Sitting at a computer all day can be hazardous to one’s health. Not only can the lack of movement cause stress, back pain, eye strain, and sleep problems, but it decreases one’s overall metabolism as their body adapts to stillness and their circulation slows down.

Tai chi, a slow-paced, non-competitive Chinese discipline, can be a very effective way to counteract these effects, while also improving balance, bone and muscle strength, lower blood pressure and boost the immune system (physical benefits normally attributed exclusively to more vigorous workouts). Because the workout is so gentle, just about anyone can participate, including seniors who often have difficulty participating in vigorous activities. Low-impact workouts like tai chi exercises can enable individuals to gain the same physical benefits as more intensive workouts like running or biking, without the heavy demands on the body.

Boeing engineer Huy Chung often found himself sitting in front of a computer screen for hours on end, but when he started learning tai chi, this started to change.

“I find I am taking breaks during work to practice [tai chi]. Whereas, before I would be sitting in front of the computer for eight hours,” said Chung. “I feel like I’m mentally stronger.”

He added that he now finds himself more relaxed, and is more patient, forgiving of himself and more understanding of others. This is due to the strenuous mindful nature of tai chi, he noted. Chung has noticed that his body has learned to adapt to stressful energy as a result.

“It is a very difficult style to master and it has been a humbling experience,” he said. “I have become more patient because I realize how long it will take to get good. I am also more forgiving of my shortcomings because I recognize the mistakes I am making will require more practice to overcome.”

No stranger to martial arts, Chung started practicing Tae Kwon Do (a Korean martial art focused with an emphasis on kicking) as a kid and did that for about 13 years. As an adult, he has also taught Tae Kwon Do and Wing Chun (a Chinese martial art utilizing both striking and grappling, while specializing in close-range combat).

Tai chi uses an internal energy where the muscles are more relaxed, Chung noted. He goes to a formal class once a week at International Wudang Internal Martial Arts Academy and practices a few times a week on his own. He practices a traditional technique called “standing qi gong” or “zhan zhuang,” which requires a lot of mental discipline.

“In the past, I would go to the gym and lift weights,” he said. “I did get stronger, but I don’t think there was a spirtitual component to it. Running on the treadmill really calmed me down emotionally, but I don’t think it stimulated me mentally.”

Chung noted that tai chi has made him more in tune with his body.

“I like the soft flowing movements of [tai chi]. I enjoy the challenge of sycnhronizing proper breathing, movement, and mental intent,” he said.

Now, instead of sitting at a computer all day, Chung finds time to practice breathing and relaxing his body through tai chi during his work breaks.

“You can pretty much practice it anywhere,” he said. “It builds up your energy.”

For additional information about International Wudang Internal Martial Arts Academy, visit www.wudangdanpai.com.

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