Weighty Matters

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Reinventing Fabulous and Tai Chi

on March 3, 2012

First off, for anyone who didn’t wind up here from the Bettyverse or ReFab, I was invited to do a guest post today on ReinventingFabulous.com. I wrote about my decision to have weight loss surgery, why I did it, how things are going, and what I’m looking forward to.

A few weeks ago, I started going to a Tai Chi class twice a week.  Tai Chi is a “soft” martial art that is frequently described as meditation in motion.  It’s terrific for calming your mind, stretching, improving your balance, developing your internal energy and more.  If you’ve ever seen video or tv ads that show groups of people (often Asian), slowly moving their bodies in synchrony, that’s likely Tai Chi.  It looks easy, but in reality it’s a very complex martial art with many steps to each move and a lot to learn before things flow “effortlessly”.

It might be a “soft” martial art, but make no mistake — every move is designed for defense or attack.  An 80 year old Asian who has practiced Tai Chi for most of his/her life can put you on the ground in a second, all by using their highly developed internal energy.  Seriously.  They can kick your ass!

I first took up Tai Chi around 1995 and studied it diligently for about four years.  There are many different forms.  Back then I studied the Wu style long form with 108 moves.  It took a year of weekly classes to learn the entire form.  Our teacher always reminded us that we would then spend a lifetime perfecting our form and developing our abilities.

Sadly, I fell off of doing Tai Chi when I moved to Florida.  Even though I missed doing it, I never got my act in gear to take it up again, until recently.  The Taoist Tai Chi Society held an open house for beginners about half an hour from where I live.  I couldn’t go since I was only about a week post-op, but a friend took it up.  I asked her if she could find out whether it would be okay for me to join up after the fact and it turned out that the instructor was okay with me doing so.  I started going when the class was on its fourth lesson.

Although the form is different and there are some things I’m familiar with that they don’t focus as much attention on, many of the basics are the same.  The first night I went, the instructor reviewed the moves to the set that the class had learned so far, and I was able to catch up for the most part;  Since then, I’ve been able to review more and also learn the new moves along with the other students.  I enjoy learning this new-to-me form.  It’s a challenge, but a fun one.  The moves all of names — most of them connected to animals and nature.  Last week we learned the move called “Warding Off Monkeys”.  Today it was “Push Needle to Sea Bottom”.   So much more interesting than, “Bend Over, Touch Fingertips to Wrist of Other Hand”, don’t you think?

Class meets twice a week for an hour and we steadily move for at least 45 minutes of that hour.  Yes, our moves are slow, but we are stretching, shifting our weight, turning, and focusing throughout.  When the class is over, my body feels sooo good.  My mind feels even better.  If I had any stress in my mind or body at the beginning of class, it’s gone far, far away by the end.  When I first took up Tai Chi those many years ago, I learned to breath deeply into the lower dantian (known by many names, including tan tien) which is a center for energy in the body and also helps me root my body.  That deep breathing infuses my cells with healthy oxygen  and really helps me understand why this is known as meditation in motion.

As my weight climbed the scale to my heaviest points, my activity level significantly dropped.  A year ago, it started getting really difficult for me to walk any distance.  My knees, ankles and back hurt and I lost my breath with very little effort.  Rather than push through it, I grew ever more sedentary.  The 50 pounds I’ve lost has already made it easier for me to move.  I am absolutely delighted with this and with the fact that I can do all of the Tai Chi moves and keep up with them, moving for the entire length of class.  So, not only do I feel great physically and mentally, I am elated and energized emotionally.

I feel a bit like my excess pounds had me trapped or imprisoned and I’m now breaking free.   The feeling goes beyond Tai Chi to other parts of my life.  Rather than search out the shortest distance between two points, I now take parking spaces that are farther away from stores, and look for opportunities to walk a little more.  I tune into how much better my body feels to move without pain and stiffness.  I’m looking forward to even more improvement as time goes on and my poundage continues to decrease.

Whether I’m Carrying Tiger to the Mountain, or simply walking my dogs, each step is a gift and a promise for even better things to come.

*******************

The Taoist Tai Chi Society is wide spread.  If you study with one branch, you are then welcome to visit with others when you travel away from your home area.  If you’re not very active but want to be, Tai Chi is a great way to start.  You can start at any age — young or old — and I can promise that you’ll see and feel improvements in your body.  For more information, check out www.taoist.org.

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8 responses to “Reinventing Fabulous and Tai Chi

  1. inkgrrl says:

    Tai Chi is fabububble and I encourage everybody to do it. Including myself. *kicks own butt*

  2. Collegiate Betty / Kate says:

    In high school I had a religion teacher who decided it was a good idea to have everyone in class walk around the upper floor of the school, doing a move he called “stroking the monkey’s tail.” I have no idea how legit it was. But, you know, it was high school, so everyone was cracking up behind his back (including the college counselors across the hall). We all got that lovely we-just-laughed-our-asses-off glow. Although your way sounds much more graceful and productive.

  3. susan lindley says:

    I get it when you say you felt like you were trapped or in jail. I need to get past the particular mindset right now mentally. I call it my body armour. I and shielding myself from hurt? I don’t know. Celie is helping and my therapist on shedding this mindset ie….trap. I think your tai chi sounds awesome, I have never been and may have to look up locally. Keep up the positivity and I am learning alot from gour blogs. Thanks again for sharing.

  4. lunarmom says:

    I have never done this, but, like yoga, it’s been on MY list for decades.

    Just checked, Skye’s right. On the coast, but no classes near me. I’ll investigate further, now I’m curious and my interest is in high gear.

    Very cool that the instructor allowed you to join late. And even better that you can do this now with your new self (inner and outter).
    Julie

  5. Skye says:

    I did Taoist Tai Chi when I lived on the Oregon Coast: we were fortunate to have an instructor there, then a couple of others learned to be instructors, too. It’s fantastic. Unfortunately, they don’t have a branch in Houston (I just checked again to be sure), but I just emailed the Texas branch to see what they suggest. It’s focus on health is so different from the ones that are also martial arts. Amazing what it did for my plantars fasciitis, as well as all my muscle tone.

    • Mary Stella says:

      Skye, I hope that you find an instructor and class. In the meantime, if you know the form and just need some reminders, there is a video up on http://www.taoist.org. Granted, the master is facing the camera and us, the viewers, so he’s moving in the opposite direction, but you can at least get the order of the moves!

      I hope you’re able to get back into it!

  6. I love Tai Chi. Years ago, when I was seriously ill, it was one of the few exercises I could do, and it really helped both body and soul. I studied the Yang long form with a great 80 year old teacher for two years–and yes, it was really exercise! Unfortunately, he moved out of town, and I slowly stopped practicing. (There were no other good teachers in my area, alas.) This year I’ve started back to doing the bits and pieces I can remember. I’ve probably got things in the wrong order, and may not be getting it quite right. But I still love it. Thanks for reminding me I meant to do it more.

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