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Tai Chi found to alleviate stress, depression

April 14, 2011 12:00:00 AM PDT
The ancient martial art of Tai Chi may help alleviate depression. Researchers say the practice proved to be a very effective approach to treating depression.

Our eyes are drawn to the hands, but being centered at the soles of your feet is the key to T'ai Chi Chih.

The peaceful feeling of connectedness keeps Wendy Taylor of Culver City coming back.

"We learn to concentrate on the soles of our feet, and so if we're driving on the freeway and you're getting a little uptight, you just concentrate on your feet and it brings you right back to center," said Taylor.

Taylor is a breast cancer survivor who's dealt with several bouts of depression. She says her Tai Chi practice is helping.

"I feel a lot happier in the last few weeks," said Taylor.

A new UCLA study confirms what Taylor is feeling.

Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center's Dr. Helen Lavretsky followed 112 depression patients over the age of 60. Those who didn't respond well to antidepressants were asked to take a weekly health education class, or two hours per week of T'ai Chi Chih. The Tai Chi group saw remarkable results.

"People who participated in Tai Chi classes had much higher rates of remission -- 75 percent remitted, were free from depression after four months of participation in the study. In addition, they had improvement in inflammatory markers and cognitive function," said Lavretsky.

Participants saw improved performance in memory and executive function.

T'ai Chi Chih is a gentle, abbreviated form that's easy to teach. While exercise is known to manage depression, Lavretsky says something about this meditative movement might even be more beneficial that regular exercise.

"There are certainly biological changes with Tai Chi," said Lavretsky. "The Western sciences are only now trying to understand the biological underpinnings of these practices."

For Wendy Taylor, she's felt a complete turnaround. "I feel a lot happier in the last few weeks," she said.

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