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Sunday, February 8, 2015

TAI CHI IN BALANCE WITH LIFE

Tai Chi, meditation, balance, older adult
Prior to my November, 2014 medical checkup I knew nothing about Tai Chi--not absolutely nothing, but almost nothing. I knew that one of my friends in Tacoma teaches Tai Chi and two other friends study it with her. I knew, vaguely, that it was a martial art of Chinese origin.

Then, a couple of months ago my M.D. gave me a Medicare wellness exam. The exam included a simple balance test. I felt I passed with little or no effort. Or so I thought.

But during the discussion of the results of the exam, the doctor asked whether I felt I had good balance. It so happened that I had no other truthful answer than, “No, not right now. I’ve had some days recently when I’ve experienced some vertigo. But generally, I have good balance. Sure.”

She came back immediately with the surprising recommendation that I follow a Tai Chi exercise program. “If an older person practices Tai Chi, they cut their fall risk by 50%.”

I’ve known several older persons (and have heard of many more) who’d fallen and broken a hip. I want to avoid falls at all costs. So I picked two Tai Chi DVD programs from the list provided by the doctor and checked them out at the library. One of them proved to be the more congenial to my taste and state of flexibility: “Scott Cole: Discover Tai Chi for Balance and Mobility.” 

Scott leads, backed by his student and friend, Claire. They model, slowly and gracefully, a series of standing exercises and chair exercises. Throughout, Scott gives verbal instruction in a casual manner, with humor. Tai Chi Americano, I'd guess.

Right at the beginning of the program Claire graciously agrees to be called an “active older adult” by Scott. Notably, this older adult performs the Tai Chi postures in perfect synch with Scott. I marveled at this until my wife told me that Claire introduced herself as a former ballet dancer. Claire is a great role model for any elder.

Scott divides the total workout into the chair routine and the standing routine. Each takes about fifteen minutes. I do one or the other four or five times a week. After the first month using a library copy, my wife gave me my own copy of the DVD for my birthday.  

To my surprise, Tai Chi has shown me a new way into a relaxed state of mind. Scott's gentle monologue helps. As I stretch my back and move my arms and legs, Tai Chi transports me away from the world of thought to a different state of being. I've found a carryover  to daily living, such as improved walking and even more graceful automobile driving practices.  

As I continue with Tai Chi, I may maintain or improve my balance and flexibility, which would bring another huge benefit. But the main benefit so far is the enjoyment of a meditative practice that is without parallel in my life experience and supports the Christian meditation practices I follow.

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