The Incredible Health Benefits of Practicing Tai Chi

Greg Burzynski originally published this post on LinkedIn.


Tai Chi Chuan means “Supreme Ultimate Fist,” a name that harkens back to arts roots as a combat system. Over time, Tai Chi evolved into a meditative art designed more for health and fitness. The Yang 24 form, a shortened version of the traditional kata, was developed more for physical fitness than combative application. Today, people practice the breathing exercises, forms, and drills of Tai Chi as part of a low-impact exercise program. A lot is said in general about the health benefits of Tai Chi, so let’s take a look at the specific ones.

Improved Balance

Performance of Tai Chi movements assists with developing better balance. At first assessment, the connection between improved balance and health enhancements fails to be obvious. Closer inspection reveals improved balance can reduce the chances of suffering an errant fall, the impact of which can cause serious injury. Anything that cuts down on the chances of a fall can be called beneficial.

A Sense of Calmness

Stress reduction remains a major reason why people undertake the practice of Tai Chi. The slow, peaceful movements are performed in conjunction with deep breathing allowing the practitioner to take part in a form of moving meditation. People deal with all different sources of stress, which can be overwhelming, and without an outlet for the stress, a person’s disposition doesn’t exactly become pleasant. Tai Chi serves as a nice, calming outlet for stress.

Weight Loss

Tai Chi definitely does not fall under the category of high-impact aerobics. Those looking to shed significant weight shouldn’t look to Tai Chi as their primary form of exercise. That being said, Tai Chi does involve movement and physical activity helps with burning calories. The addition of Tai Chi into a standard weight loss program certainly wouldn’t hurt and likely would lend an assist toward achieving one’s goals.

Improved Flexibility

Tai Chi does bring about the potential to improve flexibility since the circular and flowing movements could enhance range of motion. Improved flexibility can be beneficial to those hoping to reduce strains while increasing their body’s ability to perform daily tasks and is important for everyone, not just athletes.

Set Up a Routine

Accessing the benefits of Tai Chi practice requires consistency. Even as little as ten minutes of forms work every other day could begin to yield some results. Learning a simple routine from a qualified instructor might be all someone needs to get a good foundation in the art’s basics.

Online Therapy

Psychotherapy is a great tool in mental health and is often used to combat the symptoms of depression, anxiety, panic disorder, schizophrenia, and many other mental health issues. However, for some people accessing a therapist just isn’t feasible, whether due to transportation issues, disability, or physical limitations, meaning that traditional therapy likely isn’t an option. Fortunately, there are new ways to access the same care received with talk therapy without even needing to leave your home through online therapy.

A major benefit the American Psychological Association (APA) has seen with online therapy is the comfortability level of being online rather than face to face. Patients, especially young adults, find that sharing their personal thoughts and concerns with a stranger is less intimidating via email, text, and even video calls.

There is still much to be pioneered in the future of online therapy. One of the most recent developments has been the tool named the  Mind Elevator. “A client enters a thought or feeling, hits submit and the tool evaluates that thought or feeling on a colorful scale that is like a big rainbow with sad and happy faces. The tool then provides a sentence of feedback and encourage the person to modify that thought or feeling to make it more positive, less self-critical or less negative or pessimistic. It also keeps track of several successive entries, so it responds to a whole chain of thoughts and feelings, not just the one that was most recently submitted,” as described by Dr. Sherry Benton in her article titled Reducing mental health disparities through online therapy. Artificial intelligence tools such as this can help aid those who are in need when a friend or a therapist isn’t available. They are specifically beneficial to patients with low-intensity needs and high motivation for engagement.

There are a few factors to be cognizant of when beginning your online therapy. In the United States especially, laws regarding psychiatry, psychology, therapy, and counseling differ from state to state. It is important to check the licensing of any “professional” you seek out as it is easy for someone to imitate these types of professionals online. Because of this, many insurance companies do not support this type of mental health care, therefore will not cover the cost. Just like starting at any other doctor’s office, make sure you do the proper research because the benefits you reap from online therapy can be extremely rewarding.

Integrative Medicine in Pediatric Care

Integrative medicine is being practiced more and more regularly as a part of a holistic approach to medicine for adults, and recently it has begun making waves in pediatric care as well. 1 in 10 children receive integrative medicine, and more than 50% of children with a chronic illness partake. As I am not a pediatrician but internal medicine doc, and realize toddlers are not just little people I do respect the opinion of those that have been trained in this tender age group. Most recently our son came down with a cough which lasted a bit longer than a few days, and I was strongly recommended by the many women in our family to take our young son to the urgent care “just to make sure” there was nothing else making him ill given my limitations. I was nicely surprised when the pediatrician recommended tea with honey to relieve a post nasal drip cough which was the final diagnosis. Therefore, it is vital to understand how integrative medicine works and why it can be useful for parents to incorporate it. In order to understand the positive effects, let’s look at some examples.

Massage

Nobody is going to complain about getting a massage, but did you know massages do more for your body than simply make you feel good? Livestrong posted an article about the positive effects of massage therapy. Some of the most common include decreased stress, pain relief, increased circulation, and immune system function. All of these benefits are good for anyone at any age, but starting massage therapy at a young age can increase the benefits as time goes on.

Nutrition

Diet is an important part of everyone’s life, and instilling good diet habits early can set a child up for a healthy, happy life. It is shown that a poor diet has lasting negative consequences in children. This includes both physical and mental troubles, which can range from obesity to depression. Poor nutrition can also correlate to a number of eating disorders down the line, and studies have shown that eating disorders are popping up in younger children all the time. In order to combat diseases down the line, stick to a well-rounded nutritional plan.

Yoga

Exercise is good for everyone, but yoga is a specific type of exercise that incorporates flexibility, strength, and mental focus. The physical benefits of yoga can often be greater in children than in adults, as children are continuing to grow. Furthermore, yoga can be incorporated with meditation to provide an outlet for calm introspection, which children may not naturally have.

Art/Dance/Music

Art and music are some of the most popular forms of self-expression. There are numerous studies about the positive effects in children, at Arts.gov recently there was a published study linking art and music involvement to lower alcohol and marijuana consumption, higher optimism about attending college, and less engagement in delinquency. Dance is also lumped into the arts, and even better it has the added benefit of exercise.

Integrative medicine is a large topic that includes many categories. Not every category is right for every child, but exploring the possibilities can allow you to make the best decision on what is right for your family. At the end of the day, it is crucial to understand and acknowledge that integrative medicine is an important part of life and it is unlikely to go away.

A Look into Mind-Body Medicine

In most Western medical practices, mental health and physical health are viewed as two separate entities; physical health is handled by a primary care physician and mental health is covered by a psychologist or psychiatrist as needed. However, newer practices are pulling from centuries-old beliefs that the health of the mind and the health of the body are more interconnected than we’ve been practicing.

Mens sana in corpore sano.

In ancient Greek times, there was a firm and widely held belief that the mind and body are connected and influence the health of one another. A well-known Latin phrase was developed from this belief: “mens sana in corpore sano” translates to mean “a healthy mind in a healthy body.” In essence, total, holistic wellness is wellness in both your mental and physical health. This duality between mind and body remained the common belief and practice until the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods when they were separated into two different entities. In the 17th century, Rene Descarte described humans as being comprised of two contrasting substances which could not unify with one another; the mind being sentient and able to reason but without substance, and the body with substance but constricted to the physics of earth whereas the mind is not.

Reconnecting the mind and body.

As medical knowledge progressed and our understanding of health deepened, the importance and influence of the mind began to creep its way back into discussions of physical health in the 20th century. They began to study the power that the mind has over the body in the wake of studies on how placebos can affect the body’s ability to control pain.

Mind-body health today.

Today, an entire sector of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) is devoted to researching the connection between mind and body health. The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH) studies the impact that mental, social, emotional, spiritual, and behavioral factors can directly affect a person’s health.

Some mind-body medicine practices from the NCCIH include mindfulness, meditation, tai chi, yoga, deep breathing, massage, and homeopathy. Mind-body practices also promote the use of natural products like herbs, minerals, probiotics, and vitamins.

The designation that mind-body health practices are “alternative medicine” presents a misinforming picture of the power that incorporating these holistic practices in life can have. “Alternative” gives the impression that all typical Western health practices are abandoned when in reality it just expands the scope through with which we view these practices and understand their impact.

How Common are Mental Health Problems?

Mental health problems in the U.S. are more common than you realize; every year over 42 million people in the U.S. suffer from some kind of mental illness such as bipolar disorder, depression or schizophrenia. Other types of mental illness are anxiety disorders, mood disorders, psychotic disorders, eating disorders and personality disorders.

Additional mental health problems include stress response syndromes. Stress response syndromes happen when a person develops emotional or behavioral symptoms when faced with a stressful event or situation. Stress events that cause stress responses are a major illness, a natural disaster like a tornado, death of a loved one, divorce or marriage, or a major move overseas. Those who suffer from these dissociative disorders suffer with severe disturbances or changes in memory or identity.

Keep in mind; there are many things which can cause mental illness such as inherited traits. It probably is no surprise that mental illness is more common in those who have blood relatives who have a mental illness, and genes linking certain conditions are being described frequently. Another factor is exposure to environmental stressors before birth such as alcohol or drugs.  In utero exposure or circumstances can bring about epigenetic changes which will shape one’s life for better or for worse.  Imbalances in neurochemistry or brain chemistry are often biochemical reason or a cause of mental illness.

It’s no surprise, I’m sure especially to the younger generation which carries much school debt that stressful life situations include financial problems and can be an additive factor to one suffering from mental illness.  A childhood with abuse or neglect, and a limited social network can set the stage for mental illness.

There are several effective strategies that can be taken that reduce and in some cases reverse mental illness.  One of these pillars is psychotherapy.  Psychotherapy is when mental illness is treated by a trained mental health professional through counseling discussions. Psychotherapy delves into a person’s feelings, thoughts and behaviors to begin heal or improve a person’s well-being. Medication is also prescribed for some mental illness conditions. Case management is another way to treat mental illness and coordinates services for a person with the help of a case manager which can be likened to a “project manager”.  Hospitalization may be necessary for certain patients given circumstances.  Group therapy through support groups, or peer support also may be beneficial in numerous cases.

Other treatments that you can do for yourself, include treating yourself with respect and kindness, not being overly critical of yourself, making time for hobbies or other relaxation strategies.  Even small things like finding time to read a book or do a crossword puzzle. It can not be emphasized enough how important it is to eat nutritious food, exercise, get enough sleep, and to be surrounded by positive or nurturing people; those who are family-oriented and those who support you with your way of life.  Giving back by volunteering to help others, being mindful and learning how to deal with stress through journal writing or simply looking for the humor in life. Taking a moment to be grateful or just going outside for awhile and appreciating what you see; all are activities that can help treat and prevent certain mental health problems.

To conclude, mental health problems in the U.S. are more common than you realize; however, there are many effective treatment strategies which can mitigate mental illness or ideally prevent.

Understanding Mind Mastery for Complete Mental Health

Today’s society focuses so much on success and material possessions that we often lose sight of our initial goals and aspirations. As a medical professional, I am used to working long hours, rarely taking breaks and pushing myself to extremes.

I’m the first to know the stresses that a busy work life can have on your mental health and overall well-being. This is why I would like to take some time and share with you the importance of re-calibrating your mind and balancing out your life for the better.

What is Mind Mastery?

Mind Mastery is a concept based on tools set in place to help you gain control of your mental state and to achieve personal well-being. This form of elevation stems from our brain and the power that it possesses throughout day-to-day activities. Ferris Jabr of Scientific American talks about the importance of the brain when trying to achieve mind mastery and the importance of slowing down when working in a high paced work environment.

For clarification, mind mastery is not about intelligence or “getting smarter”. It is more about using your brain in a way that brings you peace and tranquility. Those who practice mind mastery learn how to stay both physically and mentally relaxed under pressure while taking on the forces of the world.

An Etymological Map of the Brain

An Etymological Map of the Brain

 

What Can Mind Mastery Do For You?

Whether you are a top executive or serial entrepreneur, mind mastery has many things to offer you. Tania Kotsos author of The Adventure of I talks about the advantages of achieving mind mastery, specifically how to become aware of your “real self”. This idea allows you to re-claim the immeasurable power of your mind, under the direction of your will, which then enables you to say ‘I THINK therefore I AM therefore I WILL’.

In a hectic work environment, this skill is important to obtain because you are the controller of your own thoughts, feelings, and consciousness. We’ve all had moments where we wanted to blow up at work, but the purpose of mind mastery is utilizing the abilities of your mind to get through the day.

By utilizing your mind power at higher degrees of awareness, you wake up from the auto-piloted mode that is behind what appears to be the randomness of your life. In turn, you get to direct your life in ways you’ve never thought was possible.

Philosophy of Yoga

Philosophy of Yoga

Mind Mastery Techniques

Understanding the importance of mind mastery can make or break your success as a business professional. Learning ways to properly align your mind at the end of each work week will relieve stress, promote productivity, and get you back in touch with your passions. Try some of these simple techniques that’ll have you ready to start the work week.

(the following techniques will help you come up with new ideas and charge your mind with natural energy boosters)

  • Frequent meditation
  • Visualizing your goals
  • Yoga
  • 20-minute breaks of physical movement or productive meditation which increase creativity which fosters new ideas
  • Physical Movement
  • Good posture and body language, specifically power posing
  • Going outside for fresh air, and taking deep breaths, specifically 4-8 breathing techniques