Tai Chi

Kyoto, Japan
Photo from Pexels.com, license: free to use, no attribution required

About a month before I was hospitalized, I was running up a mountain in 34 degree weather on a Saturday morning. 3.5 miles up and 3.5 miles down. I was not concerned about my finishing time— only finishing (Which I did. My time, if you’re curious, was 2 hours and 45 minutes.) In November of 2018, I completed my second Spartan Sprint race with my college friend Thomas. I liked challenging myself physically even though I had to work hard to be average. (I think it’s important for everyone to find something like this. It makes us grow, and humbles us at the same time.) I was mapping out the year in terms of training and when I could do Spartan Super and Beast races in order to make the list of Trifecta (completing all three Spartan races) in 2019, before I turned 40.

Then I had brain surgery. All of that disappeared in a series of 6 days. After the surgery I still wanted some activity. I could walk around the hospital floor for 1 or 2 laps, but that was all. I starting searching for “seated Tai Chi” videos on youtube. I quickly found David-Dorian Ross and starting practicing Tai Chi right there in my hospital bed. It felt liberating. There is also a certain dovetailing of Tai Chi into the deep meditation practices I was developing. Somehow this was all coming together. 

Tai Chi Qigong is a slow moving art form of body movement and breathing. It focuses on the concept of “qi” (pronounced “chi”), the idea of an “animating power that permeates the universe and all living things.” (I understand this is a big buy. Either buy-in or move on.) There is emphasis on the breath (which I feel is critical) and slow movement. During my recovery I’ve been forced to do things slow. I keep finding more and more value in this. And now this form of light exercise celebrates slow movement. There is an ineffable grace to the unison of the breathing and movement through the Tai Chi forms. I have found great value in two particular seated Tai Chi videos (see Resources at the bottom). I have also started some standing Tai Chi but am going very slowly. This is a daily practice for me unless doctor appointments don’t allow me the time necessary.

I experimented with some videos outside of David-Dorian Ross but Paige will tell you how upset I was when some of these videos didn’t even mention breathing. Breathing is so important! If you have any interest in Tai Chi I heavily suggest you start by looking up some David-Dorian Ross videos on youtube and subscribe to his channel. 

There is another development happening with Tai Chi that appeals to me. David-Dorian Ross was inactive for a period of months. He had a tumor in his lower jaw / neck that was removed. It sounded like this was a time of serious introspection for him. It was amazing to me hearing this after my brain tumor and surgery. But he has been working behind the scenes on a big development in Tai Chi. He has been working with the US Department of Veterans Affairs to find a way to provide free Tai Chi to veterans. Part of this is making sure that Tai Chi teachers received appropriate compensation for their teachings. The details are still developing but I think it’s all very exciting. And who knows? I could be a Tai Chi teacher in the near future.

I’ve been shocked that there is not a daily Tai Chi resource available. I am exploring the possibility of using Twitch (the video game streaming service) to live stream Tai Chi lessons or seated Tai Chi lesson daily. I’ll keep you updated on this. I want to share this with as many people as I can since it has helped me so much.

Lastly, I’d like to share this Tai Chi poem by the Chinese poet, Li Bai. I’ve tried to find the source for this but can’t. If anyone knows the title of the poem, or where it’s from please let me know (formatting is my own attempt at reproduction, apologies for any discrepancies with the original poem). David-Dorian Ross shares this poem in his introduction to the Daily Practice video series.

I take my body and breath,
And I go to play beneath the trees and the mountains.
We are always three,
Counting the sky and my friend the nurturing Earth
Happily, the sky does not judge me,
And the Earth gives me lessons.

After class, students and teachers go their separate ways,
But this sadness I do not know,
When I go home,
The Earth goes with me,
And the sky follows me.

Li Bai

Resources:

  1. https://taijifit.net David-Dorian Ross’s Tai Chi page (includes information about the development of the Tai Chi for Veterans program)
  2. https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCebeniyQIzU_PVk07Yl1_pA  David-Dorian Ross youtube channel. 
  3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_V29hE0_oBE 10 minute David-Dorian Ross seated Tai Chi video
  4. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_lKO03x_5OU 20 minute David-Dorian Ross seated Tai Chi video
  5. T’ai Chi Daily Practice, 8-episode video series with David-Dorian Ross and Daisy Lee Garripoli. This took me a while to find. It’s the only “daily” Tai Chi video series I’ve been able to find and liked. So far it’s been a good foundation. 
  6. https://www.joshwaitzkin.com/josh Chess prodigy Josh Waitzkin (who the movie Searching for Bobby Fischer was based on) and his transition to mastering and competing in Tai Chi Chuan (a martial art form of Tai Chi). His book, The Art of Learning, is incredible and a great read even if you have little interest in Tai Chi. Buy it and devour it.