Tai Chi Chih Classes #2 and #3

Recently I wrote about how my mom and I signed up for a five-session tai chi chih (TY-chee-chuh) class at our local hospital’s Mind-Body Institute.  The first class was okay—not amazing, but not bad.

Today I want to follow up by telling you how it’s going so far. We have had two more classes and the results have been mixed for both me and my mom.

First of all, the lighting in the room is atrocious for anyone with sensitive eyes.  The teacher is great and made as many accommodations as the space would allow, but the fact remains that there’s a low ceiling with a handful of fluorescent light panels lit up (and several darkened), and I wear my hat and sunglasses in every class, which limits my visual scope significantly, which is kind of annoying.  The teacher faces us, and we face her, and behind her there’s a mirror—that’s great, because we can really see what our bodies are doing.  (Side note: it’s fascinating to think your body is moving one way and then catch your reflection only to realize that you’re not in the position you thought you were at all.)

The first two weeks I ended up having a migraine day.  In both cases, I know there were other factors and triggers at play, but I’m confident the lights didn’t help.  After the third class, though, I felt okay, so I am not as concerned about going back to the last two classes and facing the light trigger.

Let me first tell you about the second class.  We learned a few new movements at the beginning and then transitioned into a very lovely and smooth series of moves we had already learned in just a session and a half.  It felt so great. We were really flowing, and I could see how, with more practice, tai chi chih could really be a really relaxing form of meditation. I reminded myself that we were in this class to learn the moves so we can incorporate this meditative practice at home in our own time, not just keep it limited to the five sessions of class.  My mom and I both lasted through the whole class and left feeling energized and happy. I felt the way I do after a really great therapeutic yoga session or a pretty good (not life-changing, but good) massage.

I actually looked forward to going back to week three, and that class ended up being the toughest so far. We only learned a couple of new moves, but I found myself having trouble following the movements and I was distracted by making sure my mom was doing okay.  The teacher could tell we were tired (two folks actually sat down before class ended and attempted to do some movements from a seated position as she’d suggested), and she concluded the session a few minutes ahead of schedule.  Afterward, I told the instructor, “Wow, this felt totally different from last week.  Last week I felt really energized, and this week I’m just pooped!”  She reminded me that it takes a lot of energy to learn new patterns and to engage the brain and body in ways it’s not accustomed to, and to give myself a break.  I felt I was veering dangerously close to entirely unhelpful self-judgment and tried to step back the way I’ve been trained, to merely witness the situation and not get bogged down by feelings of failure or not living up to what I “should” be able to do.

One thing I keep forgetting is that I signed up for this class in order to incorporate a new stress reduction exercise into my regular life, not just for five total hours over five weeks.  I am not doing a very good job of remembering that, focusing instead on hustling to the class and being relieved and proud when it’s over.  I need to be looking at this situation with a long view, remembering this is an opportunity I have to learn some skills that can help me cope with stress and anxiety in my everyday life, not just during the course itself.

Tomorrow we have our fourth class, and I didn’t practice at all in the last week.  I would probably be feeling a little better, anxiety-wise, if I had done so, but I didn’t, and there it is.  I’m choosing not to beat myself up about all the things I feel I should do, and I’m not going to add You Should Be Practicing Tai Chi Every Single Day to that “should” list.

Anyhow, I feel like I’m all over the place with this post, and that probably is a good and accurate testament to my mood right now.  I’m feeling distracted—not unhappy, but totally distracted—and needing to focus.  Obviously this class tomorrow morning is coming at a good time.

How many of you have done tai chi? Do you find your experience changes from session to session?  What results did you see when you actually stuck with a regular practice? Were your migraine patterns altered in any way?

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