Weighty Matters

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Tai Chi

on June 23, 2012

Before I get to my topic, I want to do a shout out to a very dear, long time friend with whom I’ve recently reconnected.  *waving toward Oklahoma!*  She’s about to embark on her own journey toward weight loss surgery.  We spent a long time in a great “catch-up” phone call.  I’m still smiling.  It’s been too long!  You’re going to do great, girlfriend!

On to the blog post.

This morning I had Tai Chi class.  I’ve now been going since February.  Except for the times when I’ve been away, I’ve been a faithful student, making classes twice a week.  We’ve completed the beginning course where we learn the “set” with 108 moves in sequence.  Some of the moves are repeated throughout the set, but it’s still going to be a while before I can do the entire set on my own and not lose track.  Thankfully we have an instructor and, usually, a more experienced student to follow along with so we don’t get lost.

For those not familiar with Tai Chi, it’s a “soft” martial art.  You’ve probably seen television ads that show groups of mostly older people doing graceful movements in synchrony.  That’s Tai Chi.  There are several different styles, but many of the basics are the same.  It’s good for improving balance, flexibility, mobility and leg strength.  I find that it also reduces stress and improves breathing.

This is the second time I’ve studied Tai Chi.  I first got into it back in 1995 or 1996, studying a different form.  I was diligent for about five years and then fell away when I moved down to Florida.  I do better with some class structure and then bridge that back to practicing the art at home.

I’d seen it advertised here in the Florida Keys some years ago but the classes were about an hour from my home, so I never enrolled.  This winter, I saw that the same society was holding an open house and classes closer to where I live.  I’d only recently had the weight loss surgery so I missed the open house, but a friend posted on Facebook that she’d signed up.  I asked her to find out if they would let me start a few classes late.  They would, so I started going a couple of weeks later.

For someone who has been largely sedentary and out of shape, Tai Chi is a great way to start moving again.  The movements are done fairly slowly with low impact and your ability increases over time with practice.   It isn’t a race, that’s for certain, and nobody expects perfection.  The prevailing attitude in Tai Chi is that you might learn the set in a few months, but you spend a lifetime refining the moves.

Even when I first studied many years ago, I wasn’t in great shape.  I wasn’t at my top weight, but I was still really heavy, but I could still do the moves.  Same thing this go-round but with every week that passes I see improvement.  I don’t need to take frequent breaks.  My leg strength is increasing which makes the weight shifts or empty steps easier to accomplish.  I can stretch more and do certain turns or kicks with greater flexibility and balance.

At the end of the hour long class, my body feels relaxed and loose.  My brain is in a nice relaxed state too.  There’s a reason this is often referred to as meditation in motion.  It’s very difficult for your thoughts to race around when you’re focused on doing the set.  The internal energy — the chi — flowing through me  just makes me feel terrific all over.

I first heard of Tai Chi so many years ago that I can’t remember the year, but it was in a book by Sidney Sheldon.  I’ll have to research the title, but the main female character was wrongly imprisoned.  To save her sanity and work her body while she’s in a small cell, she continues to practice her Tai Chi.  The moves have beautiful and interesting names.  I think the names caught my imagination in the beginning.  White Stork Spreads Wings.  Carry Tiger to the Mountain.  Grasp Bird’s Tail.  Go Back to Ward Off Monkeys.   Fair Lady Works Shuttles.

Honestly, aren’t they great and descriptive?  Now picture yourself gracefully moving through those beautiful moves with intention in every gesture and step.  It’s a powerful exercise all flowing from within.

When you’re as out of shape as I was before renewing my studies, being able to do any part of Tai Chi is greatly encouraging in and of itself.  Over the weeks, feeling myself improve and my body respond with more energy and greater ease of movement, generates even more positive reactions.

Being so overweight for so long, I’d lost connection with my own physical ability.  Most of the time I felt awkward and clumsy.  Now, thanks to Tai Chi, I feel much more graceful and stronger.   There’s an authentic feeling of power and that just makes me feel that much more terrific.

This time I’m determined to continue as a practitioner of Tai Chi.  I’m reaping the benefits of the art and these are making a wonderful, positive difference in my life.

2 responses to “Tai Chi

  1. Mary Stella says:

    There are several different forms of Tai Chi. I study with the Taoist Tai Chi Society. If you visit their website, http://www.taoist.org, you can search for classes. If they don’t have a branch near you, maybe Googling Tai Chi and your city will turn up other sources.

  2. Mary says:

    You make it sound wonderful. Now I’m curious if there are classes in my area.


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