Taiji and Qigong are systems that integrate physical movements, breathing techniques, and imagination or mental intentions. When done properly they create an awareness of our being not found in traditional forms of exercise. The slow, gentle, rhythmic movements with smooth transitions create an internal space for relieving the everyday tensions associated with stress.
Stress can come from many sources: preparing for the holidays, working longer hours, life changes, fighting traffic, dealing with changing technology, financial issues, setting unrealistic expectations for ourselves, etc. These are common sources of stress, but all sources tend to become highly individual; what may cause one person stress or anxiety may not affect another person at all. Stress manifests itself in our bodies and emotional state of mind in a variety of ways: headaches, back pain, hypertension, stomach aliments, heart disease, anger, insomnia, poor work performance, relationship issues, etc. Each of us responds differently to stress due to our conditioning and genetic makeup.
By practicing Taiji and Qigong, we can learn to stay calm, balanced, flexible, and alert. By becoming proactive in our stress management, we can use these learned behaviors when dealing with stressful situations. Managing stress and developing our coping skills allows us to react to stressful situations in a manner that allows for growth and learning and to benefit from change rather than suffer from it.
Qigong teaches us to become self-aware, which leads to a developed understanding of what triggers our stress alarms. We learn to take stock of ourselves internally. Perform a body scan and gauge our energy level. Perform sensory cross training, that is, self adjust: focus on our breathing, change our posture, become aware of our environment, both inside and outside. Learn to identify where tension exists in one part of the body, and then release it, even in traffic or at work. We can develop the tools to disconnect from the sources of stress and reconnect with ourselves in a balanced manner. Reconnecting with our internal selves allows us to reconnect with our friends, family, and co-workers and further reduce the effects of stress. Taiji and Qigong enable us to cull a flexible state of mind, through the combination of slow movements, breathing, and mental concentration.
By managing our mental focus developed through regular practice, we can reduce our health risk and minimize the need for medical intervention. Taiji and Qigong allow us to develop this by creating within ourselves the patterns of emotional and mental behaviors or conditions to enable better responses to stress and to live healthier lives. The gentle and rhythmic movements establish an internal retreat where we can reduce stress, increase concentration and reap the physical benefits. Through practice, we can learn to physically and mentally build upon successes that lead to managing stressful situations. We can learn to choose our responses to stressful situations: to stand or yield, but always maintaining our center. By managing our responses, we manage our stress and prevent things from getting in our way.
The benefits of practice are varied, however, everyone can benefit from Taiji and Qigong, regardless of age, circumstance or belief system. Because these are low impact, there are minimal stress on joints and muscles. At the same time, they can lead to improved balance and mobility, especially with sedentary jobs or life styles. Regular practice can increase flexibility, energy, and overall well-being.
We should not wait until health issues appear and then take action. Instead, we should invest the time and energy to develop practices that promote a healthy life style. These are low-risk activities with many benefits.