Weighty Matters

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Feeling Graceful and in Control

on August 12, 2013

When I was my heaviest weight and my right knee was its weakest, I always felt so damned awkward.  I hated feeling like at any minute I could overshift one way or the other and simply lose my balance and have to catch myself with a hand against a wall or stagger my feet.

Doing anything the least bit physical took extra effort.  It’s a good thing that I’ve always been pretty strong because I’ve had to compensate a lot for the extra pounds.

In addition to the weight loss providing a general, overall improvement, I’ve been studying and practicing Tai Chi for about 18 months.  This has been a huge help.  As my body size reduced, my leg strength increased.  Gradually, my balance improved.  I’m more flexible.  My knee is greatly improved.  I have much better control over my movements.

I can feel it when I do the moves of the Tai Chi set.  We pay attention to weight shifts, the way that our hips move, the rotation of our bodies around our spines.  The instructor reminds us that there isn’t any momentum in Tai Chi.  Moves are done with intention.  Our arms don’t just flop around or our feet fall where they may.   For example, if I start with my weight all on my left leg, raise my right leg for a kick and then place the right foot back down, I don’t fall forward onto that right foot.  Instead, I put it down to the floor in an “empty” step, meaning no weight until I deliberately shift forward.

It takes control, balance, flexibility and strength, particularly when we slowly proceed through the 108 moves of the set.  I’m so much better at it than I was 18 months, a year, or even six months ago.  My joints are much more flexible.  I can pretty much pivot a full 180 degrees now, which demands cooperation from my ankle, knee and hip.  Even my right knee agrees.  Trust me.  It was not participating in that full pivot when I first began.

I’m one of the three most experienced students in the class now.  All three of us take turns serving as “set leaders” for the instructor.  Tonight, I was in the front left corner.  This means that I open and close the set and establish the pace the class is supposed to follow.  When everyone’s facing “front”, they follow my timing.  When the moves turn us in the other direction, we follow the set leader in the back right corner.

There are many beautiful series of moves throughout the set.  One of my favorites is called Wave Hands Like Clouds.  We repeat this move in three series (five times, seven times, three times) throughout the set.  Tonight we also did extra practice on it to work on the timing of the side steps, coordinated with the movement of the arms, moving our shoulders and hands, shifting weight from leg to leg.

After we were done practicing that section, before we realigned ourselves to do a full set for the end of class, the instructor made a point of telling me that he could tell I’ve worked on the move.  “You were very graceful, with a beautiful flow,” he said.  That was high praise indeed.

It made me think of all of my movement, whether doing Tai Chi, walking the dogs, climbing in or out of the boat, or just getting up from a chair.   Nothing’s a struggle.  I’m in control.   I no longer feel like a lumbering bear, but envision myself moving with strength and grace.

When I was younger, my parents used to tell me that I carried myself well.  Finally, after many years of not experiencing that anymore, I once more believe it.

2 responses to “Feeling Graceful and in Control

  1. Hope says:

    Hooray for you!!!

  2. Skye says:

    Oh, I so envy you being able to do this form of Tai Chi! I so loved when I was doing it when I lived in Lincoln City. It’s amazing what such slow movements can do for your muscle tone, balance, and strength. My whole body felt better when I was doing it. And it is so beautiful to watch. I completely understand your pleasure at your instructors comments on your Wave Hands Like Clouds movement.

    Moving well is its own reward, is it not? Good for you!

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