It seems like everyone is stressed these days. There are bills to pay, errands to run, and dinners to cook. And then you have to deal with health, relationships, and everything under the sun. The fast-moving nature of our culture also doesn’t help, and we’re always on the go! It’s not uncommon to feel like a big ball of stress.
This feeling can also mess with your well-being. Stress can lead to poor energy, back pain, and forgetfulness. Your head may feel like it’s going in a million directions, making it hard to focus or get things done. Sound familiar? Consider taking up Tai Chi.
This ancient Chinese practice has been around for centuries, but thanks to its benefits, the Western world is paying more attention. As a mind and body practice, Tai Chi combines exercise and meditation. Slow movements are done with controlled focus and breathing in a way that is similar to yoga.1 Think of it is as meditation in motion. The practice also eases stress in very specific, life-changing ways. It might be just what you need to pick up the pieces.
1. Relaxes Emotions
The controlled breathing of Tai Chi can bring on emotions like calmness and happiness. Specifically, slow and steady breaths are the way to go.2 It’s a simple, easy practice that relaxes the nervous system, lowers blood pressure, and clears the mind.3
2. Improves Gut-Brain Axis
Did you know that the gut is connected to central nervous system and brain? Through the gut-brain axis, microbial balance directly impacts your feelings. It explains why digestive problems are often linked to anxiety, depression, and sadness.4
This is obviously the last thing you need when you’re stressed. But thanks to the relaxing effect of Tai Chi, microbial balance can stay in check, creating a healthy connection between the gut and brain.5
3. Balances Energy
According to ancient Chinese medicine, optimal health depends on qi, pronounced “chee.” This life energy needs to flow freely and easily in order to feel good. Otherwise, stress will take over.
That’s what Tai Chi is for. As the body flows through the motions, so does your energy. Keeping qi in check might be just what you need to find balance and handle stress, once and for all.
4. Lowers Inflammation
As the culprit behind almost every chronic disease, inflammation needs to be controlled. Stress, unfortunately, just makes it worse! As the stress hormone cortisol increases, so do inflammatory cytokines.6
But according to a 2017 study in the Journal of Integrative Medicine, Tai Chi can turn that around. It eases inflammation in the gut and mediates the gut-brain axis, giving extra protection against the harmful effects of stress.7
5. Enhances Immunity
Chronic stress means trouble for the immune system. As cortisol creeps up, the body has a harder time fighting off sickness and germs.8 The body also starts making high levels of glucocorticoid hormones, which then mess with immune cells and their function.9
But according to a 2014 study in PLoS One, mind-body therapies like Tai Chi can regulate the immune response.10 In turn, it’ll be easier to tackle stressful times with ease.
6. Reduces Chronic Pain
Stress is known for causing body aches and pains, proving how it can affect more than the brain.11 Sometimes, stress can be the reason behind painful conditions like arthritis! However, with Tai Chi, you can control chronic pain.
7. Relieves Headaches
Sometimes, life can be a literal headache. This is also the most common type of pain, affecting almost 50 percent of the adult population at least once within the last year.14 15 And while you can always pop an ibuprofen, the benefits of Tai Chi will work just as well.
Are you new to Tai Chi? Don’t feel intimidated, because a light and easy practice is all you need. To start, check out beginner videos online.
|↑1||Tai Chi. U.S. National Library of Medicine.|
|↑2||Boiten, Frans A., Nico H. Frijda, and Cornelis JE Wientjes. “Emotions and respiratory patterns: review and critical analysis.” International Journal of Psychophysiology 17, no. 2 (1994): 103-128.|
|↑3||Breathing to reduce stress. BetterHealth Channel, Victoria State Government.|
|↑4||Haug, Tone Tangen, Arnstein Mykletun, and Alv A. Dahl. “The prevalence of nausea in the community: psychological, social and somatic factors.” General hospital psychiatry 24, no. 2 (2002): 81-86.|
|↑5||Hamasaki, Hidetaka. “Exercise and gut microbiota: clinical implications for the feasibility of Tai Chi.” Journal of integrative medicine 15, no. 4 (2017): 270-281.|
|↑6, ↑8||Cohen, Sheldon, Denise Janicki-Deverts, William J. Doyle, Gregory E. Miller, Ellen Frank, Bruce S. Rabin, and Ronald B. Turner. “Chronic stress, glucocorticoid receptor resistance, inflammation, and disease risk.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, no. 16 (2012): 5995-5999.|
|↑7||Hamasaki, Hidetaka. “Exercise and gut microbiota: clinical implications for the feasibility of Tai Chi.” Journal of integrative medicine 15, no. 4 (2017): 270-281.|
|↑9||Padgett, David A., and Ronald Glaser. “How stress influences the immune response.” Trends in immunology 24, no. 8 (2003): 444-448.|
|↑10||Morgan, Nani, Michael R. Irwin, Mei Chung, and Chenchen Wang. “The effects of mind-body therapies on the immune system: meta-analysis.” PLoS One 9, no. 7 (2014): e100903.|
|↑11||Stress and your health. WomensHealth.gov, Office on Women’s Health.|
|↑12||Hall, Amanda M., Chris G. Maher, Jane Latimer, Manuela L. Ferreira, and Paul Lam. “A randomized controlled trial of tai chi for long-term low back pain (TAI CHI): study rationale, design, and methods.” BMC musculoskeletal disorders 10, no. 1 (2009): 55.|
|↑13||Lauche, Romy, Christoph Stumpe, Johannes Fehr, Holger Cramer, Ying Wu Cheng, Peter M. Wayne, Thomas Rampp, Jost Langhorst, and Gustav Dobos. “The Effects of Tai Chi and Neck Exercises in the Treatment of Chronic Nonspecific Neck Pain: A Randomized Controlled Trial.” The Journal of Pain 17, no. 9 (2016): 1013-1027.|
|↑14||Headaches: In Depth. National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.|
|↑15||Headache disorders. World Health Organization.|