Random Thoughts of a Disordered Mind

T’ai chi Report


Woman practicing T’ai ChiI’ve only been to the gym once this week but I’ve managed to get exercise in every day. This is progress. Monday was the gym with 40 minutes of cardio (bike, elliptical, treadmill). Yesterday I did some walking but mostly that was getting myself to my T’ai Chi class, which is downtown in the adult ed center, housed in an old Back Bay mansion. We had class in the recently renovated ballroom, which was pretty awesome.

Jen asked what I thought about T’ai Chi and I’ve been pondering. I can’t say I was blown away or suddenly found the path to enlightenment or that my knee was magically healed or that we stood there and did those smooth, slow poses that people on TV commercials do when they are using T’ai Chi to sell arthritis medicine. But I did feel lighter and more in tune with my body because, unlike my usual gym stuff, we pretty much stayed within a relatively small space and paid attention to what was happening inside our bodies and how they responded.

There were warm up exercises that concentrated, not on stretching muscles but on moving the joints. This was different and it was awkward – our instructor was very smooth but we were lurching around. But I could feel things I hadn’t noticed before, in my hips and my shoulders and feet, and that was good. We learned how to walk and how to do this rocking balancing thing. And practiced meditation and got in touch with our chi. It was all pretty new agey. But I liked it.

There are apparently different flavors of T’ai Chi and we are learning one of the smaller, less well known ones – Hwa-Yu T’ai Chi. The movements are basically less expansive than what I had expected, and we’ll only learn one of the animal … positions? poses? I forget the right word. There are twelve animals but learning one well takes a couple of weeks and this session is only 7 weeks long. So we will learn the Tiger, which is all about spine things. That sounds good to me, my spine liked what we did yesterday.

I’m not totally sure that my knee is going to like doing this. Standing up for the whole hour, and doing some of the bendy things, I could feel it getting less and less happy with me even while my spine was feeling good. The instructor gave us some tips on how to practice the exercises if we have a bad leg; I wasn’t the only one. So I’ll give it a shot and take it a little at a time. I’m glad I arranged to have a car nearby so I could just get home to my bag of frozen peas quickly; that helped.

Today I did some of my little T’ai Chi homework exercises here and there where I could, to practice. And I also hiked down to another doctor’s appointment and back again, about 2 miles or so total. I hadn’t planned to do that and was wearing clogs and not good walking shoes, and it was cold and my nose was running. But I did it and it felt good to be outside – and I also knew I could count that as my activity for the day.

Tomorrow I think I need to do some arm things. My legs have done a lot already.

5 thoughts on “T’ai chi Report

  1. I am glad you liked the class and wrote about it. I want to try something like this too.

  2. I’m really impressed with the big and little ways you’re getting exercise, Anne.

    Standing is not easy. Keeping your limbs in various positions is not easy either. I would be bad at balancing things so I’m impressed.

    Do what you can when you feel like it. Don’t give those peas too many opportunities to come out of the freezer!

  3. Maybe you need a little lunchbox cooler and your peas in the car. 🙂 Hopefully your knees will get happier once you are more used to the movements.

  4. Congrats on the taiji class. Hwa-Yu is also known as Waterboxing, aka Liuhebafa aka Liu Ho Pa Fa. Basically, commonly referred to as “6 Harmonies, 8 Methods Boxing”.

    I started taiji due to bad knees and after about 8 or so years of training, I do feel my knees are better. If I would offer any advice, it would be: (1) make sure the knee points in the same direction as the toe, (2) Do not let the knee past the midstep of the foot. Most advocate knee to toe alignment, but that’s quite painful for me.

    Another thing that also helped me was practicing what’s called “Zhan Zhuang” which is basically standing meditation training. Build up the duration over time and do as much as you can standing, but don’t push b/c you can also do it sitting 🙂 Check out some material by Fong Ha.

    Good luck!

  5. Excellent advice – thank you so much for the suggestions about how to deal with the knee. I found the knee-toe alignment to be uncomfortable as well, and we haven’t done that much of it yet. I’ll be sure not to push too much. The standing meditation training was something we just did for a little bit as well and it was also difficult – but I can see how it would help. I need to practice 🙂

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