Tai Chi Chih Class #1: First reactions

Years ago, I took a tai chi class at a local hospital’s Mind-Body Institute. This is a place I trust, a place where I had a major migraine and fatigue breakthrough many years ago due to the knowledge and recommendations from the doctor and founder of the institute. This is where I used to regularly take therapeutic yoga and where I’d hang flyers about their programming in exchange for classes when I was in my 8+-year period of not having health insurance.

Tai chi was pretty great when I took it before, and I definitely got some physical and mental benefit from it—my balance was better and my anxiety levels decreased.  I wrote about it a little here and here. Like many healthy routines I adopted years ago, I dropped my tai chi and yoga classes when my bookshop opened. I am trying to reincorporate healthy routines, exercise, and relaxation techniques now that the bookshop doesn’t need my full attention all the time.

So it was with a mixture of optimism and dread that I signed up for a Tai Chi Chih class that began today.  I convinced my mom to go with me (we both have balance issues and both could stand to work on our confidence walking and moving, plus the effects it’ll have on our stress levels certainly can’t hurt!).  We were in the same fluorescently-lit room as last time I took the class four years ago, and thankfully we were able to turn the lights down (but not all the way off).

Let me just tell you how lazy I was feeling today. I slept in late and woke groggy and achy. Going to tai chi was the last thing on my wishlist, and I admit that if I hadn’t had “pick Mom up for tai chi” on my to-do list, I might’ve begged off and not attended at all—I hadn’t paid yet, so money couldn’t be a motivator.  But I did get off my booty and picked my mom up at 10:00am.

“I have to admit I am not in the mood for this today,” I confessed.
“Me, neither,” my mom commiserated.

Well at least we were on the same page—I know it can be hard when one friend is chipper and excited and the other is, well, less so.

The first class was okay.  Our teacher is great and very well-trained and experienced, so she walked us through a lot of different movements and encouraged us to speak up if we ever felt imbalanced or unsafe, and to let her know if we needed any accommodations for certain poses and exercises.

I was a really good sport for about forty-five minutes, but after that I kept sneaking glances at my watch.  I was really eager for the hour-long class to be over. I wasn’t in pain or feeling overtaxed, I just wanted to get out of there. Out from a formal class, out from the fluorescent lights, and out from a situation I had committed to for a certain amount of time.

My heart leapt when the instructor said, “Okay, this will be our last movement for today.”  Phew! That meant class was almost over!

I said I was only a good sport for forty-five minutes, right?

After class ended, I had hoped to feel lighter and energized and balanced, the way I sometimes feel after a really good yoga session.  While I didn’t feel better, per se, I certainly didn’t feel worse.  My body felt pretty good, and my low back  and hip pain had dissipated a bit (it’s been bad this week).

When leaving the building, my mom and I broke down the session.  She confessed that, toward the beginning of class, she comforted herself with the thought that she didn’t have to ever come back.  But by the end, she had changed her tune and decided to return with me the next week.  I’m glad for that, too, because I need her support to motivate myself.

Next week I hope to report back and let you know how it goes. For now I’m reminding myself that trying new things is something to be proud of (even if they’re versions of “old” things you’d tried in the past). I’m proud of myself for finally attending this class after years of saying I was going to do so.  I’m proud for sticking through the whole hour and for making an oath to return next week.

How many of you have felt a little discouraged like this after starting a new exercise or meditation class? How have you convinced yourself to go back even when there’s been no immediate payoff or reward?

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