UnderSTANDing Tai Chi

UnderSTANDing Tai Chi

When I first laid eyes on a group of Tai Chi’ers practicing in the park, it looked majestic and spiritual.  Everyone was moving together.  The movements were smooth and controlled.   And it felt good to be in the area of the group, there was a calmness and an energy that felt right.  Fast forward in life, about 10 years, to a body that was aching and stiff, and a life that was stressed out.  I had every reason why I didn’t have time to participate in an exercise that would alleviate the stress and open up the body’s flexibility and strength.  And, I was only in my 30’s.  Tai Chi was for “old” people.  Well, as has happened many times in my life, I had to eat my words and make a change, or I was on a road to a permanent wheel chair.  Yes, I was 30 going on 90.  Time to put my body first and let go of my fears and bad habits.

My first day of Tai Chi was overwhelming.  How could such a slow movement have so much detail?  How would I ever remember 108 moves, we only did 3 in this one class? How could my instructor, 40 years older, be so flexible and strong?  How could I be in such sad shape.  I practiced what I could remember every day from that first class.  And, within a few weeks I was starting to feel like my memory might not be so bad.  My Don Yu’s were not great, but my leg strength was increasing, and I felt so good after 90 minutes of moving meditation.  All the stresses of the day just drained away with each move.  There had to be something to this Tai Chi, I was feeling better and I was building skills that I had never learned in my dance classes over the decades.

We learnt 108 moves in 4 months.  It was a lot of material, even for a dancer.  But, it felt incredible to keep moving through the sequence.  So what if I couldn’t remember all the moves.  My foot pain was lessening and my back was a lot looser.  But, more importantly, I was loving the group of people that gathered each class.  They came from all walks of life and they were so interesting.  Tea time during class was a great time to connect.

I wasn’t faithful to Tai Chi consistently.  There were times when my schedule got busy and I thought that I had to sacrifice my “me” time and become a stressed out superwoman.  Each time this occurred, the stiffness and pain returned with a vengeance and I suffered.  Of course, I didn’t always get right back to Tai Chi, but eventually it occurred to me that I had better pay attention.  As the years went by the passion for Tai Chi grew exponentially.  Each time I found Tai Chi again, I loved it more.  In no time at all I wanted to learn more and I wanted to volunteer to share it with others.

Master Moy was very specific in his teachings about selflessness.  Tai Chi is your opportunity to share with others for no personal gain.  It is through this giving that you reap the greatest rewards for the benefits of Tai Chi.  All of the descendents of Master Moy’s teachings are volunteer instructors or a volunteer to help make the group grow and be strong.  We volunteered to clean the hall, make the tea, help the organization with office duties and be a part of demo days.  It felt good to see how far the teachings of Tai Chi could go.

Fast forward to today.  After almost 20 years of being a Tai Chi enthusiast and over 10 years of instructing, I am forever hooked.  I love every moment when I get to practice Tai Chi or Loh Kup (another form of moving meditation learned after the 108 moves).  I love the people that surround me in class, and those who I know across the country as a result of the workshop opportunities and the sharing that occurs within the Canadian Tai Chi community.  My body is as strong as it ever was in my 20’s, and the pain is so minimized, there are only tweaks every now and then.  I love knowing that I have regular class twice a week, and that I can practice anytime, anywhere and in any space.  I also love that my parents and husband are also Tai Chi enthusiasts and we can share it when we are together.  Instead of sitting and chatting, we find a nice grassy spot in our location or a sand bar at the beach, and put together a set.

What has Tai Chi given me?  Here’s the short list…Friendship, Fun, Purpose, Meditation, Movement, Strength, Flexibility, Pain Free Joints, An Open Back, Better Sleep, Deep Breathing, Relaxation, A Stronger Immune System, No Allergies, Something to Share, Confidence, A Stronger Digestive System, A Tool to Reduce Headaches, Strong Posture, Brain/Body Coordination, Grounding, Balance…

So, you may have thought about doing some form of exercise, but you weren’t sure where to start.  First – START.  Get moving.  Take a chance, face a fear, challenge yourself, make a change! If moving feels awkward, that is your sign that you really need to be moving.  If your legs feel weak, you need to get them strong and supportive so you can sit in a chair, walk without a cane, and get up and down the stairs easily.  If you have balance issues, you need Tai Chi to change this for you.  Balance is being grounded, flexible and strong.  You need to feel your feet under you and know their strength.  And, if you are confined in your movement and have to try it from a chair, Tai Chi can be done sitting.  But, lastly, if you are looking for a way to transform your life, Tai Chi is a possibility.  Just picture the group of Tai Chi’ers in the park, notice what it feels like to watch them, and believe that when you are standing with them it is you who is sharing the beauty of Tai Chi with others.

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