What are Tai Chi and Qi Gong?
Tai Chi is often described as meditation in motion. This is because it promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements. Consequently, it helps reduce tension and anxiety. It is a non-competitive, self-paced system of mindful movement.
The practice has evolved from it’s origins as a martial art into a graceful form of exercise. In addition, we use it today to relieve stress and to improve a variety of health conditions. Participants perform a series of movements in a slow, focused manner. The movements are accompanied by deep, slow breathing. Each posture flows into the next and the body is constantly moving. The slow, flowing movement and body awareness brings focus. It also helps to combat tension.
Qi Gong is an internal practice which underlies the execution of Tai Chi, that is to say the mind leads the body. Although there are Qi Gong forms or exercises, it is more about repairing than building on more. It is slow, soft, steady, stable, and silent, which has a calming effect on tension and anxiety. The intention is to use as little force as possible and remove restrictions and impingements. In summary, Qi Gong is “rest and digest”.
Our autonomic nervous system has two sets of nerves which dealt with stress in different ways. The sympathetic nervous system (SNS) is simply expressed as “Fight or Flight”, the parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) as “Rest and Digest.” They both react to what is taking place outside ourselves and with our internal mental state at the time. We need to remove our self from stressful environments periodically. In this way, the body can rest and digest.
Qigong is extremely beneficial to the body and mind. When you slow down to the length of a deep breath and link it to the gestures, it triggers the body’s relaxation response. Typically, the sympathetic nervous system responds to stress by fight, flight, or freeze. Instead, Qigong releases parasympathetic hormones. This means that heart rate and blood pressure decrease. In turn, the mind becomes calm, and mental focus improves. Engaging the somatosensory cortex, you are aware of what your body is doing, in movement or stillness, and how you feel within your body. You stop being busy and worrying about the past or future. You are also less likely to catastrophize or ruminate.
Tai Chi & Qi Gong for stress
Dr. Roger Jahnke is a doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine and author of ‘The Healer Within’. Dr Jahnke says “The body loves Qigong ….. you can’t help but feel calmer, given your relaxed yet alert posture, abdominal breathing, and mindful attention”.
There are many different styles of Tai Chi and Qi Gong which can help relieve stress. There are variations within each style. Each style may subtly emphasize different principles and methods. At Movement In Mind, we focus our wellbeing programme on health maintenance and the wellbeing benefits that come from connecting mind and body.
Certainly, as part of an overall approach to improving your health, Tai Chi and Qi Gong offer many benefits. Above all, with regular practice it offers a gentle way to fight stress, anxiety and depression and lift the mood. Some participants report that the quality of their sleep is enhanced.