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3 Ways to Clear Your Mind

April 15, 2014
Karl Romain

The benefits of meditation are too many to resist sitting quietly for a few minutes. Meditation has been shown to lower stress, reduce risk of depression, improve sleep quality and boost working memory.

Whether the reason for the resistance is a physical limitation (stiff knees) or a mental one (distractions), the beauty of practicing ancient martial arts, such as tai chi and qigong, is that you can cultivate stillness without standing still.

Both tai chi and qigong focus on centering your chi, or life energy. The Chinese believe that illness in the body is caused when life energy is blocked. Tai chi and qigong clear those blockages and restore the body's natural energy back to balance.

Both practices link the breath to a series of movements that center chi, resulting in a feeling of calm. This is what makes it an optimal meditation practice for anyone who has a challenge sitting still.

While it's best to learn the sequences from an experienced instructor, these three meditative moves will help you get a sense of the centering power and peace of mind that comes from the practice of tai chi or qigong. Do each move for three to nine repetitions, and strive to practice for about 10 minutes every day.

1. Commencement
Stand, knees slightly bent and feet apart. Initiating the movement from the wrists, raise the hands and arms in front of you to shoulder height, then bend at the elbows, keeping the hands relaxed. The wrist should lead the movement as you drop the hands, with the palms facing downward. Inhale as you raise the arms; exhale as you let the arms fall. The movement -- fluid, like a waterfall -- focuses your mind and relaxes the entire body.

2. Wave hands like clouds
Stand, knees slightly bent and feet apart. Shift your weight to the right, bring your left hand up (level with your eyes) and sweep it across the body as you shift your weight to your left foot. (The opposite arm sweeps across the navel.) Keeping the motion fluid, raise the right arm to sweep across the body in the opposite direction. This movement directs energy throughout your body to help you become calm and tranquil.

3. Balance yin and yang
Stand, knees slightly bent and feet apart. Slide your left foot in, and lift it up as you raise your right arm. (Focus your gaze at one point to help with your balance.) Bend knees and slowly lower the foot, shifting your weight to the left and raising the right foot and left hand at the same time. Continue, lifting the opposite hand and foot in a gentle, fluid, rocking motion that mimics the soothing feeling of being rocked as a child.