For some people, the last six weeks of the year are filled with almost non-stop activity. They have many parties and functions to attend, whether they want to or not. The constant business often leads to unhealthy stress levels, weight gain, and other unwanted changes. All too often, the unhealthy habits that are formed during this time are not easy to change.
Other times, the winter holidays mean the exact opposite. For many people who do not have these social or familial connections, for one reason or another, the joyful holiday season is the most lonely and depressing time of the year. Something must fill the void, and it needs to be something positive as opposed to something negative.
Whatever feelings the next few months bring, Tai Chi is a great alternative. Just like something as simple as a seat cushion for a car can make a tremendous difference in the way you feel, a small change like an hour or two of Tai Chi a week can perhaps make 2017 one of the most memorable holiday seasons. Even better, the healthy habits that begin in December usually last throughout the New Year and beyond.
Tai Chi is often called meditation in motion, and for very good reason. Most classes begin with qigong, which is essentially deep breathing combined with slow movements. The diaphragm breathing reduces blood pressure and stress levels, while the slow movements help practitioners feel looser.
That same idea continues once the Tai Chi movements begin, as instead of rushing through strength training or other repetitions, participants move almost as if they are dancing in slow motion. This gentle movement, combined with continued deep breathing, is an ideal way to relieve stress.
Any activity class is a great way to connect with like-minded people who live nearby. That’s especially true for Tai Chi, because everyone there believes that these routines help bring balance to their lives, and this element is often sorely absent late in the year.
One really nice thing about Tai Chi is that these connections are strictly optional. Because there is so much emphasis on relaxation and meditation, it is no problem to arrive a few minutes early, find a corner of the room, go through the exercises, and leave quietly.
Tai Chi helps participants set, or reset, their body clocks. Given the short days and long nights during this time of year, that’s a major advantage regardless of your activity level.
Despite the slow motion, Tai Chi is a physical workout, as any participant will affirm. As a bonus, rather than being so intense as to bring about physical exhaustion, the movement increases blood flow to the extremities, for a palpable energy surge that has a lasting effect.
Mostly due to the increased energy during the day, Tai Chi means that participants are more able to relax at night. The meditation element helps as well, because it is easier to unwind when one is not as wound up to begin with.
Whether it’s due to a full calendar or an empty calendar, we tend to get very distracted during this time of year. Some dropoff is not a big deal, especially in the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. But six weeks of drop-off is something that none of us can afford.
The improved physical energy, quiet meditation, and increased blood flow all combine to improve mental sharpness. As a matter of fact, there is some evidence that Tai Chi actually expands the brain’s hippocampus, which is the section associated with learning and memory. These findings are truly extraordinary, as the brain usually shrinks with age. Many people see significant results after just eight weeks, so if you want to unwrap a better memory for Christmas, sign up now.
Walking across a dark parking lot at night is not easy for anyone, but especially for older people who are afraid of falling.
Tai Chi’s gradual and controlled motions help practitioners gain a better awareness of their own bodies. Furthermore, the exercise strengthens leg muscles, so seniors, and all other people, have more confidence in these situations. The increased alertness helps as well, because we are more likely to fall when we are tired and not as focused.
Many of the gifts we give each other this holiday season either will not last are are not very meaningful. But Tai Chi offers lasting benefits from a relatively small change. These benefits improve your life, as well as the lives of people around you, whether that circle is large or small.