Sovereign Journeys – Tai chi

by Marilyn Elliot

Sovereign Journeys is a series where people dive deep and share their own personal experiences on different topics.

I have often found myself in classes of fit people, doing something up beat (body pump, circuit training, step aerobics), something requiring stamina, (weight training), good balance, with no giggling (body balance, yoga), when I should have been in a pool taking aqua aerobics!

I’ve always been big since a child and lost, gained (and then some), lost, gained plus plus etc., and despite people telling me, I need to be mindful of my joints, I continued to believe that I knew best! Surely, it had to be something that made you sweat, ache all over and left you bed ridden for a few days out of shear exhaustion?! So I guess I’m one of many people who reads stuff online, see pictures of slim women and get suckered into trying yet another new exercise! I digress.  I finally thought I would try yoga again, but after a few sessions, I realised I just felt like being in a gym or aerobics class, as the results were the same, in the sense that I had aches and pains during and after and then in bed for the day’s recovery.

I spoke to Maia about many things around exercise and losing weight and she recommended I try Tai Chi and QiGong, as yoga would place too much strain on my body, especially with osteoarthritis in most joints.

I had seen some men and women in the garden at St. Martin-in-the-Field church on a Sunday lunchtime a few times practising, what I believed to be was Tai Chi and I admired the effortless movement, but couldn’t see how I would benefit.

But I tried a local class.  I expected it to be similar to an aerobics class, whereby you follow the teacher’s movements and that you would be moving all the time.

I was very disappointed that it was much slower.  How was this going to benefit me? And there was lots of interaction with the teacher and

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the group, explaining each move, explaining which organ each move related to, which meridian we were working on and it was all about breathing! After one class, I felt I achieved very little and couldn’t understand why we couldn’t move faster and learn more routines.  I felt very frustrated. I’ve been practicing Tai Chi and QiGong for nearly 2 years now and I am totally hooked!  If I really listen to the 

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teacher (turn off all the chatter in my head) and listen to my body and subtle nuances of the movement, I feel an awakening in those areas where I felt pain and discomfort.

Attention and Intention are words my teacher uses often.  At first I couldn’t determine how to place attention on a certain part of my body, or to breathe with intention to create space in the 

joints.  It took a while, but I realised, after six months, that I had no connection with my body! It took a while to get my head around it, but if I set an intention I can now ‘see’ it happening in my minds eye.

Today, when practicing Tai Chi, I ‘see’ myself as being made up of atoms of energy, and can visualise the vibrations in every movement, (a bit like when Neo finally believes he’s the one and sees the matrix for the first time)! to a point, where I can see myself, or a version of myself, moving with grace and ease, with no aches or discomfort.  I walk taller and feel so light, both physically and mentally after every class.

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If you’ve had a bad day, if the car has broken down, or the kettle has just blown a fuse, or a red sock snuck into a load of whites, you feel frustrated and tension builds up in the body, shoulders, neck etc., practicing Tai Chi removes obstacles from your mind, allowing you to relieve the baggage, to create space in your mind and release the tension. Tai Chi is about the breath.  The movement helps to create space in your  

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mind and body, so that the breath can move into those areas. The movements are soft and gentle, no force, so anyone can do it, even with disabilities, as most of the movements can be done seated.  The time practicing Tai Chi, is time spent on you. It combines mindfulness, meditation and movement.  It helped rehabilitate me after surgery, gave me space in my head to help me determine how I should address my weight issue safely, but none of that would have been possible without self-love.

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