Practicing Tai Chi for Depression


If you are managing symptoms of depression vigorous exercise may take more energy than you can muster, but the gentle exercise of tai chi might be doable.

Performing tai chi does not leave people breathless since the movements are slow and deliberate. Yet, the steady motions enhance muscle strength, flexibility, balance, and offer a bit of aerobic conditioning.

About Tai Chi

Tai chi involves completing a set or series of slow-motion movements. Each movement in a series flows seamlessly into the next movement without pause. People breath naturally while going through the tai chi motions, and are attentive to sensations experienced in the body.

The movements of tai chi are smooth, soothing, and unforced so the joints and muscles remain relaxed. Most movements can be adapted to the needs of people with mobility issues.

A series of choreographed movements is called a “form” in tai chi. Short forms are a series of several movements while long forms can involve hundreds. Beginners typically practice basic motions and short tai chi forms.

Joining a class run by an expert might be the best way to start, but you can also learn tai chi via websites, videos, and books.

Tai Chi for Depression

Tai chi may appeal to and benefit people with depression for several reasons:

  1. Though tai chi is frequently practiced in groups, the focus is on individual movement, physical sensations, and the breath—it is non-competitive. Classes and practice groups tend to generate a calming, supportive atmosphere.
  2. Tai chi is appropriate for people of all ages, states of health, body shapes, and fitness levels. It is usually done wearing comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. (Although tai chi is gentle, check with your doctor before starting if you have been sedentary or ill.)
  3. People with depression can have problems sleeping. Practicing tai chi may increase the length of sleep and enhance its quality.
  4. Because tai chi increases awareness of physical sensations, it can help those numbed by depression to feel more grounded in their body, and to reconnect with their feelings.
  5. Learning tai chi short or long forms requires concentration. It is a healthy distraction from the stresses of daily life and nurtures a habit of mindfulness—being present in each moment.
  6. Accomplishment is always a boost for our self-appreciation, and learning short or long tai chi forms is a worthy accomplishment. This compassionate, gentle exercise can positively influence a person’s sense of self-worth.

Source: Harvard Health
Photo credit: Steven Depolo (@flickr)


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