In almost every park in China at certain times of the day, you will find people engaging in Tai chi or Qi Gong. It looks like a slow motion dance with people focused on creating perfect forms and shapes out of their body. However, it is not the body alone that benefits from these practices. Both Tai chi and Qi Gong have been shown in Chinese studies to improve wellbeing and to improve symptoms of anxiety.
Tai chi and Anxiety
Tai chi is an ancient art practiced in the Far East and is a popular form of exercise for young and old alike. It involves deep concentration and focus on the breath as you go through a series of graceful postures designed to improve your mood and have the utmost control over your body. It is usually done over a 30 minute to 1-hour period of time. Those who practice it feel stronger, more mentally alert, and in control of negative emotions equated with anxiety.
Tai chi is a non-competitive sort of sport that can be practiced anywhere, as it requires little space and no special equipment. Each motion of the body flows into the next motion so that it looks like a choreographed dance.
It is a low impact form of aerobic exercise that strengthens the body, improves physical balance, and calms the mind. It is a great activity for older adults because of its low impact nature. There is no equipment necessary to do Tai chi and you can do it in the comfort of your own home or in a group setting, indoors or outdoors.
The benefits of doing Tai chi include the following:
• You have greater aerobic potential
• Stress and anxiety are relieved
• You can have more energy and an improved degree of stamina
• Your muscles will be more flexible
• You will have better agility and balance
• You tend to sleep better
• Your immune system can be enhanced
• It is good for the heart, including lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels
• It improves well-being
• It reduces fall risk in older persons
Qi Gong And Anxiety
Qi Gong also developed in the Far East, and is widely used in China. It is designed to improve the flow of qi/chi within the body, balancing out both body and mind. It is based on the principle that the heart is the source of most of our anxieties, rather than the brain. Qi Gong can help you by unblocking the pathways of qi to the heart so you feel fewer anxiety-related chest pain, palpitations, and shortness of breath.
In qi dong, the anxious individual sits or lies down with a practitioner doing some of the qi work. The practitioner directs the flow of qi so that it is freely flowing to the heart center. There are breathing exercises and repetitive motion exercises that are used between major qi-changing events to keep things balanced between sessions. Like meditation, the practitioner emphasizes to the patient that it is a good idea to always stay in the present time.
People who practice Qi Gong at home are encouraged to focus on the breath and to imagine that energy is directed at keeping the qi going. The regular practice of these techniques can improve anxiety and can encourage you to feel better about other areas of your life as well. The techniques can occur inside the body and outside the body so that the combination directs the flow of qi to the heart, relieving anxiety.
Qi Gong can be learned through the internet, DVDs or by experienced practitioners of this ancient Chinese practice. As you get better and better at using these techniques by yourself, you will have a lesser need for an instructor or practitioner to help you balance your qi and relieve anxiety.