Wednesday, September 7, 2011

You're doing what???

I took my first Tai Chi class last night at our local Taoist Tai Chi Society Center. This gentle martial art has been on my radar for a long time: a customer of mine who suffered for years with lupus was a devotee up until her death just a couple of years ago; and another customer is an instructor. Of course, I've seen the same sorts of glimpses you have --- groups of (it seems) often mostly older Chinese folks moving so slowly, so gracefully, so peacefully that even watching them seems to have a relaxing effect.

I'd done a great deal of studying about this, and what I heard during a break last night from those who have practiced for varying numbers of years confirmed what I'd been reading. Folks who suffered horribly with arthritis are enjoying more flexibility and lives without pain as a constant companion. A woman there shared her story of having a "frozen" shoulder that caused her to have very limited range of motion for years now has no evidence of any of that problem. One woman even said that when her sinuses are giving her trouble she does some sets of Tai Chi and finds the relief to be truly extraordinary. Too many to count credit Tai Chi with correcting problems with balance -- and that's literal as well as figurative.

My husband will testify that there are evenings, especially after stressful or particularly busy days, when my balance is so off he worries about my every step. There are still days when I struggle with cognitive difficulties and speech blips. At this point the why doesn't even matter. I have employed as many work-arounds as I can to cope with these things, and I began to wonder if, perhaps, Tai Chi might offer me something wildly different and beneficial.

After one class, of course, the verdict is still well out on that score. What I do know is that I will not be one of those folks in the videos who seem weightless, and move seamlessly from one beautifully fluid movement to another for a very, very, very long time.

I know this because there were mirrors everywhere in the center.

And I know this because the instructor, whose name was Scout (which means I already liked her a ton, of course), never, ever said to anyone, "You're doing that wrong, you ox!" Nevertheless, I could not help but notice that in the whole large group of students, she always seemed to stand near me and lock eyes and say very gently, "Let's all try that again" after I had botched something up badly.

And I know this because one of the other students, a young man who is a yoga instructor and wants to add Tai Chi as another dimension to his overall skillset, started off standing behind me. I jokingly said to him, "You probably don't want to do that. I'm so uncoordinated that I am the only person in the history of the University of Montevallo ever to get an "D" in square dancing, and that only after my partner dropped the course, and I was tapped to be in charge of the record player, thus managing to bring my grade up ever so slightly."

He was polite to a fault, and held his ground.

After the break, during which we enjoyed jasmine tea and assorted decidedly un-Asian inspired snacks left over from the recent Dragon Boat races, Mr. Yoga moved all the way across the floor from me.

Bless his heart.

I bought some comfortable pants to wear for this new enterprise, by the way.  If I could embroider, I'd put the letters "L" and "R" on the appropriate legs of those pants, just above the knees, before my next lesson.

My husband, who loves me even though I cannot dance or change albums well, said he would get me a BFR to take with me next week. He will not tell me what those letters stand for, but referred to his military career, and what uncoordinated soldiers placed in one pocket before it was time for them to march in formation to help them remember which leg to start out on. I have my theories about those initials, but I am too polite to share them.

We learned three moves last night. I can do the first one in my sleep. It consists of standing very still and slowly raising your arms so they are parallel to the floor. Nailed it on the first try, I did.

So there is hope for me, right?

This is Taoist Tai Chi founder, Master Moy Lin-Shin