If you’re an athlete, you’ve probably tried numerous things to help maximize your athletic performance.
Diet. Rigorous training. Practice after practice. You do it all.
But what about Tai Chi?
Before we get started, what is “Tai Chi,” anyway? The Chinese word Tai Chi (TaeGuek in Korean) refers to the balance of energy in Nature and all life. It is also the name of the black-and-white symbol Americans often call “yin/yang,” referring to the ancient principles of energy balancing.
There are many forms of healing arts and martial arts based on the concept of Tai Chi. Their common purpose is to achieve a natural balance of energy in harmony with Nature. In this blog, we’re referring to any style of slow physical movements derived from East Asian martial arts, essentially a moving meditation.
Now that you know that Tai Chi movements are designed for energy balancing, you can understand why more and more professional athletes are incorporating it into their weekly routines.
Tai Chi offers a multitude of benefits that may help increase your athletic performance.
In this guide, we will share research that supports the benefits of Tai Chi movements for athletes and provide the information you need to add Tai Chi to your athletic regimen.
• Is Tai Chi Good for Athletes?
• 7 Tai Chi Benefits for Athletes
• How Athletes Can Incorporate Tai Chi Into Their Routine
• Calling All Athletes! Find a Tai Chi Class Near You at Body & Brain Yoga Tai Chi
Tai Chi is a great practice for athletes to incorporate into their weekly routine. Through the practice of slow, mindful movement, Tai Chi can help athletes become more in tune with their bodies and emotions as they learn to focus inward.
Having a deep understanding of the way your body moves and functions can help you learn to move more intentionally and freely, which is critical in any sport.
Practicing Tai Chi can also be very calming and can help athletes learn to center themselves and quell the nervousness and stress that may come with athletic performance.
Below, we will go more into detail on the direct Tai Chi benefits for athletes.
When you think of who practices Tai Chi, an athlete may not be the first type of person that comes to mind.
Many people consider Tai Chi to be a safe and practical exercise for older people who struggle to perform physically demanding activities.
In reality, Tai Chi is a beneficial practice for people of all ages, and there are forms and styles of Tai Chi movements of varying degrees of difficulty. But do the benefits of Tai Chi really impact athletic performance?
Let’s take a look at seven Tai Chi benefits for athletes supported by scientific research and studies.
Before a sporting event, many athletes get what is known as “pre-game jitters.” Do you feel butterflies in your stomach before a big race? Is your heartbeat pounding as you step out onto the field, pitch, or court? If so, you’re not alone.
There are many different ways to try to help quell these jitters. Tai Chi is an excellent practice to help you get focused and remain calm before a sporting event. The slow, mindful movements of Tai Chi can help athletes calm their racing minds and focus their attention inward.
If you experience nervousness before sporting events, try incorporating Tai Chi into your warm-up routine. You may notice more calm energy within you as you prepare for your sporting event.
Studies have shown that practicing Tai Chi regularly can help improve reflexes, coordination, and balance.
Here is how it works:
According to one study, the slow, mindful movements practiced in Tai Chi activate the nervous system, which helps you connect better with the ground. This study also shows that these movements enhance neuromuscular pathways, which helps improve neuromuscular reflexes and coordination.
Having strong reflexes, coordination, and balance is highly valuable to an athlete participating in any sport.
Tai Chi benefits for athletes aren’t all physical. Athletes who incorporate Tai Chi into their routine can also experience mental benefits.
Like meditation, practicing Tai Chi is an opportunity to check in with one’s inner self. How does your body feel? What kind of emotions are you experiencing?
Students at Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi centers often report feeling relaxed yet energized, as well as feeling a clear mind and a sense of increased confidence after the practice of Tai Chi.
There’s scientific evidence to back up the mental benefits of Tai Chi. Through multiple studies, Tai Chi has been found to reduce mental and emotional stress.
Oftentimes, athletes become so focused on training and nurturing the physical aspects of their bodies that they forget to develop their mind-body connection.
Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi instructors note that athletes attend our Tai Chi classes to help achieve an overall feeling of well-being. Click here to learn more about our Tai Chi classes and schedule a class today to see if adding Tai Chi to your routine could be beneficial.
Muscle tension is common among athletes. Does your body still feel tense after a stretch warm-up? Do you find it difficult to move freely? Tai Chi may be a great practice to incorporate into your pre-game warmups to help with this.
Tai Chi combines awareness with movement to help release unwanted tension in the muscles and joints. Studies have shown that Tai Chi is an effective way to reduce tension and promote flexibility in the body.
How does Tai Chi help promote flexibility? It all comes back to the slow, mindful movements that are at the core of practicing Tai Chi.
Through the movements of Tai Chi, you learn how to relax your muscles, open up your joints, and connect with the ground to develop better balance. Physical relaxation and mindful movement allow you to move your body freely and flex your muscles without tension.
Getting enough sleep is vital for athletic performance. Quality sleep can help you retain and consolidate memories — which is important when it comes to memorizing game plays and new athletic skills. And besides, think of the last time you had a rough night’s sleep and participated in a sport. Your tiredness likely affected your performance.
Research supports the idea that Tai Chi can improve sleep quality. This particular study involved 75 adults ranging in age from 18 to 40 years old. Half of the adults participated in in-person or video Tai Chi classes twice a week over a 10-week period and the other half were given stress management handouts.
Scientists observed that those who participated in Tai Chi classes had significantly lower levels of anxiety and better sleep quality than the participants who did not practice Tai Chi.
An injury can take an athlete out of their sports activity for months at a time. Most athletes are very cognizant of taking active steps to prevent and limit the risk of injuries for this reason.
Tai Chi may help reduce your risk of injury by making you more attuned to your body movements.
While many studies show that Tai Chi helps reduce the risk of injury and falls in older adults, Tai Chi may also help prevent injuries among athletes for the same fundamental reason: Tai Chi has been found to improve balance and coordination.
When you learn to move your body freely without muscle tension and center your energy mindfully, you can avoid injuries triggered by loss of balance.
Athletes tend to be more health-conscious compared to the average person, as being ill can seriously affect their gameplay and ability to participate in their sports season. In fact, studies show that athletes are generally more healthy than those who do not participate in sports.
Several studies have suggested that practicing Tai Chi can have positive effects on the immune system and the body’s response to inflammation. While supporting your immune system may not be a stand-out reason to incorporate Tai Chi into your routine, it could possibly be an additional unintended benefit.
Tai Chi can make for a great warm-up or cool-down activity. Consider these scenarios:
You can hear the stadium music from the locker room. Your heart is racing. Soon, you’ll be taking the field as the umpire yells, “play ball!” But your neck muscles are tense with anticipation and your body is in need of a good stretch. Practicing Tai Chi movements is a great way to drown out the noise and draw your attention inward. You focus on moving your body and stretching your muscles with intention. Not only do you feel a sense of calmness wash over you, but your muscles are now feeling nice and limber so you can focus on pitching fastballs with ease.
Now, imagine you’ve just finished a winning tennis match. Your adrenaline is still through the roof. Your muscles are sore from dominating the tennis court. In a few hours, it will be time for you to go to bed. But you can’t seem to calm your body or your mind. Practicing Tai Chi can help you re-center your emotions and calm your mind and muscles through slow, deliberate movements. Now, you feel more calm and ready to enjoy some well-earned relaxation.
As an athlete, your physical and mental health is important. Tai Chi can provide holistic benefits that help optimize your athletic performance.
Ready to see what kind of benefits you may experience from practicing Tai Chi? Visit a Body & Brain Yoga and Tai Chi center in your area today or sign up for classes online.