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Tai Chi Chih for Stress Relief and Anxiety

We all have stress from time to time. However, when your stress begins to affect your quality of life, it might be time to consider trying a form of stress relief that does not involve medication. T'ai Chi Chih's gentle movements release stress by relaxing and rejuvenating the body while refreshing the mind.

Michelle Carlino, E-RYT 500 YACEP , and Sheila Finamore, CTRS, discuss Tai Chi Chih for Stress Relief and the ways in which this gentle moving meditation balances and circulates the Chi, the intrinsic energy inherent in all life.
Tai Chi Chih for Stress Relief and Anxiety
Featured Speaker:
Michelle Carlino, E-RYT 500 YACEP & Sheila Finamore, CTRS
Michelle Carlino, E-RYT 500 YACEP and a certified Tai Chi Chih instructor with Lourdes.

Sheila Finamore, CTRS is a recreation therapist, Mental Health, Lourdes Medical Center of Burlington County.

Melanie Cole (Host): We all have stress from time to time. However, when your stress begins to affect your quality of life; it might be time to consider trying a form or stress relief that does not involve medication. My guests today are Michelle Carlino, she’s a certified Tai Chi Chih Instructor with Lourdes and Sheila Finamore, she’s the Recreational Therapist and Behavioral Health Unit at Lourdes Medical Center. So, ladies welcome to the show. Michelle, I’m going to start with you. What is Tai Chi Chih? And what does that mean. What do those words mean?

Michelle Carlino, E-RYT 500 YACES (Guest): Tai Chi Chih is a very simple practice of 19 movements and one pose. We work with the life force which is call chi, so that’s what chi stands for. So, chi is the life force that’s moving through our system at all times and it keeps our heart beating and many blood functioning and many miracles happening within our body at one time. So, as we do this practice, which consists of slow meditative movements; it brings back a profound healing by circulating and balancing this essential life force which is called the chi. So, it brings us physical, mental, and emotional and spiritual benefits.

Melanie: Michelle, I’m sticking with you for a minute. What is the difference between Tai Chi Chih and Tai Chi Chuan or just Tai Chi? People hear these terms and they don’t know really what the difference is.

Michelle: Tai Chi when you hear that, what they really are referring to is Tai Chi Chuan and that’s a wonderful practice that works on balancing the chi in the body as well and that is a longer practice. The short form has about 48 movements and about 102 in the long. So, it can take quite a while to learn those movements let alone get them to a point where you can actually feel the benefits of them. So, the developer of Tai Chi Chih is a gentleman named Justin Stone who passed away a few years ago and he is also a Tai Chi Chuan master and he got frustrated teaching Tai Chi Chuan because it took a long time for people to learn it and get the benefits and many of the students didn’t take long enough to learn it. so, he developed this practice out of his own knowing’s of Tai Chi Chuan and his studies in China where he lived for many years and studied, and he developed this which is 19 movements and one pose, and you can learn the whole practice within eight to ten sessions and you will feel the benefits of the practice in your very first session.

Melanie: Sheila, let’s talk about recreational therapy for a minute. So, as we are talking about this form of Tai Chi Chih for stress relief and anxiety, recreational therapy aims to do the same. Tell us a little bit about what it is you do for a living and then we are going to get into some of the advantages and how these types of therapies can help with stress relief.

Sheila Finamore, CTRS (Guest): Oh, that’s a great question. I’m the recreation therapist and I work with mentally ill patients who also have maybe addiction problems. So, we work on providing learning new coping skills to help them reduce their anxiety. A lot of them have PTSD or they have depression, or they have psychosis where they hear voices and the moving meditation of Tai Chi Chih helps ground them, gives them a grounding skill.

Melanie: So, let’s just find out first is it considered exercise Michelle?

Michelle: It’s considered a gentle practice. You could call it an exercise if you wanted to use that word for it. It’s a practice of moving the life force of chi and recirculating it and balancing it and actually strengthening it. It has a profound affect on the nervous system which is most important because that’s the part that helps us to deal and manage stress. So, by using the movements and working with the practice; you actually have a benefit in all the eleven systems in the body, all of the organs and all of the glands and as we respond to stress; those are the parts that get most affected. So, when you are doing the practice; it actually helps your body to re-balance itself from stress and also to help your body become stronger so that it can deal with stress as well.

Melanie: Sheila when we think of stress and as a therapist you see a lot of it; sometimes weight gain is not only a source of stress, but it can also be something that contributes to more stress, being unhappy with our bodies. So, how does recreational therapy and specifically Tai Chi Chih help with that feeling of maybe self-esteem or weight loss or any of those other things that contribute to an overall sense of dissatisfaction?

Sheila: I try to teach the patients about healthy balance, healthy living and incorporate – we do movement therapy groups, we do exercise groups or we do stretching and I actually include all most of the Tai Chi Chih movements with the patients on the short-term care unit and it does help calm them down and keep them focused and it helps – and we talk about a healthy lifestyle and that helps them with their self-esteem and they feel better about themselves. And they have a more positive attitude and a more positive outlook.

Melanie: Well certainly it does so Michelle explain a little bit about the movements themselves. Can anyone do it? You know we see in the movies, people doing these beautiful motions that look very meditative. Tell us a little bit about the movements and what they are intended to do.

Michelle: The movements are very simple to learn, and they are slow, gentle repetitive movements usually done in multiples of three and that is the number that is sacred in China. There are nine repetitions because nine is a sacred number of completion. And as you do these movements, you are circulating the chi in the body and it can be done sitting or standing. Anyone can do it. I work with people that are blind, people that are brain injured, people that are in wheelchairs, people with MS. It is accessible to every single person to do this practice. You need very little space if you are standing, only two to three feet and of course if you are sitting, you are just in your chair. And you can do it anywhere, even if you are sitting on a plane; you can do some of the simple movements. So, it’s highly accessible and has simple effects that can be felt very quickly.

Melanie: Michelle, where does breathing fit into this form of therapy?

Michelle: Okay, the breath is just soft and through the practice and easy breathing, though at times when you are doing the practice; you may feel a deep exhalation come up because you are just actually releasing the tension out of the body. Again, it works on every system of the body, so it’s beneficial for arthritis, bursitis, tendonitis. It helps to reduce pain. It helps in weight loss. It’s very effective in calming the body and the mind. It helps to improve your balance. People have found that they have had reduced falls from doing this practice so it’s very helpful for seniors or people with MS that do deal with balance challenges.

Melanie: So, Sheila first last word to you. What do you want the listeners to take away from this episode to let them know about stress relief and the importance of looking for ways to relieve that stress and anxiety that so many of us suffer from and how recreational therapy at Lourdes can help them with that?

Sheila: Absolutely. Stress management is so important because our life is like a roller coaster. We have more stressful days and less stressful days. So, what happens is we have to recharge our battery, regroup, take care of ourselves first. I teach positive self-care and self-compassion for ourselves, so we have to deal with our stress, so we can change our reaction to anything that comes our way, any stressful situations or people. So, definitely recreational therapy works on the coping skills, self-esteem, stress management, relaxation skills to help you deal with everyday stressors in my life and also the patients’ life. It’s wonderful and the Tai Chi Chih is just so wonderful. I have been doing it for four years with Michelle and Thursday is my favorite day and the patients love it too and we have really good positive energy in our group. We usually have about ten to fifteen patients participating at one time and it’s just awesome. She’s so fantastic and it’s such a great practice to help with stress management.

Melanie: What a nice thing to say. So, Michelle respond to that and wrap it up for the listeners about Tai Chi Chih and what you would really like them to know about this meditative form of stress relief and the movements and how you would like them to learn this type of practice.

Michelle: I basically just want people to understand it’s a very easily learned practice. It’s very available for people of all conditions and you can have profound effects very simply by learning a few movements. You don’t have to do the movements even in that certain sequence. You can do a couple of them at random times through the day, so it can serve as a powerful tool to help us to deal with stress and how it affects us on a level.

Melanie: Thank you so much ladies for being with us today and explaining that to us all this wonderful form of stress relief that can help us with anxiety and stress that we all feel at some point. This is Lourdes Health Talk. For more information please visit, that’s This is Melanie Cole. Thanks so much for listening.