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LifeStyle with Tai Chi and Qigong >> Tai Chi Qigong for Daily Life

A Special Class of People
by Janice Langham, the Second Place winner in the Teacher Group of ATCQA 2012 Writing Contest

I became a student of Tai Chi in 2001 when classes first began at our local Council on Aging, and began teaching in 2006. One of my current classes is Sitting Tai Chi at a nursing home in a neighboring community. My students are in wheel chairs; a few of them use walkers. The residents have problems with balance, arthritis, remembering left from right, and "senior moments" (including me). The physical problems these residents endure limit their movements considerably, and I make sure to remind them often, that it is all right to modify their moves. I stress breathing and shifting weight, which is very important for those who are not ambulatory. Some have trouble focusing, but the intense concentration on their faces and the smiles of achievement as they complete the more difficult moves, is very rewarding for them.

 Teaching Tai Chi in a nursing home requires patience and ingenuity because of the different levels of physical and mental abilities. One of the ways to approach this is to have the class imagine different scenarios for each move, and act it out with them. The most difficult move in our shortened form is Repulse the Monkey. I act it out individually with each of the students as the others follow along:

 "With one arm, circle an imaginary ball beside you. When your hand comes up to your shoulder, open your other hand and pull it back as if receiving a gift from a friend. At the same time, push the hand from your shoulder to pat the friend on the shoulder and say 'Thank you."

 This brings smiles every time, and helps them to remember the move. I have changed Step Through Guarding Temples to Open the Curtains (to look outside). Softness it taught by imagining they are carefully holding a baby chick in their hands for Strike Palm; or playing at boxing with a small grandchild when they Parry and Punch. These techniques make the moves easier to remember and fun to learn.

 My students are eager for their Tai Chi classes. It is common to find one or two already waiting in the "classroom" when I arrive. Their eyes light up in anticipation of the class. Once, one of my regular students was having a "bad" day, and had planned to skip class. A few minutes into the class, here she came, not wanting to miss anything. I never know how many will be in class on any given day, but I do have a few who have attended every class for over a year. Their enthusiasm is inspiring. Members of the staff and even visitors stop occasionally for a few minutes to try some Tai Chi with us.

Playing Tai Chi is not just an exercise for the residents, like their physical therapy. It leaves everyone feeling relaxed and refreshed. We end each class by performing our whole sequence; with quiet breathing, quiet thoughts, and quiet movements. Together we finish the last move, Grand Terminus, and our class ends with not just quiet smiles - but BIG grins.




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