For most, the teenage years are a time of wanting to be noticed and accepted. That can cause anxiety, confusion, depression and low self esteem. Mood swings are very common with all the hormonal changes going on during the teen years. Tai Chi’s regular practice is designed to help us realize that we are in charge of how we choose to react to what is going on around us. The truths found in the symbolism of the movements help us see that the way we choose to see the world is how it will unfold for us. The practice of Tai Chi gives us confidence and feelings of self-worth.
According to one study, Tai Chi players reported less tension, depression, anger, fatigue, confusion and anxiety; they felt more vigorous and, in general, had less total mood disturbance. Perfect for teenagers!
Tai Chi integrates the mind, body, and spirit:
MIND–The movements of Tai Chi help the left and right brain hemispheres connect as they need to for clearer thinking. Regular Tai Chi practice improves mental concentration and focus. It brings the brain into a very calm, clear state known by scientists as the alpha state.
This state of mind is highly creative and productive. In fact, by just doing a few simple Qigong movements before school or before a test, job interview or class presentation, we can unblock the body’s energies and get them flowing in a pattern that is very conducive to learning. It is also very beneficial for students with ADD/ADHD.
BODY–As far as the physical benefits, Tai Chi helps to integrate the skeletal and muscular systems. As the players move through the slow-motion movements, their minds become calm, their breathing deepens and slows and their muscles relax. All this happens while the muscles are toning, making it a very efficient workout.
It is also great for balance, flexibility and coordination. In addition, Tai Chi can boost the immune system, enhance the body’s natural healing powers, increase breathing capacity, reduce asthma and allergy reactions, alleviate stress, increase energy level and lubricate the joints.
Tai Chi is a great complement to any sports program. It has been used in drug-abuse prevention programs, and it helps decrease aggressive behavior. Furthermore, since low self-worth is at the core of most eating disorders, Tai Chi’s ability to raise confidence levels and harmonize mind with body can help with anorexia and bulimia.
SPIRIT–Tai Chi clears the communication between mind and body. Through its practice you learn to slow down. You learn to trust your gut and your own sense of intuition. I can’t think of anything more beneficial for a teenager than that. To put it simply, the symbolism of Tai Chi and Qigong teaches us “in with the good, out with the bad.” You inhale deeply and take in fresh cleansing energy (chi)-then, on the exhale you visualize letting go of anything negative: doubts, fears, judgments.
I use a lot of symbolism when I teach. For example, one of the movements says “Yield and be strong.” This teaches us to be still and listen to our inner voice-that is where our strength lies. Another part I like to bring out is “Transitions can flow smoothly,” reminding us that just like the physical changes of the movements, the changes in our lives need not be frightening or difficult if we are rooted and grounded.
During the teenage years, there are many changes to go through. The smoothness of the movements mirror how we can go through changes in our lives. It teaches the importance of keeping a balance of strength and grace in our lives. Learning these lessons now will certainly benefit our youth throughout their lives.