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Tai Chi and Nursing: A Natural Combination

Tai Chi for nurses
Photo: Dr Paul Lam and Anastasia Yianni
You might not automatically associate the art of tai chi with the medical expertise of nursing, but for Anastasia Yianni, the combination couldn’t be more natural.

“Tai Chi is about the integration of mind and body and building strength from the inside out,” says Ms Yianni.

“The nursing environment can often be stressful. It is paramount to look after our own health in order to be able to care for others more effectively.

“Calm and relaxed nurses have a positive effect on their patients and with the people they work with.

“Nurses can benefit by incorporating the tai chi principles into their everyday lives for physical and mental well-being. In turn they can also use what they have learnt in Tai Chi to enhance the lives of the people under their care.”
After many years working in a variety of nursing roles, such as general nursing, psychiatric nursing, as well as rehabilitation, Ms Yianni found shift work became difficult after having her son, promoting a shift into the Physiotherapy Department.

“It was during this time that I realised more and more the value in exercise for health and wellness; as a way to take control of your own life for an optimum level of independence.”

When her son was three, Ms Yianni decided to take a tai chi class, as a way of combatting stress.

“It was a few years later that I went to a class and was taught Dr Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Arthritis program. The way this program was taught helped me remember it and I was hooked.

“I loved the fact that I had found a walking meditation. I had tried sitting to meditate and was not very good at it at the time. Tai Chi was perfect for me. I could move and meditate at the same time.

“I loved sharing the experience with my son. And doing tai chi with other people. You just feel so connected.

“I loved that it helped me feel calm. When my son was young, bringing him up on my own, I found it helped me deal with feelings of anxiety.

“Tai Chi was so good for my health and complimented the way I thought about empowering yourself to be as well as possible.”

Ms Yianni says being able to practice Tai Chi not only helped in her personal life, but also in her role as a nurse.

“Absolutely dealing with stress, I would take myself off for a toilet stop and do the qigong breathing exercise.

“I would arrive earlier at work when no one was in the office and practice tai chi movements.”

When Ms Yianni was a student attending tai chi classes, she was introduced to the Tai Chi for Health Institute and Dr Paul Lam’s Tai Chi for Health Programs (TCH) and decided to become a trainer of the programs herself.

“The TCH programs are especially suitable for nurses being easy and quick to learn with prior preparation.

“There is a proven system of training which is safe and effective. TCH programs can be modified to suit individuals and can be done standing, seated or lying down.

“There are over 30 published studies specifically for TCH programs to show many health benefits, several are done by nurse researchers. 

“As a Master Trainer I have trained many health professionals in the TCH programs.”

As a Tai Chi trainer and nurse, Ms Yianni has enjoyed a variety of rewarding and fulfilling roles.

“In the past I was employed as a Community Health Nurse in a Day Centre to teach Tai Chi to help improve health for people who have chronic conditions and live in the community.

“At the same centre I set up a Parkinson’s tai chi group with the support of Parkinson’s Victoria.

“I am no longer in that role; however, the classes continue to run successfully.

“When I worked at the Rehabilitation hospital with the physiotherapists, I was asked to ‘do some of that stuff you do’.

“It was doing some gentle tai chi with the people who were in for Cardiac Rehabilitation often after major surgery to help alleviate their anxiety.

“I have facilitated regular classes in a Retirement Village. Also, in Aged Care for people with varying degrees of cognitive issues. My nursing background was very useful in helping me to understand the complexities.”

Ms Yianni says being able to combine tai chi with nursing, has only made her love her profession even more.

“What I loved most about nursing was imagining if it were me in that situation, how would I want to be treated, what would make me feel better?

“Meeting people from all walks of life and hearing people’s stories.

“What I love now is that I have moved away from the clinical setting and am involved in the promotion of wellness and self-empowerment.

“It is fantastic having a vast experience which I draw from.

“Once a nurse always a nurse!”

To learn more about Tai Chi for heath professionals, click here.

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