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Tai Chi Exercises Both Mind and Body

Centuries-old practice gains new followers.

Tai Chi and Weight continued...

Johnson says tai chi also speaks to the mental aspect of being overweight.

When you're overeating and not moving enough, your body becomes stressed, he says. Practicing tai chi gets you in touch with your body and makes you more aware of its needs.

''If our body becomes more centered,'' says Johnson, ''we don’t need to be compulsively consuming food.''

Tai chi may also help you deal with emotions that can trigger overeating, experts say.

''A lot of times, people are eating for reasons that have nothing to do with nourishment,'' Conner says. ''We need a way to get in touch with what’s really going on.''

Tai chi's mental benefits can also give us the perspective we need to make wiser food choices.

''A lot of our dietary choices are based on our state of stress and anxiety," says Douglas. "After a stressful day, we’re hardly ever drawn to steamed broccoli. We crave greasy, salty food that helps us forget about the stress of the day.''

Take 20 minutes to do a little tai chi, he says, and ''your palate has a whole different need. You’re not denying yourself; you’re just more in tune to what the body is really asking for."

Choosing a Class

Thinking about trying out tai chi? Here are some tips to help you find a class that's right for you:

  • Visit at least 2 classes, if possible. Most instructors allow you to visit or sample a class free or for a minimal charge before joining.
  • See if you feel comfortable with the teacher and like his or her style.
  • Ask the teacher about his or her experience. Questions to ask include: How long have you been practicing? How long have you taught? Who is your teacher?
  • Speak to the students in the class. Ask them what they like about it, and what keeps them coming back.
  • Make sure you enjoy the class. If it’s not fun for you, you won’t want to go, and you won’t reap the benefits.
  • Keep in mind that before starting any new exercise regime, it's a good idea to check with your doctor.
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Reviewed on June 23, 2006

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