Love It or Loathe It: Tai Chi

I’m taking tai chi classes. I’ve paid money for six months of tai chi lessons twice a week. I just visited a friend of long standing who replied to this news with, “I loathe tai chi.” I don’t really disagree. But I persist. Perhaps because I paid money for this experience.

And you know what? I actually believe it’s good for me. I’m a bit of an airhead, scatter-brained, a dumb blond. And during my tai chi class, I find myself concentrating really hard. Fortunately, this is tai chi for old people, so we’re not expected to memorize the entire sequence of moves. We will learn eight forms in six months, but our instructor (our amazing instructor) does not demand that we remember everything. Rather, we need to follow his lead. Still, even to do that, I have to concentrate.

Both Harvard and AARP believe that tai chi is good for us. That’s enough credibility that I’m not wasting more time trying to find contrary opinions. I’ll take my friend’s general loathing to be the counterbalance as I’m sure many others remain silent but share the opinion. I did one sample tai chi session several years ago and decided I was never doing that again. But here I am. Why was I turned off, and why am I now committed to doing this?

The slowness of the whole sequence of movements was a big turnoff to me years ago. Now I’m struggling to keep up. That’s one reason for my new attitude. My mind has also been challenged this past year, and I’m messing up a lot of things: double-booking events; forgetting commitments; losing essential papers. I think that concentrating on anything for an hour can only be good for me. And trust me, I feel like I’ve had a workout at the end of my lessons.

And then there’s the instructor. Crush! (Don’t worry, dear husband, you’re still #1). But truly, our instructor is remarkable in his ability to notice each of our missteps and gently get us back on track. And he’s human, which is fun, as in the day he started out teaching everything backwards for about five minutes. Then, he stopped, said something didn’t feel right, fumbled around a bit, and got straightened out. I was actually liking the backwards routine, but agreed that the correct movements did work out better.

Anything that improves or preserves my balance as I age is worth trying. There are lots of other exercises that focus on balance and don’t require the continued focus and concentration of tai chi. I shall do some of those in between classes. But I will persist for my six month commitment because it feels good to focus my mind for an hour twice a week. After that, I might return to loathing – but maybe not.

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