You've probably spotted them before—people at your neighborhood park, slowly and methodically waving their arms and contorting their bodies in unfamiliar motions. They're doing tai chi.
Actually, the full name of the exercise is tai chi chuan, and it's only one component of the antique Chinese philosophy known as Taoism. Tai chi involves slow movements of the core and limbs in pursuit of mental relaxation, physical well-being, and self-defense. These movements progress in a continual sequence, so that there are no stops between poses.
How Does a Mind-Body Connection Help Ease Muscle Tension?
Because one of the core principles of tai chi is total relaxation of the mind and body, it is ideal for reducing menopausal stress and the resulting muscle tension. In fact, the practice requires you to reach this state before you even begin movement.
Relaxation begins first with the mind, by pushing out opposing thoughts and training your consciousness to be clear and still. However, a trained mind will not be completely oblivious during tai chi, so this part requires a great deal of discipline.
Once your mind is relaxed, follow with your body. Maintain just enough muscle tension to keep you upright, and avoid awkward poses. Your muscles should be trained to keep you in a natural state of equilibrium instead of just becoming limp.
How Do I Begin?
Tai Chi beginners can start by doing a simple “warm-up” called progressive muscle relaxation. This activity requires you to lie flat on the ground or floor, preferably on a comfortable mat. Easing all tension from your muscles, begin by concentrating on the muscles and the sensation on your feet. “Pulse” them by contracting muscles and then releasing. Repeat the exercise with your legs, and then progress upward until you've pulsed every body part. Then, begin at the head and pulse downward towards your feet. Now you are ready to begin Tai chi.
What Are the Benefits of Tai Chi?
Because tai chi can be done at your own pace and intensity, it is ideal for people who suffer from other physical ailments, such as osteoporosis or arthritis. It requires no special equipment, so you can do it at home or at the park, perhaps. The stretches are gentle enough to give you an awareness of your body and ease muscle tension without putting wear and tear on your joints. Tai chi will also benefit your muscles by improving your balance and strength.
More Information about Muscle Tension
Muscle tension is often caused by stress and anxiety. Click the following link to learn how to handle this symptom of menopause.
- MacArthur, John and Catherine.(n.d): "Muscle Tension." Stockholm University. Retrieved from www.macses.ucsf.edu
- International Stress Management Association.(n.d)."Tension."Retrieved from www.isma-usa.org.
- Helpguide.(n.d)."Understanding Stress." Retrieved from Helpguide.org