As rehabilitation professionals our lives may feel hurried by tight patient care timelines and burdened by nonsensical documentation demands. If this sounds familiar, you are not alone as a 2014 Career Builder survey cites that 69% of health care professionals report feeling “stressed” and 17% describe themselves as “highly stressed”. As health care providers we greatly influence our patients experiences and ability to heal; in other words, if we feel stressed our patients will feel stressed. Finding ways to center ourselves during the day and to take a moment to align with each patient may be the key to unlocking a more enjoyable work life and improved patient outcomes. Tai Chi employs a very simple process to center the body, breath, and mind.
Begin by standing with relaxed and flexible knees. Next, imagine a long dinosaur tail extending from your sacrum and reaching twenty feet behind you; rest this heavy tail on the ground and allow it to act like a kickstand. Now visualize a string attached to the crown of your head, lifting you up towards the sky. Allow your spine to become “a string of pearls suspended from heaven” as the classic Tai Chi texts proclaim. In sinking the pelvis and lifting the head, the body enters into a more balanced and coherent state, described by many experts as a dynamic equilibrium. In his book, Energy Medicine, Oschman notes that “Robbie (1977) reached the conclusion that soft tissues around the spine, when under appropriate tension, can actually lift each vertebrae off the one below it.”
Simply notice how easily the breath enters the body when standing in Tai Chi posture. In contrast, sink into an “old person” posture with forward head, round shoulders, and stooped spine; now attempt a diaphragmatic breath and notice the increased effort required to fill the lower lungs. Focused abdominal breathing has been related to improved metabolic processes, lymph circulation, immune function, and neurological capacities. The breath is our most powerful tool in obtaining a healthy body and balanced mind; ease of breath engenders peace of mind.
By consciously adjusting the body and noticing the breath, the mind focuses on the present moment letting go of the “didn’t get done” and “yet to do” lists. Tai Chi masters remind us that all power is in the now as it is impossible to act in either the past or future. Even done briefly, many times throughout the day, the three adjustments will begin to create a magical change in how your world operates.
I have found it very rewarding to practice the three adjustments at various times during the day between clients, at restroom breaks, and while doing paperwork. It has also proven to be surprisingly well received by clients who appreciated a short respite from their own demanding thoughts. Lets challenge ourselves, for just one day, to briefly draw our patients attention to their bodies and breath before having them perform an exercise or action. Better yet, practice with them and see what it does for you. Tai Chi may be just the thing to help you become more “self-centered”.
Brian Trzaskos, Founder IRQTC