While many types of aerobic and anaerobic exercise promote physical and mental wellbeing, there are specific "schools" of physical activity with a more distinct mind-body approach. For example:
- Qigong is a Chinese practice using movement, affirmations, breathwork, visualizations, and meditation to improve the flow of "qi" or life force, restore internal harmony, and restore the practitioner's harmony with nature.
- Tai Chi is a Chinese system of physical exercises that is believed to facilitate the flow of Qi (life force) in the body, promoting good health and vitality. Tai Chi utilizes movements that are Yin Yang opposites: softness and strength, forward and backward, action and calm.
- Yoga is a multidimensional system that includes stretching and strengthening poses, breathing exercises, and ethical and meditation practices. It uses body, breath, and senses to reconnect the practitioner with the universe and move emotions and thoughts into stillness.
How can I benefit?
Mindful movement is an effective way to reduce stress and its physical consequences.
In addition, there are specific physical benefits associated with each of these mindful movement practices. Research shows yoga, for example, has health benefits including increased strength and flexibility, better balance and coordination, improved reaction times, better lung function, heightened cardiovascular conditioning, and weight loss.
Psychological benefits of practice include relaxation, greater equanimity, better concentration, and improved mood.
Scientific studies have found yoga as a useful adjunct to the care of such conditions as asthma, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease.
Are there any cautions?
Mindful movement practices are undoubtedly physically and mentally beneficial. However, overly strenuous physical activity can lead to injury. Check with a healthcare practitioner before beginning any exercise regime. Find a qualified teacher and share any specific health issues you have. And be sure to listen to your own body and do only what feels comfortable to you.
Where can I get more information?
Click here for detailed information on yoga created by experts at the University of Minnesota. (Scroll down until you see the Yoga module.)
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Khalsa, S.B. (2004). Yoga as a therapeutic intervention: A bibliometric analysis of published research studies. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol, 48(3), 269-285.
Wang, C., Collet, J.P., Lau, J. (2004). The effect of Tai Chi on health outcomes in patients with chronic conditions: A systematic review. Arch Intern Med., 27, 164(22), 2503.
Meta, M. (2000). How to Use Yoga: A Step-by-Step Guide to the Iyengar Method of Yoga, for Relaxation, Health and Well-Being. Berkeley, Calif.: Rodmell Press.