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Mental stress is the modern-day adults’ biggest enemy. In small doses, it may impose enough pressure for us to reach peak performance. However, when accumulated or repressed over a certain period of time, it can take a heavy toll on your overall health. Stress can be triggered by various factors including changes in relationship dynamics, heavy workload, increase in financial obligations and unrealistic expectations.
While the reason and degree varies from one person to another, it is vital to know that you are not alone. In fact, WebMD reported that the human bodies are designed to feel stress and react to it. Stress reportedly keeps us alert and ready to avoid danger. One of the keys to coping with stress, according to WebMD, is learning ways to reduce and manage said stress.
This is where exercises come in handy. Researches have shown that workouts – as simple as breathing routines – can help pump up your brain’s feel-good neurotransmitters dubbed endorphins. In other words, exercises are capable of sending your body into a euphoric state. Apart from that, exercises are proven to relax and lower the symptoms associated with mild depression and anxiety. This, in turn, will improve your mood by giving a sense of command over your own body and health.
Instead of the classic treadmill or weights routines at the gym, let us delve deeper into more underrated forms of workouts – mind-body exercises which could really do us good without having to put too much strains on our physiques.
You might have seen a group of ladies gather at Phnom Penh’s Riverside on Sunday mornings to perform what can only be assumed as a slow-motion version of Kung Fu. They are actually practicing Tai Chi – an ancient Chinese tradition which was initially developed as a form of martial arts. Thanks to its graceful forms, Tai Chi is also known as meditation in motion. Typically, it involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing. By pacing yourself between movements without any pauses, Tai Chi allows your body to be in constant movement without exerting too much.
Benefits: Improves cardiovascular health, improves muscle strength, better flexibility and balance control, improves neurotransmitter levels which can alleviate depression, and reduces arthritis pain.
Tips for beginners: It is important to keep an open mind and try to relax as much as possible. Tai Chi master Wee Kee Jin suggested for first-timers to take pleasure in noticing the flows of energy in nature. He also said practitioners should embrace the movements that arise from a welling-up of natural energy following your conscious intention.
Trust us, it is not just a fad. With over 5,000-year history in ancient Indian philosophy, yoga is a form of practice that incorporates physical postures, breathing techniques, and meditation to encourage better mental and physical health. There are many disciplines of yoga, the common ones being Hatha, Karma, Bakti and Raja. Educate yourself on the differences and start picking up one that you can resonate with the most. Essentially, yoga prioritises a balanced chakras – the center points of energy, thoughts, feelings, and the physical body. This can be achieved by performing postures that can move and align the energy in your body.
Benefits: Aside from increased flexibility, yoga lowers your levels of the stress hormone cortisol, prevents pro-inflammatory diseases, decreases the symptoms of anxiety, reduces risks for heart diseases, and reduces chronic pain in conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome and osteoarthritis.
Tips for beginners: Do not bite off more than you can chew. Opt for a beginners’ lesson to explore low-intensity positions that will allow you to assess your flexibility and endurance. All you need to get started is an open mind, appropriate yoga-wear and a yoga mat.
Qi Gong (pronounced chee-gung) is another form of practice that combines all aspects of the mind, body and spirit. Qi Gong aims at improving mental and physical health by integrating posture, movement, breathing technique, self-massage, sound, and focused intent. According to the University of Minnesota, there are two types of Qigong practice: Wai Dan (involves physical movement and concentration) and Nei Dan (involves sitting meditation and guided imagery or visualisation). While there are many disciplines and styles, in general, Qi Gong can be considered as a unique combination of Tai Chi-style moving meditation and yoga-style still meditation.
Benefits: Lowers blood pressure and improves heart health, reduces negative effects of stress, improves immunity and protects against cancer, eases joint pain and builds stamina.
Tips for beginners: It would be wise to start by researching further about Qi Gong especially if you are a novice. Since there are a handful of styles to choose from, focus on only one. Learn deeper and keep practicing until you are ready to move forward with the next step. Each time, begin with an open mind so you can feel connected to your energy base.
While these mind-body exercises may add positive values into your lives, we can never be too complacent. Get yourself and your loved ones protected with AIA’s life insurance solution which covers 26 conditions of critical illnesses and medical operations in Cambodia and overseas. To inquire further, please contact AIA Cambodia at 086 999 242.
Sources: Mayo Clinic, Healthline, The Guardian, Mental Health, Medical News Today, Spark People, Cleveland Clinic, Mind Body Green, American Osteopathic Association.