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Viki Mather: No, tai chi is not just for ‘old people’

Longtime columnist loves the ancient Chinese art melding meditation and movement, and she wants you to love it too
Viki Mather says she loves practicing tai chi outside in the summer. Especially on the glacially smoothed bedrock of Georgian Bay, just south of Killarney. (Viki Mather)

I think I’m allergic to exercise. Ever since doing all those sit-ups in high school, I’ve had an aversion to exercise. It’s hard. It’s boring. And I don’t like loud music, which is the only thing that makes it tolerable.

I will hike for hours. I’ll paddle the canoe all day long. I will bicycle to get places. I’ll skate and ski and snowshoe my way through the winter. But please don’t ask me to exercise.

I confess that I am not even very good at doing physiotherapy to work out the ankle that I broke two years ago. Instead, I do tai chi.

Tai chi stretches every part of my body. It helped return full mobility to my ankle. Tai chi stretched out and relaxed my rotator cuff after a repetitive strain injury from years ago.

Without tai chi, I doubt I’d be able to slip into, and more importantly, get out of my skinny kayak. Through learning tai chi, my paddling skills have improved. I move faster through the water with less effort. My shoulders do not ache after a long day of canoeing.  

I signed up for tai chi classes seven years ago because I wanted to bring meditation into my life. Meditation is easy. Just be mindful of what you are doing while you are doing it. I learned to meditate decades ago. To meditate, I would sit still and be aware of my breath. Thoughts would come, and I knew to let them go. Return to the breath. No, it is not easy. 

So I signed up for a Taoist Tai Chi class in Sudbury. Tai chi is meditation in motion. There is no time for boredom because I have to pay attention to the movements. There is no time for my mind to wander, because I need to be aware of how my body is balancing as I take each step. And best of all as a beginner, I could attend classes one time or four times a week for the one registration fee.
I still go to classes even though I can practice at home alone. There is a very nice energy that comes with doing tai chi together. And there is always something more to discover. The outward form does not take long to learn, but the inner subtleties will take a lifetime.

There is a stigma about tai chi that it is for old people. And it is true that doing tai chi can help regain mobility, balance, prevent falls and all the other things that seniors need to stay independent and active. It does this for younger people, too. It can help you play better golf. It can improve posture, which is important for skiing, skating, horseback riding, and having dinner at Grandma’s house. And it reduces stress.

New classes start in Sudbury area in September. The first class is free! Look for Sudbury tai chi on Facebook to see the fall schedule. Or call 705-688-0111 for locations and times.

Viki Mather has been commenting for Northern Life on the natural world and life in Greater Sudbury since the spring of 1984. Got a question or idea for Viki? Send an email to [email protected].


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