The answers to your sleep-related problems might be found in the practice of the ancient Chinese martial art known as tai chi.
Known in some circles as ‘meditation in motion,’ tai chi is composed of highly controlled, precise, and flowing movements – all of which are executed in a very relaxed manner.
While some of the older forms of tai chi such as Chen-style still retain the aggressive roots of the art, tai chi today is mostly known as a gentle exercise that’s great for maintaining good physical balance, strength, and overall flexibility.
For anxiety-ridden insomniacs, the good news is that tai chi can also teach you to achieve a state of inner calm.
Tai Chi is for Everyone
Do you have an Internet connection? How about a small to moderately-sized space in your home or backyard? If you answer ‘yes’ to both, then you can start learning tai chi as soon as you finish reading this article.
While it’s obviously much better to learn tai chi from a master or from a formal class, this does not discount the fact that you can find tons of instructional tai chi videos on the web, some of which can be really helpful at letting you grasp the basics.
However, make no mistake about it: proper tai chi movements take years to master. But with a little instruction and repetition, it can be easy to start learning the basic movements.
If you think you’re too fat, old, or unhealthy to practice tai chi, you’re not. From the most unmotivated couch potato to the strongest uphill runner – everyone can learn and benefit from tai chi.
This is why practicing tai chi is sometimes compared to yoga – no previous level of physical fitness is required in order to participate in basic classes. You just need to wear loose clothes that let you move freely; more importantly, you’ll also need the patience to learn and properly execute each movement with gentleness and precision.
Unless you’re suffering from a debilitating condition that severely limits your ability to move your body, there’s no reason for you to not be able to practice tai chi.
Tai Chi is More Mental than Physical
Tai chi movements are mostly circular. Flow along with the movements and your joints will suffer no impact. Instead of being pushed to exhaustion, your muscles will be relaxed and gently stretched.
Every movement you make should be supplemented by deep, proper, and natural breathing that makes each gentle movement even easier to perform. It only truly becomes difficult once you lose focus. While tai chi won’t exhaust you physically, it might challenge you mentally. With every flowing movement, your mind and body must be perfectly in sync.
Similar to yoga, meditation, and even modern archery, tai chi is a mind-body discipline that relies heavily on focus to achieve calmness and concentration. Without focus, you can’t practice tai chi.
But if you manage to gather your focus and translate it into the proper execution of tai chi’s flowing movements, you can achieve a state of extreme calmness and relaxation – similar to the peace of mind and calmness of body attainable through mindful meditation.
The Benefits of Consistently Practicing Tai Chi
Tai chi is a strict discipline when it comes to form and movement – at the same time, millennia of development has made it a very open-minded practice. Even in traditional classes, you don’t necessarily need to agree with the philosophical roots and concepts behind its origins.
However, knowing about such concepts shows your respect as a student of this ancient and honorable martial tradition. More importantly, such knowledge can give you greater insight into how and why the movements of tai chi were first conceptualized – as well as how these same movements are still relevant today.
For instance, traditional practitioners regard tai chi as a way to encourage the flow of an energy force known as ‘Qi’. The more you practice tai chi, the easier it is for Qi to flow freely throughout your body.
This is how some traditionalists explain some of the mental and physical health benefits associated with tai chi. As the ancient Chinese masters who created tai chi sought to control the internal energies within themselves, they also created a disciplined system of flowing movements that requires the mind and body to work in perfect unison.
The result is a near-perfect way to meditate – a modern, low-impact mind-body exercise that’s more than just a way to improve physical fitness.
Through the consistent and proper practice of tai chi, both mind and body are enriched in different ways. Just as your body will attain greater strength, flexibility, and functionality, so will your mind attain the ability to easily achieve focus, calmness, and control – mental weapons that can be highly effective at battling anxiety, stress, sleep disorders and sleep related problems such as insomnia.
Randy Vera is a freelance writer, licensed nurse, and sleep enthusiast from Los Angeles, California. After traveling through SE Asia to learn of his heritage, he joined a few of his colleagues at One Bed Mattress. He practices Zen meditation daily and prefers living a natural health lifestyle.