By Rich Lund
Hurricane Sandy left millions without power, caused billions of dollars in damage and resulted in the death of more than 100 people in the U.S. The devastation from this disaster will be felt for many months as we work to repair our homes and resume our lives.
As we recover, it’s important to manage our stress levels to avoid health problems. Negative stress places wear and tear on our bodies, leading to exhaustion and illness. Signs of distress may include sleeping too much or too little, stomach aches or headaches, anger, feeling edgy or lashing out at others, overwhelming sadness or other symptoms. When we function without stress, we maintain our internal state of balance, called homeostasis.
As a Tai Chi and Qigong instructor for more than 25 years, I’m partial to practicing this form of stress reduction in which the essential principles are thousands of years old. Tai Chi and Qigong includes still, as well as moving exercise. Still meditation, either standing or sitting, places emphasis on mental focus and concentration to develop, restore and maintain the balance of qi circulation in your body for health and healing, as well as for martial art training. In Tai Chi meditation, your mental awareness is balanced internally on correcting your posture, while maintaining an outer awareness of all your surroundings. When practicing this type of meditation keep aware of the following principles:
- When standing, keep your feet shoulder width apart, knees and hips slightly bent, and your tailbone sinking downward as if to touch your heels. Feel as if you are sitting back. When sitting, feel as if you are standing by keeping the head lifted.
- Your head and upper torso erect and gently lifted upwards and your lower body relaxed downward, your weight sinking into the ground. Keep your back and spine straight, your nose in line with your navel.
- Relax your chest inward, keep your back rounded and your shoulders and elbows relaxed downward.
- Breathe slowly, evenly, deeply, and quietly, using the abdomen and diaphragm.
- Focus your awareness on the lower abdomen, just below the navel. When thoughts enter your mind, gently bring your awareness back to that area.
- While standing feel comfortable and relaxed. If your muscles become tired or tense, stop and sit down for a few moments, or move around any part of your body, while remaining relaxed and aware of the lower abdomen. Hold this position as long as is comfortable.
- Continue to adjust your posture and alignment to feel the most relaxed.
Be aware of any muscle tension or symptoms of stress. This can cue you into taking action to reduce stress, like: taking a break, exercise, practicing Yoga, Tai Chi, or meditation to relax. These activities can lead you to a better state of mind which in turn can lead you to better health. This is important to keep in mind as we all recover from this extreme and tragic weather event.
Rich Lund is part of the Division of Integrative Medicine at Raritan Bay Medical Center. The division provides patients at the medical center and on an outpatient basis complementary medicine supporting the mind-body-spirit connection. For more information about integrative medicine or to register for an upcoming Tai Chi / Qigong class call 1-732-442-3700, ext. 5861.
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