Tai Chi and Stress

Use Tai Chi to Face Change and Stressful Challenges

Apr 1, 2016


Tai Chi: The Martial Art to Face Life's Challenges

Tai Chitranslates to the “Supreme Ultimate,” which recognizes the supreme potential (Tai) we are all born with to be able to overcome the ultimate stressful challenges (Chi) we face in life.

The Yang style Tai Chi form is performed very slowly and gracefully, with the intent to be able to move like slowly floating clouds over an ocean, a mountain, or any place you can imagine. Why? The reason for performing these martial arts movements very methodically is to heighten an individual’s awareness of the incessant energy of change.  As you may know “change” can be stressful, whether it’s the change of the seasons or the changes, or should I say challenges, we encounter at work or at home. 

So, to better deal with the energy of stressful change, the “dance” of Tai Chi is the practice of learning how to face change with greater physical and emotional control to be better able to confront life's challenges.

To empower your ability to dance with the energy of change, here are four Tai Chi principles that are very simple, yet profoundly powerful, that you can utilize if you are seeking natural ways to manage stress during any and all stressful situations.

  1. Properly position your body for the situation you’re faced with because form facilitates function. This position should facilitate function and reduce tension. Think of this as a martial artist’s ready position no matter what position you need to assume. For example, this principle can be done sitting at your desk right now. You should not be excessively slouched over or sitting completely straight, tense, and upright.
  2. Use deep breathing to counteract, or what I prefer to say is compliment the “fight or flight response” and facilitate a more “relaxed and ready” state of being that’s necessary to face and embrace the challenge at hand. To note, the fight or flight response has its purpose in martial arts and in life. The goal is to learn how to “dance” between the two extremes and use the power of the breath to complement our primal self-defense reactions.  
  3. Another way to complement our primal self-dense reactions is to consciously (mind-body connection) relax the muscles you don’t need (another note: you have over 600 muscles) when you assume a more properly positioned body for the activity you’re engaged in. This newfound relaxed-ready state of being can enhance your ability to move with greater patience, poise, and power. This, along with all of the other techniques, can be used anytime (e.g. whether you’re driving your car, talking on the phone, speaking in front of a group, taking a walk, riding a bicycle, or even swinging a golf club).
  4. Now for the most important principle. Stay focused on the present moment with your properly positioned body, deep breathing and a relaxed state of readiness. Don’t let negative self-talk dissuade you from your intended goal or increase your emotional stress and/or physical tension. It’s within the present moment you can practice acceptance of the challenge, gratitude for the opportunity to move through and "dance" with the challenge, and ultimately be able to realize and appreciate your unique and supreme potential!

In hopes of helping you live-well,

John Burns DPT, MSOM, Dipl-Ac