Using Tai Chi for Increasing Your Productivity
We all have slumps, or those periods where we do not feel like doing anything, or the circumstances seem to go against us actually being able to do something. At times like these, we look for ways to get back to normal operating condition. In an attempt to fix this, we can easily get to the point that we are desperate to find ways and means to avoid them, especially when we feel our productivity slipping, and so do our bosses and colleagues at work.
Sometimes, we can do it on our own from experience. We have our special methods in place to perk us right up and get back to being productive. During other times, well, we resort to seeking professional help. Maybe we are becoming too stressed at work, due to the pressures piled on us at every turn.
Perhaps it has something to do with our personal issues getting in the way of our professional life, such that our work is becoming affected.
So we go out, we effect changes on our lifestyle, and we even make an effort to surround ourselves with only positive things. We cut back on some bad habits, and try to develop better ones. We seek the help of other people and, in other instances, we even reach out to help others, in the hopes that the positive vibes will rebound and affect us positively.
We all have our ways. Some work, others don’t. The point is, we have to keep trying. One of the more popular methods that people are starting to turn to more and more these days is tai chi.
This guide will provide you with 1) an overview of Tai Chi, 2) how Tai Chi and productivity are interlinked, and 3) how to improve productivity using Tai Chi.
AN OVERVIEW OF TAI CHI
How many times have you heard someone describe tai chi as “that weird Chinese thing that’s supposed to calm you”? It seems that there is also this general perception that, once you start practicing tai chi, you can easily start busting out all those martial arts moves that people have seen in many Bruce Lee movies.
Clearly, no matter how popular tai chi has become, especially in recent years, not a lot of people still fully grasp what it is, exactly.
Tai chi is an internal martial art that originated thousands of years ago in China, tracing its roots back to qigong, an ancient discipline on traditional Chinese medicine. It started out as a martial art, but it is now gaining more recognition for the health benefits that it provides.
Think “martial arts” and you will immediately imagine someone delivering punches and high kicks. You can also find them in tai chi, but they are executed in slow and gentle, meditative body movements, so that the person practicing tai chi moves gracefully, with flowing and uninterrupted motions.
The movements in tai chi make use of internal energy, which is referred to as the qi. The qi is the life force, the intrinsic energy in the body. Once the qi moves in a smooth manner, it creates a balance within the body, resulting to good health. The purpose of studying and practicing tai chi is to balance one’s qi and make it flow smoothly and in a balanced manner.
Start today with some beginner moves.
Types of Tai Chi
Briefly, there are three major tai chi styles currently being practiced. The traditional forms of these styles normally have around a hundred movements, but as the practice of tai chi became more widespread, there were variations applied.
They were made to be “simpler”, or with lesser movements, but no less demanding and effective.
- Yang – Instead of 108 movements, only 24 movements are used in this style, although it is still quite taxing and demanding, since the movements require a person to maintain a wide stance, and on bent knees, the entire time, even while transferring weight from one leg to the other.
- Wu – This is considered to be the gentler version of the Yang style. The number of movements range from 24 to 36, and the stance is not as wide. This means that the person does not have to keep his knees bent while practicing it. This is highly recommended for beginners to tai chi, and those who are practicing it because they simply want to improve their balance.
- Tai chi chih – This has lesser number of movements – only 20 – and, just like the Wu style, has a narrow stance. It is less demanding too because transfer of weight from leg to leg is not as frequent or as intensive as in the other two styles.
I found some really cool information on all the 24 movements of Yang. This is more for the advanced Tai Chi people.
Benefits of Tai Chi
We have already made mention of how tai chi is seen as a good tool for improving one’s health. But how does it do it, exactly? And what are the other benefits that one can get from practicing tai chi?
Physical fitness and strength training
Tai chi increases flexibility and strengthens one’s muscles, joints and tendons. Even athletes include tai chi in their training and fitness regimens because it has been found to be effective in strengthening their core, increasing their endurance and improving their overall fitness levels.
Treatment of various diseases and health problems
Although some straitlaced scientific minds would argue the lack of scientific evidence that tai chi directly aids in the treatment of various health problems and conditions, it is becoming a universally accepted fact that tai chi does contribute to these treatments – if not directly, then at least indirectly.
The mere fact that it helps boost the immune system is already a good sign that it can actually help in treating health problems.
Some of the conditions that are said to benefit from tai chi are:
- Heart and other cardiovascular diseases
- Hypertension and high blood pressure
- Digestive disorders
- Various types of cancers
- Arthritis, rheumatism and other joint problems
Improvement of sense of balance
One of the most apparent effects of tai chi is improved balance.
The body will start to adapt graceful and flowing movements, so there are lesser chances of falling and sustaining fall-related injuries such as fractures and bone breakages.
The improved hand-eye coordination and body movements will increase the body’s adaptability and alertness, so the person can break his fall more effectively.
Many people who are experiencing depression, overwork, fatigue, and high levels of stress and anxiety are advised to practice tai chi. If you notice, even the slightest change in one’s breathing can have a positive effect on your stress levels.
Think of tai chi as taking it a step further, improving the connection between your mind and body, and promoting calmness and serenity.
Increase in self-confidence
If a person is constantly stressed out, always afraid of falling over, or is dealing with various illnesses and health issues, then they are bound to have problems regarding their self-confidence.
According to many tai chi practitioners, they have noticed a boost in their confidence once they started practicing this art. It also motivated them to continue seeking improvement in their physical, mental and emotional health.
One advantage of tai chi is the fact that it so low-impact, it can be practiced even by people in their advanced ages. Older people are apprehensive about the idea of exercising because of the toll it might take on their joints, muscles and tendons. Tai chi puts very minimal stress on these areas, and there is a very low risk of sustaining injury while practicing it.
Also, not everyone can afford paying the gym membership fees to have a fitness regimen in place. In addition, their schedules may not permit them going to and from the gym several times a week just to get a couple of hours of exercise. Tai chi can be practiced practically anywhere, even in the comfort of your (cramped) living room.
TAI CHI AND PRODUCTIVITY
Tai chi may be one of the last things you would expect to talk about in the context of your work or at your workplace, but you will be surprised to know that many companies are now encouraging the practice of tai chi among their employees. Clearly, they are recognizing how tai chi can help in improving their employees’ morale and disposition and increasing their productivity.
In a study conducted by researchers of the University of Vermont, they investigated the effects of tai chi on a group of older nurses, with an average age of 54. The first group of nurses attended tai chi classes once a week for 15 weeks. During that period, they practiced for at least 10 minutes on their own, whenever they have a break. The second group, on the other hand, did not take any tai chi classes at all.
The result? The first group registered zero sick leaves and tardiness. The nurses were also able to demonstrate versatility as they have shown that they can take on additional functions without problems at all. The same could not be said for the second group, though, because it was revealed that they incurred absenteeism totaling 49 hours. These hours were already indicative of a decrease in productivity.
So what is the link between productivity and this ancient Chinese martial art?
That link is stress, and its management.
A healthy and happy workforce is a productive workforce. If a worker is healthy, he has more energy to put into the performance of his tasks. If he is satisfied and has a positive outlook, he will be more motivated to perform better, and produce better results.
Therefore, if a company wants to achieve its business goals with the help of its employees, it has to help its employees have a better balance between their work and their personal lives.
Stress gets in the way of making clear and rational decisions, and even interrupts how we implement these decisions. Stressed employees also find it difficult to find satisfaction in their work, and this makes work an ordeal, and not something that they particularly look forward to doing.
So now you see more and more employers implementing health and wellness programs for its employees. They introduce exercise and fitness programs that their workers can participate in, and even give them incentives to participate in these programs. They set up fitness gyms at an area in their offices where their employees could put in some exercise time. They devote several days in a month for sports and recreation activities. In some companies, they introduce new disciplines, tai chi being one of them.
The main equation is simple: tai chi manages stress which, in turn, makes you perform better and, as a result, improve your productivity.
But there are other ways that tai chi can be contributory to increased productivity.
- Tai chi encourages you to listen and work with the people and other forces around you, instead of going against them. This promotes synergy at work.
- Tai chi boosts immunity and strengthens your physical and emotional self, so you can put in more hours at work when needed. It also reduces the number of sick leaves incurred by employees.
- Tai chi improves concentration and mental focus, as well as memory. These are essential when making decisions at work.
- Tai chi improves relationships among employees. They will be more inclined to work as part of a team, and this will definitely result in a better performance, both individually and collectively.
- Tai chi improves the quality of sleep. This keeps employees more invigorated to take on another workday ahead.
- Tai chi adds an element of fun to one’s daily routine, so it breaks the monotony, especially in a workplace whose processes are repetitive by nature.
HOW TO IMPROVE PRODUCTIVITY THROUGH TAI CHI
As a worker or an employee, you cannot rely entirely on the programs that management sets out for its employees. Even if the company does not have a tai chi program in place, we suggest that you make the effort personally.
You will be a more improved, healthier and happier person if you do.
Here are some ways that tai chi can help increase your productivity.
Keep an open mind, particularly about tai chi.
It is a fact that not everyone understands the essence and principles of tai chi. In fact, it is almost expected that the idea will meet some cynicism. Others even conclude that it is boring, since it is mostly performed in silence, and the movements are very slow.
But you should keep an open mind, especially if you are determined to improve your work/life balance, and become a more productive employee.
Join a tai chi class.
This is your first step towards using tai chi to become a better employee. First, look within your company if there are existing programs for it. If there is none within your organization, you have to look outside. Fortunately, it is now easier to find places that offer Tai Chi classes.
If you cannot find a class near you, you have another option, and that is to purchase instructional videos that you can follow when you are at home. This is a good way to get started, at least until a better opportunity for a tai chi class comes around.
Find a tai chi buddy, preferably a co-worker.
You know how, when working out at the gym or going out for runs, you find yourself looking for a workout buddy? You can also try looking for a tai chi buddy.
It would be a better idea if the tai chi buddy that you find is another employee or another person that you work with. This way, you are in the same wavelength, and you will feel more motivated in your practice, since you have someone with you who thinks and feels the same way.
Practice whenever you can, wherever you can.
The beauty of tai chi is that you can do it anywhere and at any time.
So even if you are attending tai chi classes at designated times during the week, there is nothing stopping you from practicing it during your breaks, or whenever you feel like you need to brush away some negative vibes.
They call these “mini tai chi breaks”. Even practicing it for 5 to 10 minutes a day, at least 4 days a week, will give you positive results.
Be patient, and persevere.
Tai chi cannot be learned overnight. It might take you a while before you can get the hang of it and, even then, you will not be able to master it immediately. That is all right. Tai chi is one long learning process, so it requires patience on your part.
When you decide to practice tai chi, presumably for health reasons at first, you will soon realize that its benefits are more far-reaching than that.
You will notice an improved harmonious relationship with other people and with the world in general. You will feel more fulfillment, and this will make you even more productive. You may not know it, but tai chi may even be the tool that will bring you to the professional success that you have been aiming for.
I was having a cup of coffee at the café a few blocks from my apartment when I noticed something …