Tai Chi Exercises for Reducing Stress and Improving Sleep

Tai chi

Tai chi is believed to be at least 1,500 years old and possibly much older. There is also some debate as to its creator, although many people credit a Taoist monk named Zhang San Feng. What is not debatable is the effect that this Chinese martial art can have on those who practice it.

What Is Tai Chi?

Tai chi is a martial art that consists of slow, focused movements. Attention is drawn to the movements' precision and execution. Deep, controlled breathing is also an integral part of this exercise. Maintaining focus on these two things, movement and breathing, helps clear one's mind of outside stresses to achieve a meditative state of mind. Some refer to it as meditation in motion for this reason.

Benefits of Tai Chi

Tai chi has been linked to many health benefits. It is used to promote overall good health and recovery from injuries, and it has also been used to help seniors improve their balance and strength so they can better avoid dangerous falls.

Reduces Stress

The slow pace of tai chi forces the practitioner to take a break from the metaphorical "rat race" and focus only on the prescribed movements and their breathing. This can help to release pent-up stress and tension and relax the mind. The controlled nature of the movements also counteracts the "out of control" feelings that can come from a stressful day. While stress is unpleasant, it can also be bad for your health. Stress has been linked to a large number of illnesses, including depression, anxiety, insomnia, and even physical ailments such as hyperglycemia (high blood sugar).

Improves Mood

The world can be a competitive place, but tai chi is a noncompetitive activity that one can participate in either alone or in a group. This means that practitioners focus solely on what they are doing, without worrying about what others are doing. Focusing only on the self induces relaxation and naturally elevates mood. Evidence has been accumulating that shows that tai chi can also help people to regulate their emotions. Some research has even found that tai chi is effective as a tool to help manage depression and anxiety.

Improves Sleep

Tai chi has also been shown to help improve sleep in those who practice it. The ability to get a full and restful night's sleep is crucial to maintaining a positive mental outlook, and it's also key to good overall health. A chronic lack of sleep has been linked to the development of a variety of chronic illnesses, including obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. Inadequate sleep can also cause an increase in psychological stress. But it's well-documented that even low-impact physical activity has a positive effect on sleep quality. Research on tai chi specifically has found significant improvements in sleep quality in healthy adults as well as those suffering from chronic diseases. Tai chi may even be used as an alternative to or alongside behavioral therapy in the treatment of insomnia.

Additional Readings on Tai Chi