If we could design the perfect exercise, what would it look like? First, it would be strenuous but not painful. We would get the strength, fitness and cardiovascular benefits without the wear and tear. Second, it would soothe our tired brains. There’s already too much stress in the world; we don’t need more from our workouts. And finally, it would be something we love to do, energizing mind and body.
Imagine a workout so appealing that given the choice between exercise and a slice of cherry cheesecake, the exercise has a fighting chance.
Tai Chi and Qigong are ancient exercises for modern living. Most importantly, they meet all our requirements—boosting fitness, preserving heart health, calming our busy minds and providing more energy than they consume. In addition, they can help improve balance, strength, immunity and more.
Tai Chi is sometimes described as “meditation in motion” yet an article in Harvard Health Publications noted it could also be called “medication in motion.” According to the article, “there is growing evidence that this mind-body practice … has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren’t in top shape or the best of health.”
In Tai Chi, practitioners move in dance-line poses, mindfully, focusing on their breath and graceful movements.
Qigong, which translated means “to cultivate or enhance the inherent functional (energetic) essence of the human being,” is similar. Older than Tai Chi, there are thousands of forms of Qigong and some of them were designed for general health enhancement purposes. The NIH notes that Qigong “yields more than a dozen forms that have been studied as they relate to health outcomes.”
Unlike the gym, where we strive to progress to heavier weights, in Tai Chi and Qigong you progress by moving deeper into a relaxed, breath-centered routine.
Mindful breathing benefits us even on a microscopic level. Mitochondria, our cellular power plants, rely on oxygen to thrive. Fueled by a steady oxygen supply, mitochondria generate more energy. Most importantly, these benefits make exercise desirable. Our bodies become reliant on the energy we receive from the practice. Pretty soon, we’re rearranging our schedule to get in more time for practice.
You can start practicing Tai Chi or Qigong at home today!
Click here for a short video on Tai Chi for beginners. In addition, you might want to check your local community bulletin to find classes. It might be easier than you think since interest in these time honored practices is skyrocketing.
And with good reason!