creative center.

Tai Chi and Me

Irenge/ireneg 04/05/2016

I was 66 years old, recently retired, and looking forward to years of playing golf and playing with grandchildren. I was an avid walker and loved going to the gym to workout and swim. The future looked rosy.

But my balance was suspect and my walking unsteady. The muscles in my quadriceps ached after each workout and continued to ache the next day and the day after. I went to doctor after doctor. No answers. My proactive daughter put me in her car and took me to Mayo Clinic where I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis.

The diagnosis started a journey with the first step finding what Multiple Sclerosis was and what it meant. I found out that a diagnosis at age 66 is late and relatively rare. I found out that the disease could mean progressive debilitation and that there were no medicines to cure me.

My daughter’s proactive behavior had at its root a proactive mother. So I went on a search for ways to feel good and limit the effects of my disability. I learned that movement was needed and that it was necessary to try new strategies when old ones ceased to be useful.

I went to physical therapy, continued to work with a personal trainer, and spent time in the pool. I lost some mobility and balance. My progressively debilitating condition was progressively debilitating.

I continued to search for answers. I heard about Tai Chi as a helpful activity for people with MS. I made arrangements to attend a meeting on Tai Chi. On the day before the meeting, a friend told me that he was conducting a Tai Chi class twice a week. I abandoned the meeting in favor of attending the class.

At my first class, I found a group of people who had experienced several weeks of instruction. There were moves to learn. They had learned them. The movement was to be continuous. Their movement was continuous. Tai Chi had beautiful movements and they looked beautiful as they moved. My reflection in the mirror proved to me that I had a lot to learn.

I went back and I practiced. I borrowed the DVD, ignored it for a week, and finally loaded into my laptop and followed the movements of Dr. Paul Lam.

When I began taking Tai Chi, I found it necessary to sit for most of the class. As I attended more classes, I was standing more and sitting less.   Instead of moving my feet, I shifted my weight. Then one day, I was able to move laterally. It was hesitant, but I was moving.

My classmates commented that I was standing straighter. And I noticed that without losing weight, I was slimming down. It appeared that there might be something to Tai Chi.

One way to learn a skill is to teach that skill. So, I volunteered to teach Tai Chi to residents at an assisted learning center. One of my Tai Chi classmates, Marianne, joined me and we both learned a lot while we taught Tai Chi to 80 and 90 year olds. Some joined us in learning Tai Chi and some slept. Marianne and I found that teaching Tai Chi helped us learn it and we enjoyed our time with seniors older than us.

An opportunity to become certified in Tai Chi for Arthritis was presented. My friend and I went to the classes and became official certified instructors.

I told my knitting club about Tai Chi and 30 minutes was added to each club meeting for Tai Chi. We rarely finish Tai Chi within the allotted time.

A two-day workshop on Tai Chi for Arthritis conducted by Dr. Paul Lam was offered in a nearby community. Marianne and I took advantage of the opportunity to learn from the designer of the program and spent 16 class hours immersed in Tai Chi. We were energized and became more passionate. Since then, we have become certified in three more Tai Chi programs, including Tai Chi 4 Kidz.

I am now 72. I play with my grandchildren, I swim, I workout, and I share my love of Tai Chi. My husband was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Tai Chi is also recommended for people with that progressively debilitating disease. We do Tai Chi together. I share my experiences with Tai Chi with others with debilitating conditions and anyone else who will listen. I teach four Tai Chi classes every week.

My multiple sclerosis appears to have stopped progressing. My balance has improved, I stand straighter, and I can walk for longer periods of time. I feel good about myself. Tai Chi has become my companion and I am so grateful.

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