Movement

The health benefits of tai chi and qi gong

Movement

The health benefits of tai chi and qi gong

The mind-body practices of tai chi and qi gong have numerous health benefits. Cate Morrill, CTCI, a tai chi and qi gong instructor at Cancer Wellness, shares the physical, emotional and mental benefits you can experience from these low-impact, low-to-moderate intensity movements, regardless of your current fitness level.

Tai chi physical benefits

Tai chi’s gentle movements have been shown to improve:

  • Balance and fall prevention

  • Blood glucose levels

  • Blood circulation

  • Blood pressure

  • Bone strength

  • Cardiac function

  • Flexibility

  • Function in arthritic joints

  • Immune function

  • Lymphatic fluid circulation

  • Metabolic syndrome

  • Muscle strength

  • Pain from some chronic conditions

  • Posture

  • Range of motion after surgery

  • Respiration (breathing)

Qi gong physical benefits

Qi gong can be tailored to focus on a specific need each time you practice.

“For example, if I wake up with back pain and tightness, I can select a qi gong move that opens and stretches the muscles in the back to decrease tightness and tension,” says Morrill. “If any part of the body needs relief, there is a specific move that can help work on that body part.”

Qi gong offers the following benefits as well as many of the tai chi benefits listed above:

  • Builds strength in the muscles

  • Enhances concentration and deep breathing, which allows more benefits from the movements

  • Encourages cardiovascular and respiratory fitness

  • Stimulates the lymph system, which can help with lymphedema

Mental and emotional benefits of tai chi and qi gong

According to many studies, the benefits of qi gong and tai chi include:

  • Better sleep

  • Improved mood

  • Increased physical energy

  • More complete rest

  • More clarity and focus

  • Reduced depression, stress and anxiety

“Tai chi provides a series of movements that helps you leave the tension behind and focus on the flow of one movement into another,” explains Morrill. “It is said that you cannot make a grocery list while you are practicing tai chi, so it creates the benefits of brief meditation.”

She adds, “Qi gong provides these benefits and allows you to focus on an individual trial. It uses the techniques of breath, movement and exhalations to let go of a stressful concept or situation. While qi gong is helpful for specific or individual situations, it can also be applied to general stress reduction.”

Mind-body practices for cancer survivors

If you have experienced cancer treatment, you might have been told to expect a “new normal.” Morrill says the goal of her tai chi and qi gong classes is to help students thrive in their new normal and even return to their previous normal as closely as they can, or to create their own version of their “new normal”.

“When we see the people come in and if they feel like they’ve been beaten down, we wish to give them the knowledge and practices that can help them turn that around. They say, ‘I might have been there, but now I see where I can be,’” says Morrill. “That makes every day a special day for me as an instructor. Not only does it give them light at the end of the tunnel, it illuminates their path.”

After just a few classes, Morrill says many students tell her, “I can’t believe how much better I feel.”

“Any amount of improvement is encouraging and leads to more improvement,” she says. “The joy that comes from recognizing we are ‘back,’ that we have regained some of the control over our own bodies, creates the desire to move more. It’s an upward spiral as opposed to what we may have considered a downward spiral with some of our cancer treatments or experiences.”

Morrill reminds students in her classes that, “Doing too much is as bad as doing too little. A small step in the right direction followed by another and another can get you there.”

New to the practice? Learn the difference between tai chi and qi gong.

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