There are (most) days when I wake up cranky and in pain. The last thing I want to do is shuffle into my local martial arts studio and start exercising. In fact, I often drag myself there barely able to move because of the joint and muscle pain my autoimmune disease causes. Then my tai chi class begins. After the first few minutes, my body starts to move more fluidly and my energy level seems to rise. By the time I’m done I find myself always saying, “Why on earth didn’t I want to do this when I woke up. I feel fantastic. It’s the greatest thing ever!”
We all know that we need to exercise for its health benefits. This is especially true when we are dealing with a chronic illness like an autoimmune disease. But try telling someone who is in chronic pain and battling fatigue that they need to exercise and you’ll see why its a problem. The answer to this dilemma is tai chi. Tai chi is the perfect solution to all of the problems spoonies face when it comes to exercise.
Tai chi has been scientifically proven to improve the immune system. Tai chi improves T-cell function and thereby alters the immune response. T-cells are the bodies awesome little warriors that help fight against the autoimmune response and thereby fight against autoimmune disease. When you do tai chi, you are doing more than just getting some much-needed exercise, you are improving your T-cell function and helping to heal yourself.
Tai chi is the equivalent to a full body massage for your internal organs. The slow, deliberate movements gently soothe your internal organs and increase their function. It also stimulates the lymphatic system. Stimulating the lymphatic system helps drain and detox the lymph nodes and fight infection. It increases white blood cells and improves immune function. People who practice tai chi have been proven to have fewer colds.
Inflammation was found to be significantly regulated in people who practice tai chi. Inflammation and the immune response often go hand in hand. Decreasing inflammation in the autoimmune patient is a vital part of managing symptoms. Tai chi naturally decreases inflammation and improves your overall wellness.
Tai chi is based on slow, steady movements. It will not stress your already aching joints and muscles. Instead, it will help maintain mobility in your joints and flexibility in your muscles. Tai chi reduces pain and stiffness which greatly improves arthritic conditions. It also improves balance. This is especially important for those with osteoarthritic conditions that have weak bones. Improving balance means avoiding serious injuries from falls or stumbles.
The slow and steady breathing tai chi incorporates into its movements helps increase oxygen flow throughout the body. This rejuvenates the body and increases energy. Unlike other forms of exercise, tai chi won’t leave you feeling exhausted afterward. Instead, it actually provides energy. What spoonie doesn’t need more energy?
Tai chi reduces mental and physical stress through the meditative nature of its practice. Tai chi is often referred to as “moving meditation” since it allows and encourages the practitioner to clear the mind and relax. Stress is a major cause of flare-ups in autoimmune patients making it highly beneficial to practice a stress relieving, meditative exercise such as tai chi.
Tai chi improves the quality and length of sleep in its practitioners.
Tai chi is the one exercise that all autoimmune disease patients can and should be doing regularly. As a martial artist and tai chi practitioner, I highly recommend that you sign up for a tai chi class rather than trying to follow along with a youtube clip. There are breathing and moving techniques that should only be taught and monitored in person in order for it to provide all of the health benefits. Simply trying to copy some movements you see online will not result in all of the wonderful benefits tai chi offers.
Think I’m the only one that’s convinced Tai chi is the perfect exercise for us autoimmune messes? Check out these other fans of Tai Chi for improved immune function.