Qigong and Tai-chi are ancient Chinese practices used for maintaining emotional well-being and promoting mind-body balance. A review of QiGong in mental health care identified five studies on QiGong in the treatment of anxiety but only one small uncontrolled study reported consistent anxiety-reducing benefits of regular QiGong practice. Other small studies suggest that regular QiGong practice results in decreased subjective feelings of anxiety possibly related to changes in central nervous system activity following prolonged practice.
Tai-chi is a highly evolved mind-body practice that is similar to QiGong. Tai-chi probably has beneficial stress-reducing effects that are comparable to meditation or brisk walking. In a pilot study compared Tai-chi to progressive muscle relaxation in combat veterans diagnosed with PTSD individuals in the Tai-chi group reported significantly greater decreases in subjective measures of stress compared to the group performing progressive muscle relaxation. Rare cases of agitation, hysteria and psychosis have been reported following intensive or “unskillful” qigong practice. Individuals diagnosed with schizophrenia or severe personality disorders should practice qigong only under the guidance of a skillful instructor who can advise them about avoiding practices that may worsen their mental health.
You can find out more about the benefits of qigong and tai-chi for generalized anxiety and promoting well-being, and other safe and effective complementary and alternative treatments of anxiety, and learn practical tips for using them in “Anxiety: the Integrative Mental Health Solution,” by James Lake M.D.