just for old people? Not according to The Telegraph, a newspaper in Great Britain. Tai Chi is being taught in primary schools to help children overcome exam stress. Children feel pressure from schools and their parents. Paul White, an instructor, generally teaches children from four to eleven. The Britain Department of Education launched a two-year research project teaching children about “mindfulness, breathing exercises and relaxation techniques.” There were numerous responses to this article. Quite a few responses outside of Britain thought it would be a great addition to our school programs. Why not?
Wouldn’t our family members, friends, neighbors, co-workers benefit as well? Why don’t you bring one or more with you the next time you come to class.