Solace: Finding Peace from Anxiety thru Tai Chi
Over 40 million people struggle with anxiety. It is estimated that 40% of Americans experienced anxiety at some point in their life. Yet, less than 1/3 of adults suffering from anxiety will seek help. Tai chi (or taiji) is an ancient martial art characterized by its soft, slow movements. It is increasingly being utilized for its health benefits, particularly for chronic illnesses. The goal of the Solace program is to provide simple tai chi techniques and mindfulness skills to help people become aware of stressors and manage the symptoms of anxiety. Not only does Solace offer the 8 basic movements of tai chi as a mindfulness practice, it also separates the mindfulness skills of tai chi to better incorporate them into your everyday life.
NOTE: Solace was created as part of the Grand Challenges for Social Work Initiative from the American Academy of Social Work and Social Welfare to Advance Long, Healthy, and Productive Lives.
People suffering from generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) display excessive anxiety or worry, most days for at least 6 months, about a number of activities such as personal health, work, school, social interactions, and everyday life circumstances. The individual finds it hard to control/manage the worry. The fear and anxiety can cause significant problems in areas of their life, such as social interactions, school, and work. The anxiety/worry is associated with at least 3 of the following symptoms for more days than not for the past 6 months: (1) Feeling restless, keyed-up, or on-edge, (2) Being easily fatigued, (3) Having difficulty concentrating; mind going blank, (4) Irritability, (5) Muscle tension, (6) Sleep disturbance, such as difficulty falling or staying asleep, restlessness, or unsatisfying sleep.
Solace is a program that utilizes methods from the ancient martial art of taijiquan to combat the stress and anxiety of the modern day. By teaching simple taijiquan movements and relevant mindfulness techniques, the Solace program distills taijiquan to its basic building blocks; its DNA, if you will.
NOTE: Chinese has had three systems to translate the language into english. As a result, “tai chi” can sometimes be found spelled as “tai chi chuan” or “t’ai chi ch’uan” or “tai ji quan”. This website uses the most recent romanization, “taiji". However, in creating this program, we understood that “tai chi” was by far more widely recognizable. As such, we will use “tai chi” as the standard within the program.
Mindfulness practices are about increasing your awareness and acceptance of your current situation—not about past baggage or worries about the future. There are four requirements to mindfulness practices. The activity has to be simple, repeatable, comfortable, and performed without judgment.
Week 1 - Video 1
Tai Chi Movement: Gathering the Essence
The first tai chi movement of Solace covers what is traditionally called "ward-off". It teaches an outward, expanding movement foundational to any reaching, pulling or deflecting action and provides a baseline for how much one can move out and away from oneself and not become off balanced.
week 1 - video 3
This video teaches the basics of tai chi walking. Then, it demonstrates how to add movement to you tai chi techniques by showing Gathering the Essence with forward walking.
Week 1 - Video 2
Mindfulness Technique: The Mindful Breath
week 1 - video 2
The core mindfulness practice for tai chi and the practices for Solace presented. Provides guidance/recommendations for practicing deep, diaphragmatic breathing.
week 2 - video 1
This video demonstrates Grasping Sparrow’s Tail, the traditional movement called “roll-back” which teaches one how to pull something in towards you and redirect it away from you without becoming off-balance.
week 2 - video 3
Reverse or backwards stepping is taught by demonstrating how to add movement to Grasping Sparrow’s Tail.
week 2 - video 2
Progressive body scan, or progressive muscle relaxation, is a type of grounding technique in which a person actively tightens and relaxes parts of their body sequentially either up or down their body. This technique teaches how to become aware of tension in your body and how to release it. This can, over time, dramatically improve stress tolerance.
week 3 - video 1
This video teaches a variation on the traditional tai chi technique called “press”. NOTE: For experienced tai chi students, “press” is classically translated as a “pressing down” movement. However, this program emphasizes the “pressing together” aspect and will add the “press down” movement into the “push” section, as the nature of the push taught in the Solace program will include the downward pushing/pressing movement.
week 3 - video 3
Video modifies Dropping the Pebble by teaching how tai chi teaches compression.
week 3 - video 2
Core to all tai chi movements for its training in posture, structure, and awareness of the body, mindful standing can also be utilized in your everyday life to reduce effects of anxiety.
week 4 - video 1
This rounded pushing motion is deceptive in its simplicity. There are many applications and benefits to this movement.
week 4 - video 3
This video shows how to add a forward walking pattern to Push Barrel.
week 5 - video 2
One of the easiest tools to pull from tai chi to add to your everyday routine for stress reduction. Video also provides some suggestions on how to modify for better results.
week 5 - video 1
One of the classical movements is “to pluck or seize”. Elephant Raises its Trunk demonstrates a modified version of the traditional move.
week 5 - video 3
This video adds dynamic movement to Elephant raises its trunk.
week 5 - video 4
This important video teaches how to turn 180 degrees and then how to coordinate the upper body and lower body during turns.
week 5 - video 2
Good exposure goals work on a few different levels. The first is to simply become use to the event or stressor. Part of becoming used to something is to expand the emotional connections to an event and to gradually begin to build a library of events in which the experiences are positive. But perhaps most importantly, good exposure techniques help build one’s confidence and mastery of a situation or stressor. Exposure is a great way to start overcoming anxiety. Work with your therapist and/or psychiatrist to breakdown your stressors and create a plan that works for you.
week 6 - video 1
This video demonstrates the important traditional movement of “splitting” through the classical technique Parting Wild Horse’s Mane.
week 6 - video 3
This video shows how to turn 90 degrees, or a “quarter turn” while performing Parting Wild Horse’s Mane.
week 6 - video 2
Recommendation to speak with doctor and/or nutritionist to find the best meal plan for you. Realize some foods worsen anxiety (e.g. caffeine). Also, suggestions for how turn eating into a mindful practice.
week 7 - video 1
This video demonstrates how to get full rotation in the shoulder and upper back with circular elbow movements.
This video adds dynamic movement to Big Bear Swims in the Water.
week 7 - video 2
This video briefly discusses both the importance of proper diet for anxiety management and also touches on ways to perform mindful eating.
week 8 - video 1
Shoulder exercises was one of the main tai chi movements. These two movements combined demonstrate how to do techniques emphasizing upward and downward shoulder movements.
week 8 - video 2
This video adds walking patterns to White Ape Offers Fruit and Floating Hands in the clouds.
week 8 - video 3
Discusses benefits of a formal meditation practice and ways in which one can turn everyday actions into a formal practice.