Tai chi: Improved stress reduction, balance, agility for all

The ancient art of tai chi (tie-chee)  uses gentle flowing movements to reduce the stress of today’s busy lifestyles and improve health.

By Mayo Clinic staff                Mayo Clinic URL for Tai Chi is

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/tai-chi/SA00087

The graceful images of people gliding through dance-like poses as they practice tai chi (TIE-chee) are compelling. Simply watching them is relaxing. Tai chi, in fact, is often described as “meditation in motion” because it promotes serenity through gentle movements — connecting the mind and body.

Originally developed in China as a form of self-defense, tai chi is a graceful form of exercise that has existed for some 2,000 years. Practiced regularly, tai chi can help you reduce stress and enjoy other health benefits.

Understanding tai chi

Tai Chi,  … is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching.   Anyone, regardless of age or physical ability, can practice tai chi. It doesn’t take physical prowess.

Tai chi is used to:

  • Reduce stress
  • Increase flexibility
  • Improve muscle strength and definition
  • Increase energy, stamina and agility
  • Increase feelings of well-being

Stress reduction and other benefits of tai chi

Like other practices that bring mind and body together, tai chi can 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 may also help your overall health, although it’s not a substitute for traditional medical care. Tai chi is generally safe for people of all ages and levels of fitness. Older adults may especially find tai chi appealing because the movements are low impact and put minimal stress on muscles and joints. Tai chi may also be helpful if you have arthritis or are recovering from an injury.

Despite its ancient history, tai chi has been studied scientifically only in recent years. And that research is suggesting that tai chi may offer numerous other benefits beyond stress reduction, including:

  • Reducing anxiety and depression
  • Improving balance and coordination
  • Reducing the number of falls
  • Improving sleep quality, such as staying asleep longer at night and feeling more alert during the day
  • Slowing bone loss in women after menopause
  • Lowering blood pressure
  • Improving cardiovascular fitness
  • Relieving chronic pain
  • Improving everyday physical functioning

Learning to do tai chi

Wondering how to get started in tai chi? You don’t need any special clothing or equipment to do tai chi. To gain full benefits, however, it may be best to seek guidance from a qualified tai chi instructor.

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