Monday, January 30, 2012

Tai Chi and me

Four Januaries ago, I had to make a stop at Value Village on Whyte Avenue, and noticed the Taoist Tai Chi Society across the street. I'd always thought those far eastern movement practices so beautiful, so I went over to see if I could watch what was happening.

And wouldn't you know... it was "Demonstration Day." A fellow named Tom made me most welcome, offering me a cup of green tea and a place to sit. A few minutes later, he and four or five others did a Tai Chi demonstration for a dozen of us who had gathered... and I was hooked on the simple but beautiful movement.

I signed up and joined a Tuesday/Thursday beginners' class for four months, and learned the 108 movements in the Taoist Tai Chi set. They had wonderful names, like white stork spreads wings, carry tiger to mountain, parting wild horse's mane, and golden cock stands on one leg. What I really liked was moving in sync with my classmates. It felt like magic, and it didn't require extra equipment, or getting wet, or endangering the future of my joints (like my aerobics class-inclined friends with knee troubles).

Penny, my teacher/volunteer, was wonderful and encouraging. We had a lot of laughs as we learned, and when we "graduated," I was very sorry to see the end of Beginners, so I bought a year's membership. I was the youngest person in my Continuing class (led by an amazing eighty-nine-year-young lady who had at one time been sidelined by arthritis), and the Monday/Wednesday slots didn't work very well for me. I tried evenings, too, but that was no better because of family involvements. A part-time job ended my participation with the larger Taoist Tai Chi community, though I continued to do the set alone in my living room, just often enough that I wouldn't forget it.

A few weeks ago, after two and a half months of this dizziness, I realized that I've been turning to mush, physically. Feeling spinny just walking around means exercise is pretty difficult, though I have managed to go for evening walks on the arm of my husband, or to the coffee shop with my neighbour. But that's not nearly enough to keep anyone in shape... so I decided to at least try my old Tai Chi moves, and guess what? The slow, meditative movements were okay. When I was stiff in the ribcage and the thighs on the second day, I realized just how out of shape I was, so I've been doing the set every day for the past couple of weeks, and I suspect the endorphins from Tai Chi have lifted my spirits.

When I watched the Demonstration Day people doing Tai Chi, I never guessed how physically demanding it can be. My husband didn't believe that such slow movements would make much difference in my fitness levels when I started... but I showed him! When it came time for digging the garden in April of 2008, it wasn't me who was suffering after a day of shovelling dirt. Lee learned his lesson -- he doesn't call it "old people exercise" any more!

It's actually quite a workout when it's done slowly... like a series of "static holds" or isometric exercises, but with a bit more movement. It flows gracefully and it makes me happy. I love parting the wild horse's mane, being the fair lady working shuttles, and moving my hands like clouds. I just learned that the Taoist Society has meetings at my nearest United Church on Mondays and Wednesdays, so maybe once my dizziness is gone, I'll see if I can't join them just so I don't completely forget what it's like to move with a group.

There are lots of other forms of Tai chi besides the Taoist (which seems to appeal more to geriatric patients than some of the ones that are more closely related to the martial arts). If you ever get a chance to learn Tai Chi of any kind, I'd recommend it!

And now, off to do my 108 moves...

1 comment:

  1. Ahh another convert, how fabulous. Tai Chi is wonderful, enjoy your journey. :D


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