No longer do the Eastern practices of yoga, tai chi and meditation remain esoteric mysteries to us Westerners. Eccentric gurus living in secluded ashrams and mountain-side dojos have passed on their secrets to worldly students. Ancient texts have been translated into multiple languages, analyzed and explained. Students have become teachers and now eagerly share the elements of theory and physical practice with anyone willing to listen.
The proliferation of yoga, tai chi and meditation in the Western world has been quite rapid, with organic growth driven by the beneficial effects inherent to these practices. It is only recently that the Western medical establishment has started to explore and, more often than not, support the claims that gurus and ancient texts have made for generations: yoga, tai chi and meditation benefit the human body in many incredible ways, physically, energetically and spiritually.
Cultivating ‘Whole’istic Health
Most traditional exercise focuses on improving the physical state of the body through movement and breath, which often also positively affects mental stress and improves a person’s overall mood. Yet, traditional exercises such as weightlifting, running, cycling, aerobics, swimming, etc. often bypass the importance of establishing the body-mind connection.
This is why practicing yoga, tai chi and/or meditation is such a wonderful complement to “working out,” because it encourages mindfulness, awareness and concentration, and the interplay of these aspects with physical movement and breath. These practices help us cultivate inner power, rebuild our sense oneness and peace, and teach us to build a strong foundation for a fruitful and generous life.
When you become mindful through regular practice, you release your attachments to the past and the future and learn how to maintain awareness in the present moment. This creates an overall sense of emotional well-being throughout the body, allowing you to strengthen the connection between the body and the brain and revitalize all of the cells and systems of the body.
Yoga, Tai Chi and Meditation as Medicine
What other medical treatment could you conduct that causes no adverse side effects and benefits the whole body and mind? Yoga, tai chi and meditation are just that – esoteric practices that are being used by medical professionals and patients to treat certain diseases and manage symptoms, along with pharmaceuticals and/or holistic medicine.
Top Medical Benefits of Yoga
- Increased release of endorphins, such as dopamine and serotonin, which affect emotions
- Balancing of the neural pathways of the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system
- Lower resting heart rate
Used to Treat: ADHD, chronic back pain, PSTD, stress, anxiety, depression, sleeplessness
Top Medical Benefits of Tai Chi
- Improvement in postural stability and balance control
- Improved flexibility
- Improved cardiovascular fitness
Used to Treat: Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, chronic back pain, chronic knee pain, osteoarthritis in the knees, stress, anxiety, depression
- Improved immunity
- Boost to insulin production
- Relief of inflammation
Used to Treat: stress, anxiety, irritable bowel syndrome, high blood pressure, psoriasis
Starting a Personal Practice
If years of personal success stories don’t persuade you to start a yoga, tai chi and/or meditation practice, perhaps some of the more recent research from respected institutions, such as University of Oregon, Eugene, Oregon Research Institute, and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, will. Starting a personal practice can mean attending yoga or tai chi classes, ordering some beginner’s videos, or participating in a meditation group. You can also incorporate spontaneous practices into your days, such as 5 long deep breaths, a slow 2 minute walk barefoot on the grass, a sun salutation, and a moment of mindfulness.
Tai Chi Resources:
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About the Author
Anna Hunt is writer, yoga instructor, mother of three, and lover of healthy food. She’s the founder of Awareness Junkie, an online community paving the way for better health and personal transformation. She’s also the co-editor at Waking Times, where she writes about optimal health and wellness. Anna spent 6 years in Costa Rica as a teacher of Hatha and therapeutic yoga. She now teaches at Asheville Yoga Center and is pursuing her Yoga Therapy certification. During her free time, you’ll find her on the mat or in the kitchen, creating new kid-friendly superfood recipes.
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