Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Learning Tai Chi

I have been learning Tai Chi for four months now, taking classes once a week. The form I am learning is a 60-move Yang form. Taking classes once a week, and practicing at home every day, it took me three months to memorize the entire form.

Doing this exercise has been quite an adjustment.

The first month, I learned how weak my legs were. My legs hurt all the time. I stretched every day, but it wasn't until I started stretching them two or three times a day that they really decided it was okay to relax.

After the second class, I got bronchitis. I had been concentrating on my breathing so hard, I felt like I'd just been running.

The second and third months, I started to have some other strange physical symptoms. I began menstruating more...spotting and having an extra full period or two. Disconcerting. I searched online and in my qigong books. The only explanation I could find was a study reporting that estrogen levels went up in women after practicing Tai Chi (and down in men, interestingly).

I also started having, shall we say, sensitive digestive issues. I will spare you the details. Again, I haven’t been able to find any backing documentation, but my theory is that the movements of Tai Chi strongly work the waist, thereby massaging the vital organs such as the liver, stomach, and intestines. That would probably increase the liver’s production of bile, and help digestion. My body was going through a cleansing!

Thankfully, all these physical adjustments have settled down now.

As difficult as the physical adjustments were, the emotional adjustments were even more disconcerting.

Often, I would feel unsettled and agitated for a day or so after class. This feeling was familiar to me from when I started getting acupuncture. It's the feeling of more energy moving through my body than I'm used to. I was kind of expecting it, but that doesn't mean it wasn't uncomfortable. Unfortunately, the post-class feeling of being agitated lasted for over four months, much longer than I anticipated.

This emotional cleansing has been the hardest adjustment for me to deal with. I talked about it with one of my massage therapists, who also does energy work. She wondered if maybe I was picking up the emotions of the other new student who was learning the form at the same time I was. We worked in close proximity, and it made sense that I'd be picking up is emotions because I was so open in the new practice.

Together we came up with a strategy to protect myself.  She lent me several CDs of spiritual, chakra-balancing music to listen to both before and after class. She suggested I use some essential oils to make a protective aromatherapy blend that I could use on myself before heading to class.  I suggested that I make a trip to a local park after class to help me ground the energy. Not only would the park be a great place to stretch after class, but I could do some of my balancing qigong exercises there as well. And being in nature, it would be easy to send any unwanted energy away and into the earth.    

I have taken all of those precautions, and it has helped immensely! I no longer have such an emotional fallout from the classes.

And now, I have been practicing for just over 4 months. I am finally starting to see some benefits to daily practice!  Tai Chi grounds and balances me. I truly miss it if I don’t practice for a few days. Also, my carpal tunnel symptoms, already very manageable because of my work habits, seem to have lessened even more. My tight right shoulder is looser.

When I first began learning Tai Chi, it took a great deal of energy and concentration. Now, it’s just something I do. It’s not that I’m not continuing to learn and work deeper, but I find that the practice no longer demands so much of my attention. I have integrated it into my life.