At Tai Chi Nation we offer a wide variety of course, retreats, and holidays, designed to give you a stress-free experience of the wonderful world of Tai Chi
Helen had been suffering from ME for a number of years, and having tried numerous different approaches to curing her symptoms, found that the practice of Tai Chi was the most successful.
ME is the common name for Myalgic Encephalopathy, and also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, an illness that currently affects some 250,000 people in Britain alone. It symptoms include severe and debilitating fatigue, painful muscles and joints, disordered sleep, gastric disturbances, together with poor memory and concentration.
Tai Chi – opening the doorway to recovery
“Before discovering Tai Chi, I had tried many forms of gentle exercise in an attempt to regain some fitness. My experience was that exercise generally led to an exacerbation of my symptoms and extreme tiredness, so it was very difficult to progress or to participate in classes with other people. Even trying gentle graded walking often led to complete exhaustion.”
Tai Chi can be described as a dynamic form of moving meditation, which helps to bring about calm and peace of mind whilst gently exercising the whole body. The basic principles of Tai Chi that inform the art are those of relaxation, yielding, and the cultivation of inner strength and harmony.
“I was first introduced to Tai Chi by a couple of friends who had looked after me following an appendectomy. Having already had ME for about 7 years I was feeling pretty feeble. Despite this, my friends coaxed me into the garden to practice a simple sequence of Tai Chi exercises. Although I initially found the exercises a little tiring, I was completely blown away by a sense of peace, connection with the earth and energy moving in my body.”
The roots of Tai Chi practice
Tai Chi originated in China around the 14th Century and the practice of Tai Chi has been handed down from generation to generation being widely recognized as a simple art form with profound benefits for health, vitality and well-being.
The principles of Tai Chi practice are rooted in ancient Taoist philosophies going back thousands of years. One of the major goals of Taoism is health and longevity, the thinking being that if you live more in harmony with your surroundings, you will be able to live a more balanced, happier, and healthier life.
As a form of exercise, Tai Chi is accessible because all the practices and movements are easy to perform, performed in a natural relaxed way, and cause no excessive stress on the body. The flowing and graceful movements of Tai Chi enhance the flow of energy in and around the body.
The principles of Tai Chi include using the mind as opposed to physical force, postural alignment and relaxation of the body, allowing the breath to be natural and relaxed, and cultivating the mind so it becomes more calm and expansive within movement.
Slow and gentle exercise yields long term benefits
Helen goes on to explain how during her illness, she kept practicing a set of simple Tai Chi exercises on a daily basis in order to discover if they would relieve her symptoms, trusting they would have some positive effect, yet keeping an open mind about this……………………..
“My muscles coped much better with the slow continuous movement of Tai Chi than other forms of more strenuous physically demanding exercises. I also found my mind feeling calmer and more centered. It was great to begin feeling better within myself, after such a long time of feeling exhausted, in severe discomfort and often demoralized. I was truly amazed that such simple, gentle movements could be so powerful.”
Over the next six months Helen continued to practice the exercises and began to notice gradual and sustained improvements in her health. She joined a Tai Chi class in her local village led by Matthew Rochford of Tai Chi Nation and her recovery strengthened. Although she sometimes felt physically depleted after the class, it also left her buzzing with energy and enthusiastic to learn more. She found the calm and gently encouragement from Matthew very helpful, together with the fact that the classes were completely non-competitive, giving her permission to do only as much as she could manage, one class at a time; one gentle step on the road to recovery at a time.
Over time, and with regular practice, Helen began to discover a connection between body and mind, and gained personal insights into how a deepening of this understanding could support and strengthen her recovery.
“One of the things that surprised me the most about Tai Chi, was how much my mind was benefiting from the slow coordinated movements. The process of learning and actually feeling a connection between mind and body left me with a genuine feeling of well-being. Over time this feeling has not diminished and I am constantly amazed by the impact that practicing and learning Tai Chi has had on the whole of my life. “
Helen is aware that practicing Tai Chi may be beyond what many people severely affected with ME can manage. However, when she began practicing Tai Chi she could only manage short periods of a few minutes at a time. Nevertheless, even with such short periods of practice, Helen experienced real and tangible benefits together with a growing sense of well-being and self belief as she became the master of her own recovery process.
Real Tangible Benefits
M.E. is a complex and multifaceted illness so it is always difficult to establish exactly what effect a particular treatment or activity is having. However, Helen feels that she can attribute several improvements in her health directly to the practice of Tai Chi. Helen lists these improvements as follows:
“My heart rate, which previously raced above 110 bpm whenever I stood up, started to regularize. Although still quite fast, I no longer experience such marked fluctuations in my heart rate.
I have experienced a gradual increase in overall fitness, strength, flexibility and balance.
My energy levels and general sense of well-being have increased. This becomes particularly evident when I resume practice after a few days break.
Tai Chi has put me back in touch with my body in a positive and empowering way that has enabled me to release some of the tension and pain in my body.”
Recovery through Gentle Sustained Practice.
With just 20 minutes practice each day, on a regular basis, you can experience real tangible benefits from the practice of Tai chi for yourself. The beautiful simplicity of Tai Chi means that it can be practised virtually anywhere, either indoors or out in the open air. It can be particularly uplifting to practice by trees or running water. The beneficial effects of the practice have much to do with its characteristic features – the concentration and mental focus required, the slow controlled movements, and regular deep breathing - all contributory factors in the prevention and treatment of disease.
Over the years, Tai Chi has been recommended for a variety of ailments including M.E., arthritis, hypertension, stress, poor posture, insomnia, asthma, pulmonary-tuberculosis, and multiple sclerosis.
In short, Tai Chi is beneficial for your health if practiced on a regular basis, since it refreshes and stimulates the body without causing exhaustion. The gentle, controlled, circular movements will not abuse weight-bearing joints. It aids circulation, vascular and lymphatic drainage, improves posture and reduces stress and tension. Tai Chi also mobilizes stiff joints and helps reduces back pain by promoting good posture and strengthening the muscles. It helps strengthen the immune system. On a psychological level it can lead to improved confidence and self-awareness.
If you are interested in exploring the practice of Tai Chi, there is no substitute to practicing with a teacher who can share his/her personal experiences, expertise and insights.
There are many Tai Chi teachers around the Country, but to gain maximum benefit it is important to seek out a recognised and qualified teacher with whom to practice, especially if you are new to this beautiful art.
At Tai Chi Nation we offer a wide variety of course, retreats, and holidays, designed to give you a stress-free experience of the wonderful world of Tai Chi. We also offer our own ethical designer T-shirts inspired by Tai Chi. We are committed to sharing the benefits of this art to as many people as possible.
About the Author
Helen Holden has now been practicing and studying Tai Chi for several years and is currently teaching for Tai Chi Nation, sharing her passion with grace and skill. With a good working knowledge of Qi and its connection with health, Helen teaches at the Tai Chi Nation summer camp and on corporate programmes. She is also a qualified Shiatsu practitioner.