What is Tai Chi (Taiji, Tai Chi Chuan or Tai Ji Quan) and why do it?

 It is often described as moving meditation due to the sequence of movements (both graceful and flowing) combined with deep breathing exercises which encourage both relaxation and inner peace.

As the form is performed chi or internal energy is stimulated throughout the body which is thought to improve health and longevity.

That said it is also a very effective martial art, which through its slow practice makes for a peaceful and non-aggressive methodology towards learning the art of ceasing, controlling and breaking your enemy.

Although there are several styles of Tai Chi they all seem to emanate from the roots of Taoist philosophies which some believe is translated through the movements themselves.

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 The above is one of my favourite quotes from the Dao de Ching and holds so true in my daily training as well as everyday life. Without taking that first step we will never reach our end destination.

For me Tai Chi is a daily journey of self-discipline, self-realisation and self-understanding. Like the movements of Tai Chi, once you set off on the path, there are no beginnings or ends it is a perpetual motion.

I make no secret of the fact that I suffer from depression on a frequent basis and that being physical is my way of coping. Those that know me are well aware that I like to throw the weights around but that can do more harm to my mental state at times and this is where Tai Chi plays its hand. The movement is soft, gentle, healing and at the same time grounding. But to really reap the benefits it must be practiced daily (understand no two days are ever the same).

If for any reason I end up missing a session of self-practice my mental health can suffer quite dramatically, upsetting my balance.

While the world around me turns to chaos one certainty is the peace of mind I will find through training.

The bottom line is that Tai Chi is a mind and body exercise encompassing martial arts and meditation. With its flowing movement and postures it promotes

  • awareness of the mind
  • breath
  • balance
  • coordination
  • relaxation
  • health
  • mind, body and spirt
  • flexibility

These are just a few of its benefits. Studies have shown the potential for Tai Chi as an aid for fighting depression and anxiety amongst other illnesses.  

Tai Chi may help reduce stress, anxiety and depression

Wang and her colleagues found that practicing Tai Chi was associated with reduced stress, anxiety, depression and mood disturbance, and increased self-esteem.

http://www.biomedcentral.com/search?query=tai+chi&searchType=publisherSearch    

http://www.news-medical.net/news/20100521/Tai-Chi-may-help-reduce-stress-anxiety-and-depression.aspx

Conclusion

Tai Chi is a gentle martial art form that promotes both mental and physical wellbeing. Daily practice alongside Qi Gung can have a profound effect on how you live your daily life, the way in which you move, and how you cope with demanding situations. Your outlook on life will change for the better but only through diligent daily practice.

Be kind and gentle to yourself and the world around you

If you want to know more about Tai Chi and take part in a session the contact www.PaulCollinsFitness.co.uk

 

Depression

How many of people in the UK suffer from depression? It’s estimated that 1 in 4 of us will suffer some sort of mental health problem in our life time.

I am no specialist when it comes to depression apart from the fact that I have lived with it since my teenage years, back then though you were told to man up and get on with life, fortunately now mental health issues are understood a little more. Not by everyone though there are still those that shy away from you when you say you suffer from it.

Trust me it ain’t catching.

Got to be honest, sometimes it can be quite enjoyable seeing the world in such a different way, other times though it just crushes your soul when you slip into that pit of despair and self-loathing. The world just goes black and there is no fun, no love and no beauty to this life.

So many times I have thrown away opportunities, relationships and possessions when the darkness has taken its icy grip. There have been times when I haven’t even known that it has gripped me; it’s not been until my partner has said welcome back that I have any idea I’ve been away! My focus has just been surviving each day, coping with each little bit I can manage. When it’s like that no one else exists, it’s just me and my friend “misery”.

Don’t get me wrong, I have never stopped work or just given up and sat down all day (wanted to) that’s not me.  I have shouted and screamed that I don’t want to do what has to be done. I have had to get up and perform for my boot camps or tai chi sessions but as soon as they have finished BAM I am back on the floor, would rather do a round with Mike Tyson than be hit by this.

Thankfully there is exercise, a proven method of coping and managing depression. It’s not a magic cure. I don’t believe there is one but it is a way to deal with it.

“Research shows that exercise and physical activity can be as effective as anti-depressant medication in treating mild to moderate depression”.

I have made it quite clear to the Doctors that drugs and me are not going to work, there are other ways.

Eat the right foods, stay away from alcohol, meditate and exercise. Food and exercise are the only drugs I need.  Yeah I have tried drugs (illegal) and alcohol and they did nothing except send me over the edge and cover up the symptoms.

Also tried eating shit food, comfort eating and throwing up again, just ended up hating what I saw in the mirror each day,

When I train I am happy, life is good. It’s not a cure all but by god it lifts me up, I feel love for myself, pride in my appearance and invincible. All the things depression strips from me.

According to the Mental Health Foundation report taking part in exercise will;

Create

– less tension, stress and mental fatigue

– a natural energy boost

– improved sleep

– a sense of achievement

– focus in life and motivation

– less anger or frustration

a healthy appetite

– better social life

– fun!

There are several theories about why exercise is beneficial to mental health. These are related to biology (exercise leads to an increased release of endorphins and enkephalins), sociology (attendance enables people to build new relationships), skillmastery (exercise improves body condition and creates achievable goals), and distraction (exercise creates a diversion from a preoccupation with negative thoughts).

Signs and symptoms of depression

Tiredness and loss of energy.
Sadness that doesn’t go away.
Loss of self-confidence and self-esteem.
Difficulty concentrating.
Not being able to enjoy things that are usually pleasurable or interesting.
Feeling anxious all the time.
Avoiding other people, sometimes even your close friends.
Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness.
Sleeping problems – difficulties in getting off to sleep or waking up much earlier than usual.
Very strong feelings of guilt or worthlessness.
Finding it hard to function at work/college/school.
Loss of appetite.
Loss of sex drive and/or sexual problems.
Physical aches and pains.
Thinking about suicide and death.
Self-harm

It’s worth remembering that the foods we eat all have a major effect on our mind state, eat the wrong foods and watch your mental health deteriorate. Food can support or stress the body and mind.

Let’s not forget many of our modern day diets are lacking in micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) from intense farming, foods being held in warehouses for long periods of time and through being highly processed.

To redress the balance there needs to be a focus on foods that support and heal the functions of the body and mind, foods that develop neurotransmitters (serotonin and noradrenalin being the main imbalance in those of us who suffer).

The obvious choices are wholesome, natural foods as we were intended to eat, water, nuts and seeds, oily fish, healthy lean proteins, fruits and vegetables alongside wholegrain foods.

These are foods the body recognises; they help support, regulate and maintain the body’s equilibrium.

It seems obvious then that the danger foods are sugar, dairy, processed foods, cakes, pastries and sweets, along with drinking alcohol, coffee and sugary drinks. All of these help to stimulate and unbalance the mind.

Even so it is noted that when depressed we reach for these very foods, foods that exacerbate the problem, foods that we know can harm us in more ways than one.

Recognise the self-destruct mode?  Shove those biscuits and cakes down your throat, feel the guilt, hurt your mind and body some more, feel a little more hate towards yourself, fuel that fire. Watch your stomach swell, fat start to accumulate around your arms, legs and in in your face. Feel the despair, the anger the hatred towards yourself for letting this happen and yes, that’s right feed it some more, slip into that downward spiral that all-consuming pit.

Does have to be this way? NO

Avoid the danger foods or consume limited quantities, eat natural foods.  Exercise, talk and destress yourself. It isn’t going to cure you but it will help manage the problem.

For more information check out;

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2738337/

Or

www.mentalhealth.org.uk