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Anxiety, Depression and Taoist Tai Chi® arts

If you are suffering from anxiety or depression or both, you know that they can deeply affect your enjoyment of life. You may be experiencing many challenging symptoms and feelings including low energy, hopelessness, apathy, or trouble connecting to people. Perhaps you are struggling with worry or panic, a sense of agitation that is difficult to control and trouble with focusing. Certainly anxiety and depression interfere with daily functioning and happiness.

Fortunately, research and anecdotal evidence shows that Tai Chi helps people with both depression and anxiety. With Taoist Tai Chi® practice people find they increase their energy, improve their mood, and reduce their anxiety. They are able to relax, be steadier emotionally, and manage stressful situations. Being part of a supportive community and practising together helps to build strong connections. People find they begin to enjoy their relationships with others as well as activities that they may have begun to avoid. Training in these arts gives practitioners a way to maintain healthy connections within themselves and with the outside world.

People practising Taoist Tai Chi® arts also find they become stronger, have better balance and flexibility, and enjoy a wonderful feeling of lightness and well-being.


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One Person’s Story of Recovery from Anxiety and Depression - One Class at a Time!

My name is Kirosa. I was diagnosed with Depressive Disorder, General Anxiety Disorder and Panic Disorder. At the time I could not interact with my family or work or get out of the house at all. I was sleeping many hours. Attending a Taoist Tai Chi® arts retreat was a turning point in my life. I began to think more positively and I stopped feeling so alone. I began to be more comfortable in my own skin and to like myself better. It has been a journey, but with Taoist Tai Chi® practice, I feel that I am a new person.


Research: Anxiety, Depression and Tai Chi

There is good evidence that regular Tai Chi practice reduces the severity of depression.
  • Meta-analyses have shown that individuals in Tai Chi treatment groups experienced reduced depression severity at the end of the trial. They have also found benefit for anxiety1,2.
  • One group of authors concluded that Tai Chi practice is beneficial for populations who are at higher risk of developing debilitating stress-related disorders (e.g. anxiety and depression), such as post-secondary students2.
  • Furthermore, randomized controlled studies have found that Tai Chi treatment groups experienced significantly greater remission in their depressive symptoms compared to waitlisted and education groups3.

1Huston, P. and McFarlane, B. (2016). Health benefits of tai chi: What is the evidence? Canadian Family Physician, 62, 881-90.

2Webster, C.S., Luo, A.Y., Krägeloh, C., Moir, F., and Henning, M. (2016). A systematic review of the health benefits of Tai Chi for students in higher education. Preventative Medicine Reports, 3, 103-112.

3Yeung, AS. et al. (2017). A pilot, randomized controlled study of tai chi with passive and active controls in the treatment of depressed Chinese Americans. Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, 78(5), 522-588.

Patients with confounding health issues experienced reductions in depression and anxiety levels with regular Tai Chi practice.
  • Researchers found that patients at risk for cardiovascular problems not only benefited from Tai Chi practice in terms of their cardiovascular risk factors, but also had great drops in their anxiety levels compared to control groups1.
  • Elsewhere, researchers found that individuals with cardiovascular disease who practiced Tai Chi regularly showed lower levels of anxiety, depression2,3, and psychological distress3. They also reported higher qualities of life in general2, as well as on more specific mental and physical health measures3.
  • Similarly, researchers report that there is “accumulating evidence that Tai Chi can relieve depressive symptoms in patients with fibromyalgia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis, heart failure, mild dementia, and cerebrovascular disorder4.”
  • They concluded that the practice of Tai Chi has long-term health benefits through stress hormone reduction, anxiety reduction1, and the promotion of emotional well-being1,2,3,4.

1Chang, MY., Yeh, SC.J., and Chu, MC., et. al. (2013). Associations between tai chi chung program, anxiety, and cardiovascular risk factors. American Journal of Health Promotion, 28(1), 16-22.

2Liu, T., Chan, AW., Liu, YH., and Taylor-Pillae, R.E. (2018). Effects of Tai Chi-based cardiac rehabilitation on aerobic endurance, psychosocial well-being, and cardiovascular risk reduction among patients with coronary heart disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, 17(4), 368-383.

3Taylor-Piliae, R.E. and Finley, B.A. (2020). Tai Chi exercise for psychological well-being among adults with cardiovascular disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis. European Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing, June.

4Kong, J., Wilson, G., Park, J., Pereira, K., Waypole, C., and Yeung, A. (2019). Treating depression with tai chi: State of the art and future perspectives. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 10(237), doi:10.3389/fpsyt.2019.00237.

Studies show that Tai Chi is beneficial for improving psychosocial well-being in many areas including depression and anxiety.
  • A meta-analysis reported that there was a significant reduction in stress, anxiety, and depression in both healthy adults and in patients with chronic conditions3.
  • Two in-depth literature reviews found that in spite of the limitations in many of the studies due to methodological issues, Tai Chi practice is still a very promising intervention for anxiety and depression management1,2.
  • One study went so far as to suggest that “all practitioners working with preventing or managing anxiety must teach tai chi as one of the approaches for anxiety reduction1.”

1Sharma, M. and Haider, T. (2014). Tai Chi as an alternative and complimentary therapy for anxiety: A systematic review. Journal of Evidence-Based Complementary & Alternative Medicine, 20(2), 143-153.

2Wang, F., Lee, E-KO., Wu, T., et. al. (2014). The effects of tai chi on depression, anxiety, and psychological well-being: a systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21, 605–617.

3Wang, F., Lee, EK., Wu, T., Benson, H., Fricchione, G., Wang, W., and Yeung, AS. (2014). Tai chi on psychological well-being: A systematic review and meta-analysis. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine, 21(4), 605-617.

What are practitioners with anxiety or depression saying about Taoist Tai Chi® arts?

“Going to Taoist Tai Chi® arts class aids in the prevention of depression and is a great pain killer.  Taoist Tai Chi® practice gives me hope.”

– Jane, Chiltern, UK

“After my wife died Taoist Tai Chi® arts helped me cope with the grieving process. The calming yet focused “moving meditation” was an enormous help in giving me back a purpose for living.”

– Michael, St. Catharines, Canada

“For me, Taoist Tai Chi® practice has most strongly impacted my emotional/mental health – less anxiety and depression and an improved ability to relate to others.  I have better self-esteem; I am less shy and have less social anxiety. I am calmer and less angry.”

– Ann, Cobourg, Canada

“While I am very grateful for the improved physical health Taoist Tai Chi® practice has offered, it is the mental peace, calm, equanimity that I now feel that is so appreciated. The actual functionality of my life has improved immensely – mental clarity, cheerfulness, organizational abilities, increased mental memory/problem solving, less anxiety to none.”

– Margaret, Toronto, Canada

“When I first started Taoist Tai Chi® practice in 1991 I was very anxious and depressed. There is a genetic component to my depression: my paternal grandmother, my father, my brother and some of his children and grandchildren – so 5 generations – have struggled with both anxiety and depression. Of all the family I am the only one who keeps these things under control without medication. From quite early in my Taoist Tai Chi® arts training I realized that Taoist Tai Chi® practice gave me more energy, helped me to relax and be less anxious. I learned that if I am beginning to feel anxious or depressed, I can do dan-yus and actually stop the feeling of grief and fatigue. In Taoist Tai Chi® arts classes we talk about balance a lot; to me this always means first and foremost having emotional balance. I have also learned that being balanced in my body contributes to being emotionally balanced, that the mind and body are all one.”

– Polly, Vancouver, Canada

How does Taoist Tai Chi® practice help?

Taoist Tai Chi® arts are a form of moving meditation that has a deep effect on the nervous system and the brain, reducing anxiety, lightening the spirit, calming and clearing the mind.

Taoist Tai Chi® arts involve a full range of motion with deep stretching and continuous turning of the spine. They exercise the whole physiology including muscular, skeletal and circulatory systems, as well as tendons, joints, connective tissue and organs. This whole body approach has a profound effect on our health, increasing strength, flexibility and resilience, whatever our condition.

Be Stronger – Be Lighter – Be Relaxed

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