Tai Chi and Qigong: an EDS Patient's Experience
Author: Brianna Sessions, EDS patient
As a child and teenager, before my Ehlers Danlos Syndrome became apparent, I spent hours each week studying the martial arts of Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. As I grew older and the damage from my hypermobility became apparent, I chose to protect my joints and muscles over putting my body through the extremely physically demanding requirements of these high-impact sports. However, I knew that the physical and psychological benefits of studying a martial art were very beneficial to my health, so I wanted to find an alternative that allowed me to continue partaking in a rich culture of respect, honor and self-love while taking care of and supporting my hypermobile body. I was drawn to Tai Chi a few years ago and utilize many aspects of it each day.
Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art that is often referred to as “moving meditation” due to its focus on deliberate movements that promote relaxation and mindfulness. Qigong (pronounced ‘chee-gong’) is the art of purposeful breathing that is used in tandem with Tai Chi to promote energy-control and focus. Tai Chi and Qigong are a form of gentle exercise that combine slow, flowing movement with deep breathing and meditation. While in the media Tai Chi is often associated with older adults, people of all ages and fitness levels can benefit from the practice. This low-impact exercise has been shown to provide multiple health benefits for practitioners’ mental and physical health.
Tai Chi’s controlled movements can help reduce the risk of joint instability and dislocations as each movement is careful and deliberate. The range-of-motion exercises can help reduce stiffness and increase flexibility. It has also been proven to be an effective form of pain management and fatigue reduction for those with chronic pain issues and other disorders. It can also improve issues with posture and balance as you focus on maintaining proper body alignment throughout each exercise. Furthermore, Tai Chi can help improve your awareness of your body and it's current state, in turn helping you be more cognizant of how you are physically feeling and reduce possible risk of injury.
Best of all, Tai Chi is easy to start – you don’t need any special equipment, and there are countless resources available to assist you both in-person and online.
While you can do it alone from the comfort of your home or the outdoors, many people prefer to practice Tai Chi in groups, and you can find companionship in others who are also looking to improve their health and well-being.
For these reasons every patient seen in the Mayo Clinic EDS Clinic is now offered a Tai Chi education class conducted virtually as a free service courtesy of the Barbara Lips Education Center. Feedback from those who have attended has been uniformly positive, so we plan to continue offering this program to help as many patients as possible.
Have you ever tried Tai Chi, and if you have, what are your experiences with it?
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