Daily stress will always be present in life; it’s the way stress is handled that makes the difference in how one feels. Learning better ways to deal more effectively with stress is essential, or else it can “get the best of you”. This happens in the form of extreme fatigue, high cortisol levels, lowered immune function, high blood pressure, headaches, depression, or chronic state of anxiety. These conditions are preventable through behavior modification and holistic lifestyle strategies – both designed to counteract the negative effects of stress on the body.
Chinese medicine traditions offers a highly effective approach to stress management - Taiji is one such method. It is known as an art of self-healing and fitness taught as a martial art for centuries – but today, practiced more to reduce stress and preserve health. It is a set of graceful, flowing movements and postures that are like a simple dance, one designed to invigorate Qi and Blood flow throughout the body.
Taiji is derived from two Chinese characters. The first, tai means grand or ultimate and the qi (chi) refers to our vital energy, life force or breath. It is the energy that pulses through all living things, the force that passes between loved ones, or the spark that allows one to turn a good deed into action. Sometimes translated as “the vapor of finest matter,” the Chinese character for Qi represents the steam that rises from a grain of cooking rice, symbolizing distilled essence. Taiji thus means the grand, ultimate energy - the force that animates every living being.
As a self-healing art, blockages of Qi are opened through physical movements, infused with energetic undertones. Through concentrating the mind on particular energetic centers, one’s mind and body become integrated – while spirit is nurtured. When vital energy and life essence is strengthened through Taiji in this way, stress is deal-able and healthful longevity is imminent.
Taiji exercise is one of the most effective methods for stress relief. Enthusiasts have found it to be effective for retarding the aging process and warding off degenerative disease. Physical benefits of daily practice include reduced heart rate, decreased cortisol, lowered blood pressure, balanced heart rate, increased oxygen to the lungs, and relaxed muscles. It also creates a more efficient, regulated, and full method of breathing – traditionally known as dantian breathing. This activates more effective functioning of the lymphatic system. The combination of all of these benefits to the physical body triggers a relaxation response throughout the entire body.
Taiji practice also contributes to stress relief by activating the parasympathetic nervous system; versus a perpetual “fight or flight response” leading to over-activation of the sympathetic nervous system. Today with the high level of work, family and financial stress many are in an unfortunate state of heightened awareness, whereby adrenaline is pulsating throughout the body. Fortunately, the daily practice of Taiji is an effective panacea, a way to create a much needed parasympathetic shift toward peace and calm throughout the mind, body and spirit.
The following recommendations can be combined with Taiji practice for added stress relief:
Taiji practice helps to improve the ability to hold to these goals. Life flows better through this meditative dance, things that led to internal stress no longer have a negative impact. It promotes inner calm and assuredness, strengthening the mind through connection of the body physically and energetically. Practice Taiji daily for at least 30 minutes a day for best results – however any practice is better than none at all. The more one practices, the more one wants to practice. The stress relief and renewed energy leads to an overall sense of well-being and peace of mind – there is no better way to take charge of stress in life than Taiji.