Mens sana in corpore sano- the Romans used to say this in order to trigger a need for exercise and we still use these words of wisdom today. However, Eastern medical practices emphasized the need for a real connection between our physical body and the spiritual one, the mind. This way of thinking led to the creation of body movement therapies, thus connecting the psyche and the body, the inner and outer sensations.
Associated with movement therapy, there are a few physical benefits, such as increased balance, improved athletic performance, longevity and flexibility, increased strength, coordination and muscle tone. As you can see, there are already numerous benefits, but the list does not end here! As a result of undergoing a type of Eastern movement therapy, people have noticed greater ease in movement, better blood circulation and amelioration of respiratory disorders and rheumatic conditions. All these health benefits combined contribute to a better physical shape, thus preventing injuries. Furthermore, it has been noticed that not only body pain is alleviated, but movement therapies provide a substantial base for increasing self-esteem and building a positive body image.
Body movement therapies are more than mere methods of relaxation. When the done in the presence of others, they help us become more tolerant and more accepting, more open to new people and new experiences. They help us lower our guard just enough to be comfortable around others, without making us prone to emotional distress and disappointment. In fact, by being aware of the connection between our thoughts and our movements, we learn to turn to a plenary understanding of ourselves. We gain control, while maintaining that openness, youth of the spirit and emotional stability that are so necessary in this day and age.
T’ai Chi and Qigong
Of Chinese origin, T’ai Chi and Qigong are two movement practices that differ from Western’s perception of therapy simply because they are very gentle. The general opinion is that they are different types of exercise and indeed, they do have that role. Undergoing these kinds of therapy is bound to improve balance and stability, but they are also meant as a self-defense routine. From a medical point of view, Tai Chi and Qigong are highly effective when it comes to reducing low back pain and improving the health of the cardiovascular system. Both of these therapies were originally Chinese martial arts, practiced for it defensive training. However, given that T’ai Chi covers both soft and hard martial art technique, one can reap the benefits without having to undergo an extremely difficult training. It is recommended, of course, to slowly and incrementally increase the level of difficulty of the training.
Some forms of T’ai Chi, also known as taiji or simply tai chi, consist of rather slow movements. Whether followers prefer to pursue this type of training because they want to relax or be in complete sync with the rhythm of their bodies, the reasons are irrelevant. What we can assure you of is that the health benefits we presented are acknowledged by Western medical practices as well for reasons that vary from the importance of self-defense and fitness to the importance of taking a break from the daily routine, the hustle and bustle, the stress we all have to deal with. From martial art technique, both T’ai Chi and Qigong evolved into healing therapies after years of observation. The transition was natural, not a marketing stunt and what should really be a point of difference is this: T’ai Chi is recommended for older people as well. It is such a complex movement therapy that regardless of age, one can truly feel the results through general health benefits.
Qigong, also known as chi kung or chi gung, stand for “Life Energy Cultivation”. It is a system designed to align the body, breath and mind in order to obtain health benefits, be able to meditate and master the training specific to martial arts. Being a mix of Chinese philosophy, medicine and martial arts, it is generally perceived as a sort of training that balances qi ( chi)- life energy. Three distinct philosophies, the Buddhist, the Confucian and the Daoist schools of thinking consider this practice the key of awakening your true nature, developing your potential and reaching higher realms of awareness. The training consists of slow movements coordinated with deep, rhythmic breathing, a meditative state of mind.
Developed In India, yoga is a system that includes several aspects: philosophy, religion and practices, in this manner addressing the mental, spiritual and physical aspects of a person. There are different types of yoga and each of them serves a different purpose by emphasizing distinct sets of skills. The most notorious type of yoga is the one popular in Western culture, Hatha yoga, the path of the body. While it is used mainly as a type of exercise with great stress management results, there gentle and slow approaches, as well as strenuous work outs. Depending on your own needs and athletic abilities, you can opt for the meditative kind of yoga or the physically types. Breathing is a highly important aspect in improving flexibility and increasing vitality!
Whether you decide that yoga, qigong or t’ai chi is the right type of movement therapy for you, there are a few things you should keep in mind! A relaxed state of mind is fundamental to these practices and focusing on the negative aspects of your life will not help you achieve the state of calmness you are looking for. You must be willing to unlock parts of your consciousness that you intentionally repressed. Being in tune with your body and your inner sensations is hard work. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and this kind of awareness will not dawn upon you effortlessly. But with the proper mindset, you will soon be the master of your own body and you will have a deeper understanding of how majestic body movements reflect a majestic spirit- they cannot exist separately.