Benefits of Tai Chi
As a single mom who runs my own business, “busy” is a way of life. But a few years ago, when my youngest got her driver’s license making her more self-sufficient and my doctor started mentioning real concerns about how the constant stress of “busy” was affecting my health, I knew I needed to make changes. I had read about the benefits of tai chi on stress and busy lifestyles and decided to give it a try.
During the first few classes at TAMA, I began to realize that I had forgotten how to breathe. Of course, I was alive, so I was doing some sort of breathing, but it was all shallow breathing, which generates physiological stress responses leading to more shallow breathing. The more I breathed deeply in class, the more I began to find calm in my evenings, which led to better sleep, which gave me more energy the next day.
The next thing I began to realize was that tense was my natural state. I didn’t know how to relax. And forcing yourself to relax doesn’t really work. During each tai chi class, we take time to simply walk, being mindful of how we reach out, how we shift our weight, how we step up. The more I was able to pay attention to each motion, the more I found my shoulders beginning to relax. And the more my shoulders began to relax, the more I could relax my back, my jaw, my forehead, my feet.
Unlike other fitness programs, I also began to see that the things I was learning – breathing and relaxing – could be done anywhere at any time. Standing in line at the grocery store. Waiting for take-off on the runway during a thunderstorm. Participating in a conference call. Stuck in traffic on my way to my daughter’s soccer match.
I began learning the Tien Shan Pai tai chi form. Simple movements done slowly and repeated were building my muscle and my sense of how I held my body in space. I began to lift my head up, to straighten my back, to open my shoulders and to ground my feet. In addition to feeling good to my tight, stiff muscles, these movements were improving my posture. And improved posture was improving my attitude and the way people perceived me when I showed up – at work, for my daughters, in the community.
The Tien Shan Pai tai chi form also reconnected me to my balance. As my balance in class improved, I found I was able to move with more confidence and energy, especially in large groups or on slippery sidewalks in inclement weather.
Learning how the movements of the Tien Shan Pai tai chi form were practical applications to self-defense, I found myself able to enjoy travel more. Since I frequently travel alone, being aware that simple movements I was doing every day could be helpful in an emergency gave me the confidence to explore more and more often.
It’s been three years since I started tai chi, and I can honestly say it has been instrumental in changing my “busy” lifestyle of stress and anxiety to a “busy” lifestyle filled with confidence and joy. If you’re struggling with stress and the “busy” ness of life, consider giving tai chi a try and reap the benefits of tai chi.
By Monica M. Schultz