The Pros and Cons of Tai Chi

I recently took up Tai Chi as part of the never-ending quest for better health. Tai Chi seems like the perfect exercise for someone with CFS, because it doesn’t feel like exercise. It’s just a series of slow graceful movements that don’t exactly get your heart racing.

Initially, I started by learning Tai Chi from a video on YouTube. But then I decided to take a course with the Sydney Tai Chi society, so that I could get feedback from an instructor and also hopefully meet some other people who are interested in learning Tai Chi.

I’ve been attending the course for six weeks now. The routine that I’m learning is different from the one in the video, but the underlying concepts are all the same: release stress and tension in the body, and your life force will begin to flow again.

I’ve been practising almost every weekday morning for the past six weeks, down at the southern end of Bondi Beach where there are always people practising yoga, meditation, and tai chi every morning. I almost always feel better after my morning practice.

However, this week I started to notice a growing sense of irritation at the fact the Tai Chi is, well, kind of boring. In a sense, it’s just another thing that I’m trying to do in order to “fix myself”, rather than getting out there and living the life that I would really love to be living right now. And frankly, always trying to “fix myself” bugs the shit out of me.

So while practising Tai Chi this Thursday morning, I started thinking about the Mikel therapy concept of doing what your body seems to be asking for. I was there standing by the ocean doing my slow and graceful movements as the waves rolled in, and I thought to myself “you know, I think what I would really like to be doing right now is going body boarding”. But the water is way too cold for me right now since it’s still winter.

I’ve been meaning to go and buy a wetsuit ever since moving near the beach in Bondi, so that I can still enjoy body boarding in the ocean even on cold days. Another concept I learned from nickel therapy was the idea of doing the things that you’ve been putting off, so I decided that instead of continuing to practice my Tai Chi that morning, I would go to the surf store and buy myself the wetsuit that I wanted.

I came home with a brand-new, top-of-the-line wetsuit which is both flexible and warm, picked up my body board, and headed back to the beach. I had a great time body boarding in the waves, and with a snug fitting new wetsuit, barely noticed the cold water.

Conscious of not wanting to over do it, I also stopped and came home before the shark alarm went off that day. I went back for more body boarding on the Friday, And again came home shortly before the shark alarm went off at Bondi for the second day in a row.

I’ve still got a couple weeks to go before my 8-week Tai Chi course ends, although it doesn’t really end at that point: the instructor says that it takes about 18 months to learn the routine that he is teaching us, and I’ve only done six weeks so far. Frankly, I’d like to do something more exciting with my time.

I get that Tai Chi is great for dealing with anxiety and stress, which I think are key components of CFS. But it’s also a bit of a distraction from living the life that I really want, which I think is the ultimate cure for CFS.

I’ll probably continue to practice Tai Chi from time to time even after the course ends, but rather than doing it religiously every day, I’ve decided to practice it when my body seems to be asking for it.

Otherwise, I’ve adopted body boarding as my daily spiritual practice. Sharks not withstanding.

Author: Graham

I'm a guy in his late 40's, recovering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome since May 2009. I now offer coaching and support to other people with CFS/ME.

2 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Tai Chi”

  1. Great post Graham. I’ve reached same conclusion myself about overcoming CFS, so good to hear you saying the same – as I wonder sometimes if I’m kidding myself to justify a lack of discipline to following fixes. I just want a life I enjoy without restrictions like insane diet and a shitty quiet life.

    I find tai Chi exhausting, so don’t bother anymore but like a little bit of Chi Kung and mini meditations a.m and before bed. I’m pretty certain tai chi exhausted me because it bored the heck out of me after a few min. Well done on the wet suit purchase and keep loving the body boarding. I’m well jealous of course. I feel stuck in a small town that doesn’t stimulate me enough, but because I can’t rely on my energy don’t feel confident to move. Self fulfilling loop. Any advice? That’s the sticking point, same with paid work, I’m volunteering instead, building up hours till I fee more certain i can cope regular shifts. I’m thinking to try paid casual shifts. How are you funding rent etc? No worries if you don’t answer amigo, we have to concentrate on ourselves in this process!

    1. Hey James. Thanks for your comment(s!). I think boredom is a major trigger for me; but so is overdoing things, so it’s a fine line. I recently decided to take drum lessons and focus on that more than on the Tai Chi, since I find it more interesting and can look forward to playing in a band again while learning. My main focus now is listening to my body and seeing what it wants, rather than what my mind/ego had in mind. Always think what physical action you can take to create the life you want, without exhausting yourself. I’m fortunate that I had a heap of money saved from my old career before coming down with CFS; but it may also be a bit of a curse since I’m less inclined to go out and get a job until I’m really better, and a friend of mine said that getting a job has been really important to his recovery (he was on disability before… and he’s only 45). Volunteer work is great for social contact and being rewarding, but we need an income to alleviate financial stress. Cheers, Graham

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