I have been practicing Tai Chi for over 20 years and I believe it is one of the ultimate acts of mindfulness. It connects me with my body and breath and instantly brings me into the present moment. I practice it everyday and I’m sure without it I would be far more reactive to stress, more fatigued and less energetic.
Tai Chi has been practiced for thousands of years as a complete health system. It follows Traditional Chinese Medicine principles and works in harmony with the bodies natural flow of energy. Modern scientific studies have revealed the many health benefits of Tai Chi and it’s profound physiological effects on the body and mind.
There are so many great reasons both physiologically and psychologically to practice Tai Chi but here are just 8 of them:
1) HIGHER COGNITIVE FUNCTION- Various Tai Chi movements incorporate ‘whole brain thinking’ using both left and right hemispheres as well as the prefrontal cortex. This region of the brain is responsible for higher cognitive functions such as problem solving, mental imagery, decision-making and motivation.
2) BOOST MEMORY and INCREASE BRAIN SIZE- In a recent randomised controlled trial from the University of South Florida and Shanghai revealed that participants practicing Tai Chi three times per week showed a significant size in brain volume and marked improvement in cognitive ability and memory.(1)
3) INCREASE MENTAL ALERTNESS and FOCUS- Regular Tai Chi practice has been shown to improve the ability to stay focussed on particular tasks and studies have shown that it can increase mental alertness and clarity. This translates to operating efficiently and higher productivity.
4) DECREASE STRESS- It is a well-known fact that Taichi has been adopted in the West to manage modern day stress. Tai Chi practice helps the body’s ability to cope with stress by shifting the focus from the sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) to the parasympathetic nervous system (rest and digest). This enables the body to restore and become more resilient and less reactive to stressful situations.
5) STAY SUPPLE AND FLEXIBLE- Tai Chi movements are gentle on the body and are low impact on all the joints. In fact, Tai Chi movements work the body from the skeletal system outwards, they strengthen the bones, ligaments, tendons and muscles of all the major joints of the body. Therefore, regular Tai Chi practice increases range of motion in joints and improves flexibility in muscle fibres.
6) AIDS THE FUNCTION OF ALL BODY SYSTEMS- You name think of all the systems of the body and Tai Chi can play a role in improving the function of all of these. Tai Chi promotes the natural flow of body fluids, blood and oxygen to all parts of the body thus aiding the digestive system, circulatory system, respiratory system, nervous system and the musculoskeletal system.
7) INCREASE BALANCE AND PROPRIOCEPTION- Many studies have revealed that Tai Chi helps with balance, visual-spatial awareness and proprioception. Proprioception — is the ability to sense the position of one’s body in space — and this naturally declines with age. Tai chi helps train this sense, which is a function of sensory neurons in the inner ear and stretch receptors in the muscles and ligaments. (2) For this reason Tai Chi has been used very effectively in hospitals and clinics as a medical intervention for prevention of falls.
8) INCREASE BONE DENSITY- Many of the Tai Chi movements are based on body weight transfer and load bearing exercises. This type of exercise promotes bone density growth and therefore decreases the risk of osteoporosis onset.
Mindfulmooves- Founder and Director
(1). James A. Mortimer, Ding Ding, Amy R. Borenstein, Charles DeCarli, Qihao Guo, Yougui Wu, Qianhua Zhao, Shugang Chu. Changes in Brain Volume and Cognition in a Randomized Trial of Exercise and Social Interaction in a Community-Based Sample of Non-Demented Chinese Elders, Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2012; 30 (4).
(2) Harvard Health Publication. The Health Benefits of Taichi. May 1st, 2009. www.health.harvard.edu