Research has shown that the principles that are foundational to tai chi, and the techniques that tai chi utilizes, may provide tools for people who find themselves in the midst of trauma, or in the midst of a stimulus-induced traumatic memory.

What is trauma? The working definition that Earth And Cup uses for trauma is – any event, situation or circumstance that is outside of our understanding of everyday life; and/or, any event, situation, or circumstance that is beyond our holistic abilities (physical, mental, emotional, social, spiritual) to response. Anything may be a trauma to any individual, based on the experience and/or abilities to response for the individual. We are globally going through a traumatic event with the presence of COVID-19. We all experience trauma differently. So we need to approach each individual situation differently.

Our autonomic nervous system assists us in traumatic moments by giving us instinctual responses. The sympathetic nervous system brings us to a fight/flight/freeze response. These are instinctual, and we need them to be. At times, what may happen is we remain in these instinctual, sympathetic nervous system responses. This may lead to a prolonged feeling of fear, anxiety, anger, and other emotions. Our body needs to move from the sympathetic nervous system to a parasympathetic nervous system response which is associated with rest, digest, and process. The parasympathetic nervous system allows us to move out of the instinctual to a more processed response. Tai Chi has contributions to affect engagement of the parasympathetic nervous system.

Breath – When we find ourselves in traumatic events, we have a tendency to begin a more upper chest, shallow, and rapid breathing sequence. This type of breathing leads us to a hyperventilation situation. Tai Chi offers the abdominal, deep breathing technique. The ability to move to this deeper breathing, slows down our pulse, lowers our blood pressure, provides a more oxygenated blood to travel through the body. Studies have shown another breathing technique known as “Box Breathing”, “Combat Breathing” or “Tactical Breathing”, assists in moving from the instinctual sympathetic nervous system to a more processing parasympathetic nervous system response. Box Breathing is using an equal ratio inhale and exhale, as well as equal ratio pauses between the inhale and exhale, and between the exhale and inhale. So image inhaling for a count of three, pausing for a count of three, exhaling for a count of three, and pausing for a count of three.

Movement – We may also use particular tai chi postures to assist in moving from fight/flight/freeze to a more cognitive response. Initially, we might use postures that complement that instinctual response. Postures that have some of the fight/flight/freeze response, yet gives a release from that response as well. When we find ourselves in a flight response, finding a grounded posture, then shifting our weight side-to-side and ball-to-heal allows for the complement of staying in place, with a feeling of desiring to move away. When we find ourselves with the freeze response, using a tai chi push, embraces the desire to stay in place, with the complement of giving some reaction to the event. If we find a fight response, wave hands like clouds, may offer us an engagement with the stimulus, but with the complement of redirecting our response in a more thoughtful way than just a head-on power against power approach. There may be other postures that each person may find to assist with each of these instinctual responses.

Click this link to view a video on these techniques:

For more information, or if you would like to work with Earth And Cup in the area of trauma responses, email: .