Category: MS and Tai Chi

Practicing Qigong and Tai Chi Chuan

Every new student that joins one of my classes is asked a simple question – “Why do you want to study Tai Chi?” I usually get the same responses:

  • “To improve my balance, coordination, flexibility.”
  • “ To learn to relax.”
  • “For health and personal wellness.”
  • “To help me with my balance”.

But what about for those who have been studying for a number of months and years? Has your reason for studying Tai Chi changed over the months and years? How often do you practice?  How do you practice?

Many people just starting out understand how relaxed they feel after taking one or two classes with a good instructor. But the common mistake made, especially for beginners, is the dedication to the art of Qigong and Tai Chi Chuan. Qigong and Tai Chi offer a laundry list of possible benefits when performed on a regular basis:

  • Improved body alignment and flexibility
  • Peaceful, meditative movements
  • Bridge between mind, body and spirit
  • Self defense and martial arts
  • Internal healing

In order to reap these and the many other benefits not listed one needs to dedicate time to practice. Just attending a one hour class two or three times a week isn’t enough. A good instructor would encourage his or her students to practice what they learned in class; take ample notes on what they’ve done and bring questions to class; and recognize, over time, any changes that occur personally.

What if I practice incorrectly?

Some students are afraid they will practice “incorrectly”. The operative word here is “practice”! Whether or not it is correct is not important! Taking the time to understand what you have learned is the key; write down your problem areas and bring them to your instructor’s attention– it will be addressed.

What is a good amount of time to practice?

My Sifu always provided us with a gauge: “for every 30 minutes of practice you develop one drop of Chi”. Cultivating and storing chi is essential for your daily life, especially in the chaotic world we live in. So, using that measurement, a good daily practice should last at least 30 minutes. 15 to 20 minutes can set your mind and body on a good direction for you day. If you are able to squeeze in 10 minutes of qigong or run through a form at lunch time that counts, too!

How do you practice? What aspects of practicing Tai Chi interests you the most?

Experienced and novice learners should practice what is in their heart. Decide ahead of time what you plan to do and length of time:

  • Practice your forms, either the entire form or parts of it; focus on problem areas and repeat, repeat, repeat.
  • Think of the martial aspects of the postures – does this improve your execution?
  • Practice with a partner – apply two person form techniques if possible.
  • Note your techniques when using weapons.
  • Most importantly, remember the 10 essential points of Tai Chi.

As you become more disciplined in your daily practice of Qigong and Tai Chi you will notice improvements in your physical, mental and spiritual well being. You will learn to use your “Kung Fu” in everything you do.

So, if you haven’t already, join the Tai Chi revolution – find a good instructor and start now – you won’t regret the results!

Pam Dye-brush knee and push
Pam doing Yang style brush knee and push

MS and Tai Chi Chuan

My focus on this blog will be my personal experiences dealing with MS and the impact of daily practices of Tai Chi Chaun on my physical and mental capacities. I’ve always said to people that Tai Chi Chuan is “my medicine”. I have PPMS (Primary Progressive MS) which means I probably won’t have any relapses (which is good) but my progression of the disease will continue downhill (which is not good).
I take Baclofen to help with spasticity and Ampyra® to help me with my walking. My daily practice of Tai Chi helps with not only with my balance and rooting but it’s meditative qualities keep me stay relaxed and energized throughout each day.

For much of my adult life I have been physically active: I’ve played tennis and squash, always swimming, biked on long tours, and even did a handful of road races (I hated running), some triathlons and biathlons and, of course, was into the martial arts. I took up Kung Fu in my undergraduate years and got pretty good at it and continued on after graduating and moving to a small town in West Virginia for my first teaching job. I stayed there for two years and moved back to New York and tried to find a comparable Kung Fu style and school but gave up. I continued the other physical activities but they were not as fulfilling as taking Kung Fu. It wasn’t until after I had shoulder surgery in 2001 that I took a Tai Chi Chuan class with Grand Master J. Teasley, got hooked, and never looked back.

During the time after 2002 the symptoms started: weakness in the legs, tripping, fatigue, and numbness in my left leg and arm . I had countless MRI’s of the spine and hips, visited the orthopedists and physical therapists regularly and even had three epidural procedures but no one knew what was wrong with me. I knew something wasn’t right when my legs felt like lead weights and could barely do a kick higher than knee height. It wasn’t until the summer of 2010 that a neurologist ordered an MRI of my brain with contrast. I thought “that was weird and scary-my brain?? Is it a tumor?” Nonetheless, he was able to diagnose that I had MS and I was relieved-finally an answer!

I continued practicing Tai Chi in spite of the diagnosis. Little did I know that this would be the best thing for me. There are no platform drugs for Primary Progressive MS-it is a slow, decline in the condition. Sure, my walking has gotten progressively worse over the years with foot drop but that hasn’t stopped me. I took a bad fall in 2008, which required 25 stitches in my bottom lip and chin, not knowing at the time that MS caused the fall.

Today, I continue my Tai Chi, knowing it will keep me happy and mentally centered. I am happy to share what I have learned with others and want to especially help others with MS and those with physical disabilities.