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Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Taoist Tai Chi® arts.

If you are suffering with PTSD you know that it deeply affects your enjoyment of life. You may be struggling with many challenging symptoms and feelings including anxiety, hopelessness, withdrawal, problems with concentration, distressing memories, sleep problems, anger or irritability, and self destructive behaviour. Certainly PTSD can interfere with daily functioning and happiness.

Fortunately, research and anecdotal evidence show that Tai Chi helps people with PTSD. With Taoist Tai Chi ® practice people find they increase both their energy and their ability to cope with stressful situations. They are able to reduce anxiety and relax as well as be more emotionally steady and less angry. They begin to enjoy people and activities that they had begun to avoid. Training in these arts gives practitioners a way to maintain healthy connections within themselves and with the outside world.

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

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One Person’s Remarkable Story of Recovery from PTSD

Hello, my name is Tom McNicholas. I am a Vietnam war vet and was a police officer for 30 years and on a SWAT team for 20 of those years. I retired at age 54 and was then diagnosed with cancer from exposure to Agent Orange. This brought back all the trauma I had buried. I became very depressed and was just lying on the couch. After some prodding from my wife I started Taoist Tai Chi ® arts. Right away I felt in control for the first time in months and I was hooked. Taoist Tai Chi ® practice has given me a tool to manage PTSD. I can sleep. I can calm myself and de-escalate my anger. I can deal with my trauma. This is for everyone, not just veterans. We all have stress and trauma.

Research: Tai Chi and PTSD

Researchers find mind-body practices (such as Tai Chi) to have positive effects on PTSD symptoms.
  • In a review of studies investigating mind-body practices and PTSD, a number of therapeutic effects on stress responses emerged. These include reductions in anxiety, depression, and anger, and increases in pain tolerance, self-esteem, energy levels, ability to relax, and ability to cope with stressful situations.
  • “In general, mind-body practices were found to be a viable intervention to improve the constellation of PTSD symptoms such as intrusive memories, avoidance, and increased emotional arousal.”

Kim, SH., Schneider, S.M., Kravitz, L., et. al. (2014). Mind-body practices for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder. Journal of Investigative Medicine, 61(5), 827-834.

Veterans with PTSD find that Tai Chi improves symptoms.
  • “Veterans indicated that the programme helped with… intrusive symptoms, concentration difficulties and physiological arousal. In the open-ended interviews, several participants spoke of feeling unusually focused during the Tai Chi sessions and feeling calmed during and after sessions. …The strong endorsement of the Tai Chi programme was highlighted by the fact that all participants reported that they would recommend the Tai Chi programme to a friend and that they would be interested in returning for more.”

Niles, B.L., Mori, D.L., Polizzi, C.P., et. al. (2016). Feasibility, qualitative findings and satisfaction of a brief Tai Chi mind–body programme for veterans with post-traumatic stress symptoms. BMJ, 6(11).

Tai Chi positively impacts symptoms of PTSD.
  • The authors conclude that “Tai Chi is an acceptable, holistic treatment to individuals with musculoskeletal pain and posttraumatic stress disorder. It may reduce pain, improve emotion, memory, and physical function.”
  • Veterans in this study felt that Tai Chi benefitted their health and were interested in continuing practice. These benefits were supported by improvements in a number of areas including fear-affect, fear-somatic arousal, and working memory.

Tsai, PF., Kitch, S., Chang, JY., et. al. (2018). Tai chi for posttraumatic stress disorder and chronic musculoskeletal pain: A pilot study. Journal of Holistic Nursing, 36(2), 147-158.

Preliminary studies show that Tai Chi is a promising intervention for survivors of torture and refugee trauma.
  • Clinical observations from this small case study show that integrating Tai Chi with psychotherapy and psychopharmacology is a safe and effective intervention for refugee survivors of torture.

Grodin, M.A., Piwowarczyk, L., Fulker, D., et. al. (2008). Treating survivors of torture and refugee trauma: A preliminary case series using qigong and t’ai chi. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 14, 801–806.

What are participants who are recovering from PTSD saying about Taoist Tai Chi® arts?

“Since recovery from PTSD, I have found that Taoist Tai Chi® practice helps me to better navigate change and stay in tune with my feelings. I am grateful for this gift because it helps me feel balanced and secure in my life.”

– Brenda, Duncan, Canada


“I can release tension and trauma with Taoist Tai Chi® arts. My son likes me better. I like me better, and I like you better.”

– Terryl, Edmonton, Canada


How does Taoist Tai Chi® practice help?

Taoist Tai Chi® arts are a form of moving meditation that has a deep, calming effect on the nervous system. The brain becomes quieter and the mind clearer.

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.

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