Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
Thanks for joining me!
Good company in a journey makes the way seem shorter. — Izaak Walton
April 28th was International T’ai Chi Day. How inspiring to think that while we were doing demonstrations and inviting onlookers to join us, the same thing was happening all over the world in myriad cultures, languages, and races. What a unifying experience of humanity!
This was my second year to experience this event and I must admit I was just as excited, but much less apprehensive. Last year, I was such a novice, I was really only comfortable doing the warmup. This year there were parts of Arthritis I and II, and Form 24 that I not only knew what would come next, but I knew the name of the movement we were doing. Of course, my technique leaves a lot to be desired, but I love it and no one in the group seems to notice anyone’s errors.
Last year, our meeting was held in the Wellness center gym. The difference in the environment and the people lined up next to me for me to watch made a huge difference in my “competence.”
This year, we met on the campus of a closed girls’ school. After a week of rain, Saturday dawned clear and sunny, but with lower temperatures and higher winds than expected. It was decided that we would brave the elements and perform outside on the basketball court enabling us to experience “chi” – life’s energy. At times I thought I might blow over. We demonstrated Arthritis I and II, Form 24 and Form 37 (which is still a bit of a mystery to me). We did a warm up which must have a name because it is definitely choreographed, but I don’t know what it is.
We were joined by practitioners from other groups around the valley and D, an instructor from my town. She led the group in Qigong, a very relaxing form of warm up/cool down movement.
We finished outside with “Animal Frolic” which is always fun as we imitate the movements of various animals (bear, monkey, deer) utilizing T’ai Chi movements. This was cut short as we were getting really cold and the wind was getting stronger.
We then went in to the school’s gymnasium for a demonstration by experienced T’ai chi practitioners utilizing swords and fans. Their precision and symmetry was so wonderful to watch, I found myself smiling through their entire performance!
And of course, we were finally warm!
Monday Evening I attended a class at Oglebay Resort at their Spa Movement Studio. The facility is quite lovely – beautiful hardwood flooring, two walls of mirrors with ballet barres, and windows overlooking a patio with the hills of the Wheeling, West Virginia resort and golf courses providing a beautiful view. But back to T’ai chi.
In addition to the instructor, S., there was just one resort guest present, so we each received lots of personalized instruction. We began and ended with QiGong, a traditional warm-up of gentle movements beginning with the head and moving through large movements with the arms and ending with small movements of the feet and ankles. We then worked on Form 24 a “choreography” that comprises the majority of movements we use in most of the different forms. Sometimes I am able to remember what comes next so that I can work on finer details such as posture, height at which my hands and arms are to be held, etc., and sometimes the movements look like something I’ve never tried before.
I was able to reassure the other participant that he didn’t have to worry about anyone ever watching him in a class because everyone would always be concentrating on what they were trying to remember and how it was supposed to be done. Our instructor keeps saying that eventually the movements just “flow” and we will perform them in a relaxed mode. Ha! But it doesn’t matter. It’s the most enjoyable and fastest hour of the day.
I found some demonstration videos of Form 24 with English subtitles on YouTube and copied this link. https://www.youtube.com/watch?V=eXYxqz5mlbU I had to highlight the link and copy it in my browser and it brought up some strange videos in addition to Form 24, so you might just want to Google T’ai Chi Form 24 and scan the selections for English subtitles and try some till you find what you like.
In future Blogs, I’ll introduce you to simpler Forms.
Get moving 🙂
We had a substitute instructor today. M is young, with a soft, pleasant voice, and a friendly, welcoming manner. We began sitting on our bolsters on our chairs in a prayer posture and then moved our shoulders up and down and our arms gently in and out, then our heads up and down, and side to side and back and forth. All of this was done very slowly to soft music – very relaxing. So far, so good. Nothing hurt, although M reminded us frequently to move only as far as we could comfortably. If it hurt, move back to where it didn’t.
Then we stood behind our chairs and put our weight on one foot and lifted our other foot off the floor, pressing it against our lower leg. Then we removed our hand from the chair and tried to lift our arms overhead. I watched our instructor stand in this pose without wobbling for what seemed an eternity while I hopped around, laughing, trying to keep my balance. Then we changed feet. Same result. Well, I knew I had balance issues – that’s why I’m there. I learned this is called the “tree” position. I decided my interpretation looked more like a wobbly dead bush.
My Wellness Center offers Gentle Chair Yoga as well as regular and advanced Yoga classes and I sallied forth solo – rather bravely I thought – to find out what it was all about.
The class was not at all what I expected. When I’ve done yoga at my annual overnight retreat we’ve been on our yoga mats on the hotel floor and have done stretching poses with Jo offering inspiring messages with each.
We began the class by sitting on a bolster on a chair with our yoga mat stretched out at our feet. Gentle, “new age” music played softly. We gently moved our heads side to side, up and down, and then our arms and hands while the instructor spoke in a smooth, melodic tone that was, in itself, relaxing! Our instructor, D., encouraged us to think about our connection with the earth and to be barefoot – if our feet weren’t cold.
We then did balancing activities standing behind our chairs that I found quite challenging. I hadn’t realized that I no longer balanced on one foot easily, even hanging onto the chair. D. kept reminding us to move only as much or as far as it didn’t hurt and to notice that there might be a difference in how easily or how far each side moved.
Next, we moved to the mats and laid on our backs. We used a yoga strap under our feet and raised our legs, then gently moved them to the right and left. Then we used the strap to draw our knees close to our chest stretching our backs. This felt really good.
Finally, D. had us move pillows under our heads, the bolsters under our knees and a light blanket over our bodies so we could meditate for 15 minutes. I think she spoke and suggested meditating. I went to sleep.
At the end of 15 minutes, the instructor began speaking softly, suggested we roll to our sides and gently push ourselves up to a sitting position. She assumed the prayer position, hummed “om” and then said Namiste. We all nodded and said “thank you!”
I felt relaxed, limber and grateful. I’m looking forward to the next session!!
With encouragement from my friend Paula, I got the Tuesday-Thursday evening schedule for Tai Chi at the Wellness Center where I’ve belonged for years, but never paid attention to classes offered. Paula also provided supportive information on the benefits of Tai Chi – that the movements were easy to follow and would promote flexibility and balance. I wouldn’t have to worry about tripping or falling and I would move about gracefully in no time.
I went to my first Tai Chi class. Paula didn’t make it. The instructor explained the steps as the group moved through the “choreography” and made me feel glad to be there. There was a couple I knew from church – everyone was welcoming. There were men and women – a variety of ages. I felt at home.
We started the warm-up by bowing respectfully. Soft, oriental-type “new age” music played in the background. We moved our arms gently in sort of a breaststroke. It felt like swimming in the air. It was exhilarating and relaxing! Soon, though, the hand, arm and foot movements became more complicated!
I thought my years of dance instruction – albeit 60 years ago – would put me in good stead. Not! I was stiff and so were my movements, but I was sort of able to follow and laughed a lot. Everyone assured me they’d been participating for years and I’d catch on eventually. I just needed to keep returning and practicing and enjoying. I’m looking forward to the next class.
If ever I needed inspiration, this article (linked below) provided it! I suspect Phyllis has always been a mover and shaker, but she didn’t start yoga until she was 85 and she continues moving and learning new things when so many of us give up and take to our recliners. If we make ourselves keep moving and learning, we won’t get elderly either.
I began the idea of a blog in order to record my progress in starting something new. I wanted to develop better balance and coordination and I needed to determine a way to do it.
For the last five years, I’ve gone Christmas shopping with three of my friends from high school and we’ve done an overnight at a hotel. One of my friends is a yoga instructor, so on Saturday morning, she leads us in an hour of yoga. One friend occasionally goes to a yoga class and the other has tried it a little. Last year I, the youngest, discovered that I was the least flexible, and couldn’t wait for the hour to conclude. Everything hurt. It was a wake-up call.
It also happened that a writing group to which I belong in my hometown had chosen the theme of “journey” for our next year’s papers that we’d research, write and present. While contemplating a topic for my paper, I thought about some of our travels. I was looking for a book on one of our shelves and happened upon a slim volume entitled “Yoga for Beginners.” It spoke of beginning a journey toward increased productivity and balance. It was filled with pictures that didn’t look too difficult to emulate for my age -and started with breathing – something I’ve done all my life. Then I discovered that the Wellness Center to which I belong held “Gentle Yoga for Beginners” as well as Yoga and advanced Yoga classes and a friend from a gardening group invited me to attend a Tai Chi class also at the Wellness Center. It seemed as if my “journey” was selected for me, and why not try blogging as a way to record it?! Maybe others would be inspired – or amused by it. And my paper would nearly write itself!