It is so rewarding to see a well-respected and prestigious medical facility like the Mayo Clinic endorse a form of exercise I have advocated for years. As a body worker, I am also impressed by how Tai chi makes you use the legs and hips for motion and strength. When one attempts the Tai chi form, the legs must be used in unison to gently move the muscular energy from one leg to the other. In Tai chi, correct form calls for a balance between both legs at once to provide strength and balance. This is why it is useful as a defensive martial art form–because it allows one to use strength to defend rather than attack. In this article, the Mayo Clinic is advocating Tai Chi for stress relief:

“Tai chi: Discover the many possible health benefits

The ancient art of Tai chi uses gentle flowing movements to reduce the stress of today’s busy lifestyles and improve health. Find out how to get started.

By Mayo Clinic staff

If you’re looking for another way to reduce stress, consider Tai chi (TIE-chee). Tai chi is sometimes described as “meditation in motion” because it promotes serenity through gentle movements — connecting the mind and body. Originally developed in ancient China for self-defense, Tai chi evolved into a graceful form of exercise that’s now used for stress reduction and to help with a variety of other health conditions.

Understanding Tai chi

Tai chi, also called Tai chi chuan, is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. To do Tai chi, you perform a series of postures or movements in a slow, graceful manner. Each posture flows into the next without pause, ensuring that your body is in constant motion.

Tai chi has many different styles, such as yang and wu. Each style may have its own subtle emphasis on various Tai chi principles and methods. There are also variations within each style. Some may focus on health maintenance, while others focus on the martial arts aspect of Tai chi.

The result of all this variation is that there are more than 100 possible movements and positions with Tai chi, many of which are named for animals or nature. Regardless of the variation, all forms of Tai chi include rhythmic patterns of movement that are coordinated with breathing to help you achieve a sense of inner calm. The concentration required for Tai chi forces you to live in the present moment, putting aside distressing thoughts.”

In my practice, I use the art of Tai chi to help my clients with stress relief and also back, spine, and other forms of chronic pain.  I have learned that Tai chi helps relieve back pain. In the Western cultures, we tend to overuse our backs instead of involving our whole bodies.  When one is practicing using balance and gentle motion, mainly from the legs, these movements will re-train the nervous system to use the legs rather than overuse the spine.

In fact, as I teach my class, I include demonstrations for use of the Tai chi forms as people attend to their daily chores.

When most people vacuum their homes, they put all of the pressure and movement on their spines, but if they think about what they are doing, they can modify those movements to use the strength in their legs.  As you rake in the yard, do so with your legs and hips, not the erector spinae, which were designed for other things. It also reconnects one to the inner thighs. Many women have worn high heels which, in time, disconnect one from one’s pelvis, weakening the inner thigh muscles and the quadriceps. Because wearing high heels also tips the pelvis forward, the psoas is shortened. Years of wearing high heels will act like a house of cards; inevitably the person is on the ground wondering how to get up.

I love the energy aspects of Tai chi, and I agree that it is meditation in motion. But it is so much more. It moves the lymph, which floats just under the skin. The lymphatic system is related to the immune system. Our bodies have hundreds of systems linked together. As we improve the flow of energy, and relieve stress on one system, it can also improve the energy and flow to other systems. That is part of the beauty of Tai chi movement: it involves all areas of the body and, therefore, over time strengthens and brings energy to all of the body and to the mind, as well.


Valentina Boonstra

LMT, Tai chi, Elder Care Giver

About Brevard Massage

I have been a personal trainer and massage therapist for many years now. My specialty is getting people moving again. I have learned through the years that preventing injuries is as important as relieving pain after an injury. To that end, I have also learned Yoga, Tai Chi, Qi Gong and Pilates.