|Use it or lose it...(2)|
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Eating healthily and exercising sensibly are merely good habits. If you currently have bad habits, these are optional. You have a choice. You can embrace change.
There is no tomorrow
What is going to happen if you choose to do nothing? The answer is obvious: things just get worse. Alternatively, what will happen if you act?
Exercising, reading healthy books, meditating, contemplation... these things will all have a fairly rapid positive effect. But be careful; not all exercise is healthy.
Better late than never?
A lot of people seek to exercise later in life. This is good. But not as good as exercising throughout your life. The later you leave it, the harder it will be, and the more limited the results.
A simple thing to keep in mind concerning your health/exercise/fitness ambitions is 'functionality'... In other words: what can your body physically do? Provably?
This is a really serious question.
People are usually motivated by the quest for gratification. They seek out things that please them and avoid things that fail to measure up.
New starters sometimes commence a tai chi class and imagine that they can 'cherry pick' the syllabus. Typically, they never even think about whether or not they are physically able to do the training.
20 years old
If a 20 year old with no health problems starts tai chi classes (and practices at home), they can reasonably expect to access all areas of the syllabus as they become more skilful.
The only real impediment will be their ability to use their body well, patience and concentration.
What happens if you're 50? Or older? Or unhealthy?
Usually, the older you are, the less you can do. This is not determined by the tai chi teacher. It is a consequence of your own body. If you can do it, you can do it. The condition of your body is the issue.
If you are unhealthy, keep it in mind. You cannot necessarily do whatever you want to do. Your body will determine what is possible and what is safe... Tailor your ambitions accordingly.
Making the exchange
A tai chi student must do far more than just train in class. If they want to gain real benefits, they must give up some of their 'life'. Time = life.
Time spent doing tai chi will make the life you have richer and more complete.
Before you balk at the idea of giving up time/life training tai chi, ask yourself how much of your life have you invested in:
• Watching TV (years?)
• Sitting on your backside
• Drinking alcohol
• Getting lazy
• Failed relationships
• Doing a job you do not enjoy
• Getting tattoos done
• Expensive meals in restaurants
Many people are quite happy to travel the world or have a tattoo done, yet stand stooped over with neck, back and knee problems that afflict them every day.
Few people make the effort to look after their mind and their body. Why not be a bit more choosy? The time you invest in tai chi will pay long-term dividends.
Example #1 - Karen
When Karen first came to class she had very stiff elbows and really bad back/shoulder ache from her job as a screenwriter.
After working with Sifu Waller (and taking responsibility by practicing tai chi every day) Karen was able to release the tension from her elbows entirely and rid herself of the back/shoulder pain.
As a consequence of her enthusiasm, Karen has significantly increased her strength, suppleness, flexibility, balance, as well as improving her poise and mobility.
Example #2 - Sharon
When Sharon started class she was moderately healthy and about to retire. Sharon attended tai chi classes most weeks but never trained tai chi out of class. She cycled, walked, attended the gym instead. As the years progressed Sharon experienced a number of health problems arising from her lifestyle choices. These impeded her ability to use her body fully.
Sharon asked her tai chi teacher what to do and was encouraged to train qigong and tai chi every day at home, to cut out the sugar, eat healthily and rest more. Sharon ignored this advice.
Her body deteriorated and Sharon decided that tai chi for fitness would be the solution. The problem was that Sharon was functionally no longer capable of doing those exercises. Her body was too sick.
I wasted time and now doth time waste me...
Compare the examples?
Karen sought to improve her health and wellbeing through attending tai chi classes and took responsibility for her health. She found a way to fit the tai chi around a demanding work schedule.
She made changes to her life. She had to drop commitments. As a consequence her body rejuvenated.
By contrast, Sharon evaluated what was being taught by the tai chi class and determined for herself what to do; basing it upon her opinions, stubbornness and habits.
Whilst the weekly tai chi lessons no doubt improved Sharon's health, the training was undermined by over-taxing/neglecting her body between lessons and ignoring the sensible habits of tai chi.
Learn something from these examples
Karen took what she learned in the tai chi class and used it to improve her life.
Sharon did the opposite. Her lifestyle habits and personality undermined the benefits of what she was taught in tai chi class.
Tai chi is like a tonic
A tonic is a medicine taken daily in order to maintain and invigorate the body. It may significantly improve your health.
However, you should take note of the small print, the conditions of use:
It must be administered every day
When you stop taking it, the benefits go away
In order to rejuvenate with tai
chi, it must become part of your daily
Dr Michael Greger (author of How Not To Die) recommends 90 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise every day.
The three doctors who wrote The Okinawa Program maintain that tai chi - with its ancient origins and incredible health benefits - is the ideal form of exercise for modern people.
• The future
18 April 2005
Last updated 21 May 2015