I’ve never been a sporty person. My parents used to struggle to convince me to try and get involved in a physical activity. I am not lazy, but I’ve always directed my energies somewhere else. I liked fitness, but I didn’t consider sport as really necessary.
A couple of decades since then, I realized that my body needed my attention. I was starting to experience back pain and felt that my muscle tone wasn’t as good as it used to be. Also, I had to go on a diet, because I was gaining weight even if I wasn’t eating more than the usual. My metabolism was definitely slowing down.
By coincidence, my local community center was organizing a seminar with a Chinese instructor of Tai Chi, who had opened a gym in a town nearby. Actually, the Chinese name for “gym” is “dojo”, which literally means a place for meditation and learning. Together with a friend, we went there and were introduced to this old and famous martial art, which is about balance and harmonic movements.
I was really impressed by the presentation, so I enrolled in the basic Tai Chi course and was introduced to this practice. This was two years ago. After the first month, I’ve noticed a great improvement in my flexibility. I was starting to take conscience of my body, after a long time of physical inactivity. I’ve re-developed some muscle tone, together with strength, and energy.
I used to suffer from headaches, and those have completely disappeared. At the end of my working day, I don’t feel the same fatigue that I used to feel before starting to practice regularly. Also, and that is probably the most impressive part of the story, my mood has improved consistently. I feel happier and more clear-headed. As a consequence, I am more productive at work and I feel less stressed.
As with any other martial art, constant practice is essential to reach a good level of performance. Even if I wasn’t accustomed to any kind of regular physical activity, I have been able to include Tai Chi in my daily routine with no effort. It felt as natural as reconnecting to my inner self, which was something that I had neglected for too much time.
I practice half an hour in the morning, doing a complete warm up and then the 8th form, which is a particular series of postures. In the evening, just before dinner, I have my other half hour of Tai Chi, this time with the 24 form and some standing meditation.
The good thing about Tai Chi is that I can even practice outside, in the local park or at the beach. As breathing is one of the fundamentals of this martial art, it’s nice to be able to breath fresh air while exercising. When I practice Tai Chi, I sometimes reach a high level of consciousness and I am able to concentrate on my body and its response to my various movements.
Tai Chi is practised by people of all ages. Because of its gentle and harmonic movements, it can be beneficial even to older bodies or for someone who suffered an illness or some kind of physical problem. Depending on the individual needs, it can be practised with more or less intensity.
Even if the slow movements can be seen as not very dynamic, I can tell from experience that, to be able to reach a good level of practice, one needs to learn how to convey his/her body energy to keep the movements slow, yet precise and harmonic. Repetition and concentration are the key. I’ve learned that each time I practice a form, I can improve a little bit and I can understand it a bit more.
Up to when my body started to send me incontrovertible signals that something was going wrong, I used my body as some sort of casing to carry my mind and to respond to my commands. With Tai Chi I’ve learned that the body and the mind are two parts of the same whole.