Walking into the Legion on a Tuesday or Thursday morning can be like walking into an underwater kingdom: figures move and sway back and forth like sea grass in rhythm with the surf. The waving forms are tai chi students learning the 108 forms of Master Moy’s type of tai chi. And to return to the beach metaphor, each move is like a single grain of sand that when put together becomes a seamless flow.
First exposure to the forms is not an experience of flow for most students. The nice thing about tai chi though is that everyone practising the martial art is always a beginner, learning something new as they practise but never master the forms.
Tai chi has long been practised for its internal and external benefits. Balance, strength, circulation, and flexibility are all increased in regular practitioners. Reduced stress, anxiety and depression also come with learning the forms, as do increased aerobic capacity and muscle strength.
Although – and perhaps due to – the slow speed at which the movements are performed, practitioners can find themselves sweating and getting a workout through increasing their stillness. Like a taoist truism, it’s a kind of effortless exertion.
Practising steadily produces a noticeable increase in leg strength, and the twisting motions definitely stretch muscles that may otherwise not be noticed. Like yoga, tai chi subtly opens up muscles, loosening up tendons and giving the body great practise in balance while moving.
Tai chi is often thought of as a slow, gentle exercise, but this is not strictly true. Some forms of tai chi have faster forms that are taught as martial arts. It’s not unheard of for an instructor to show how a form that is typically practised slowly can also be sped up and used in self-defence.
Stillness of the mind comes to practitioners through time, and tai chi is considered a moving meditation that increases peace and tranquility.
Increased strength and peace of mind, decreased stress: beginner’s classes began only a couple weeks ago in the Legion. Classes are at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday and Thursday or Tuesday night at 7 p.m. Now is always the time to learn.