It is now day three of the Health Recovery Program here at the International Taoist Tai Chi Centre near Orangeville, and what an inspiring experience it has been thus far!
During the first few days, our knowledgeable instructor Jim helped us build a strong foundation through countless tor-yus and dan-yus. He explained that the quality of our Taoist Tai Chi® practice is a direct result of the quality of our foundation. By working on the foundation exercises, we were able to gain a deeper understanding of proper structure and timing.
Many of us experienced breakthrough “Aha!” moments as we learned how to move with the natural structure of our bodies . Dan-yus, which once felt heavy and stiff, became lighter and more effortless. Simone, an assistant instructor from Switzerland, described it by saying: “Once you have the timing, it’s all about relaxing and enjoying.”
Now that we are feeling a bit more confident in our foundations, we have begun working through specific sections of the 108-move set, and learning so much more than we thought possible! It is such a treat to witness each other noticing a new detail for the first time, and then incorporating it into our movement. Often, these little changes feel so good that we can’t help but share our delight with the group.
Many of us are here because we are seeking to improve our health and to live better, not just in a physical sense, but also mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Several participants have shared stories of personal challenges that have been improved or overcome through their Taoist Tai Chi® practice. As a recent cancer survivor, I have noticed that my fatigue and mood are greatly improved after doing a Tai Chi class. And even when I’m still tired afterward, it is a very satisfying kind of tiredness, and my body feels more relaxed and grounded.
That being said, Health Recovery week is not a walk in the park!
Jerry, from New Westminster, BC, who is one of the many returning participants, made a good point when he said, “It is exactly as I expected it. You work hard and you have to make sure you take rests.” Between classes, many of us participants disappear into our rooms for a restorative mid-afternoon nap. It’s also a great way to escape the mid-day heat.
For those of us with mobility challenges, the assistant instructors have enabled us to make significant progress through a seated set, or using special techniques that allow us to work within our abilities. Today the group celebrated the triumph of Sylvia, from Guelph, Ontario, who lives with multiple sclerosis, as she was able to achieve a wonderful stretch unassisted while doing a tor-yu. We could literally see her spine straighten out and expand before our very eyes!
Beyond the Tai Chi itself, the week has been filled with a peaceful sense of camaraderie that comes when people gather with a common purpose. “It’s so neat when people gather here from all over the world,” remarked Shelley May, from Vernon, BC. In our small group of 35, we have participants and assistant instructors from all over Canada and the US, as well as Switzerland, Spain, Denmark, Hungary and New Zealand.
In between classes, everyone works together to help prepare meals, with the masterful guidance of the chef and volunteers, resulting in dishes that are not only nutritious but very tasty too! The serene natural surroundings and impressive temples make for an overall experience that is both calming and invigorating.
Without a doubt, attending a Health Recovery Week has been a great way to deepen my Tai Chi practice and allow me to take a few more steps on the road to wellness. As a group, it’s clear that being here has lifted our collective spirits and helped us loosen some of the tension that we carry with us. I’m sure that by the end of the week we will all stand a little taller, feel a little softer, and walk away with a greater sense of well-being.
Danielle, from Calgary, Alberta