Tai Chi Benefits for Stress Management: Relax Your Nerves, Body, Mind, and Emotions
So much to do, so little time
. Whether it’s stress from work, housekeeping, preparing taxes, or from any other source, most of us know about stress—too well, in fact.
Western doctors consider stress and stress-related illnesses as “the number one killer” today. Stress can trigger heart attacks and strokes, and has also been linked to diabetes, high blood pressure, a weaker immune system, ulcers, and infertility.
The list of stress-related illnesses goes on, but that’s long enough to emphasize the importance of reducing stress. And, as you probably already know, tai chi benefits for stress management are huge.
Reduce stress through tai chi. Tai chi is all about relaxation—the antidote to stress. Tai chi works through:
• Physical relaxation
• Relaxing the nervous system
• Emotional relaxation
• Mental relaxation
• Stress reduction
Tai chi promotes physical relaxation. The circular and sometimes odd movements of tai chi will stretch, rotate, and twist the muscles, tendons, and ligaments.
With the variety of movements within a form, almost all of the muscles, joints, and soft tissues will be gently stretched and then released. This stretching and release happens repeatedly throughout the tai chi form.
Gentle , slow stretching releases tension in the body. Over time, you’ll develop the awareness to feel the presence and then the release of tension in the body.
This awareness is a useful skill which can also help outside of your tai chi practice. Once you’ve noticed tension build-up in certain spots in your body, you can take steps to reduce it, even before your tai chi workout.
For example, if you start to feel tension build-up in your body, try to relax those areas. Don’t wait for your tai chi practice to relax and to drop your shoulders , unclench your jaw, or to massage tired eyes.
Tai chi relaxes your nerves. Tai chi practitioners actively relax their nerves, which allows for greater muscular relaxation. With more tai chi practice, your nervous system becomes stronger and runs more smoothly, making it easier to generate speed and power both within and outside of your tai chi form.
Tai chi promotes emotional relaxation
. Negative emotions and energies can get trapped within the body. Relaxation of physical tension allows for the release of emotional tension as well.
You can test this the next time you’re feeling particularly stressed. Instead of holding the tension in your face, burst out with a smile. Just a few seconds will be enough. Many who do this find that they feel lighter and happier afterwards.
A tai chi practice session works in a similar way, by breaking up tension in the body and helping the body to feel rounder, fuller and more relaxed. This enables practitioners to feel emotionally relaxed as well—feelings which can linger long after your actual tai chi workout.
Tai chi promotes mental relaxation. Tai chi is about being in the flow of the movement. When practicing tai chi, the focus is on the present move, rather than the upcoming moves of the future, or the completed moves of the past.
This gives your mind space to focus on the task at hand, in the present moment. The mind is able to calm down and to see things more clearly.
When the mind is agitated—i.e. when there is stress—the mind will have many jangled, confusing, and conflicting thoughts. Doing tai chi in a slow and grounded way causes energy to drop from the brain to the rest of the body. At the same time, the profusion of conflicting thoughts will also fall away.
Many are able to think more clearly and calmly after doing some tai chi, an effect which can extend beyond the actual practice session.
Evidence of tai chi’s ability to reduce stress. A number of medical studies have investigated and confirmed that tai chi can improve practitioners’ emotional well being and their ability to control stress. This is bolstered by research showing that tai chi practitioners even report fewer and less intense tension headaches.
Although many are wanting to reduce stress in their lives, they don’t know how or where to begin. An effective approach to stress reduction is through the practice of tai chi.
Next: Read about tai chi benefits for self defense.