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Maintaining Mental Health Through Tai Chi

Tai Chi is the Chinese martial art that comprises slow, meditative movements and incorporates mindfulness. It has been practiced for centuries in Eastern countries and is becoming more popular in the West. Many people who practice Tai Chi report numerous benefits, but what exactly do you gain from maintaining a regular Tai Chi regimen?

Firstly, Tai Chi offers a gentle and relatively easy form of exercise. Exercise has long been associated with positive mental health benefits, with the release of endorphins that occurs giving our emotional and psychological system a boost. Tai Chi is a low impact exercise that is suitable for a wide range of participants, even those who may find more strenuous exercise too difficult. Tai Chi helps to maintain stamina and muscle tone with steady, rhythmic movements. It improves posture by encouraging an upright and balanced stance, and it fosters a healthy respiratory system with the emphasis on regulating the breath. In all of these respects, Tai Chi is an effective way of maintaining good mental health simply for the exercise benefit.

Tai Chi also confers extra benefits, though, in that it offers a more holistic way of balancing our emotional and physical well-being than exercise alone. Tai Chi includes meditation and mindfulness. These two things are becoming increasingly recognized as playing an important role in the regulation and maintenance of our overall mind-body health. Mindfulness is about staying in the moment, observing what is going on in the body, in the mind, in the emotions, but distancing yourself from these phenomena, not becoming caught up in them. In this sense, it helps us to manage our mental health by allowing us to reflect upon things we are experiencing without letting this overwhelm us. Mindfulness is used in many ways to assist people to manage long term mental and physical health difficulties.

A further way in which Tai Chi can promote positive mental health concerns its holistic approach to overall well-being. Tai Chi practitioners talk about the concept of ‘Qi’ or ‘Chi’. This is a complex concept, but to simplify it means ‘life energy’ or ‘life force’. Qi can be seen to comprise of the yin and the yang, both positive and negative energies which are seen to run through the body, mind and spirit. If these energies are out of balance, then we suffer, either physically, emotionally or spiritually. Tai Chi is one of the ways to balance our Qi, and thus to promote positive mental, physical and spiritual health.

If you are looking for a form of exercise that will be of benefit not only to your physical health, but also offers a more holistic way of managing mind-body-spirit well-being, then Tai Chi is a good choice.


 

Nina Bradshaw is a professionally qualified social worker and therapist in the UK, where she has thirteen years of experience in the mental health field. She is also in recovery from addiction which gives her a unique perspective on the area of mental health and substance misuse.


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