TAICHI, an exercise for resilience and against stress
Any morning jogger or passerby won’t miss this group of gentle-moving men and women who fling their hands and arms and gracefully gyrate their limbs and legs in unison on the grounds of the Naga Cathedral every bright 7:00 Saturday, Tuesday, and Thursday morning. Most of them are senior citizens, including myself and my husband, dressed in white shirts paired with dark or gray pants, some faces covered with a scarf or hood to hide from the glaring bright sun smiling on us.
As if in a combative stance, we move with our flat-soled rubber shoes on the cleanly mowed grass of the Cathedral grounds beside the “triumphal arch” of the Porta Mariae fronting the historic Holy Rosary Minor Seminary. We try to keep our body movements up synchronous to a Chinese lyrical and gentle instrumental background played from a portable gadget. Our young mentor, Edsel or Shifu, patiently guides us through the motions of Tai Chi Form 24, simply because it has 24 fluid movements that we have to learn and practice regularly to enjoy its high-impact benefits. I belong to this original group called Tai Chi Essentials, formed on July 7, 2018, for which we are celebrating a Tai Chi out-of-town weekend by the sea at coastal Minalabac. They are called Taijiren or Tai Chi enthusiasts, among the millions of health practitioners worldwide.
Three times a week, the majestic Catholic cathedral church beckons us with its open door and provides a beautiful solemn ambiance of peace and joy in its open green park. I feel the serenity and deep spirituality of connecting with my fellow Taijerens methodically moving around like ancient gentle warriors of the Taoist-inspired health exercise called Tai Chi. I thank each one I come to meet anew for reminding us we are still alive and well during this Pandemic, a terrible disruption of life. When Taijerens meet, sadness and disease are none existent. I thank the Archbishop, Rolly Tria Tirona, for the openness and the welcoming embrace of the Archdiocese of Caceres to everyone converging quietly with nature at the Cathedral grounds. I thank our Chinese brethren who found their way to Bicol centuries and decades ago, who generously shared bits and pieces of Chinese culture – arts, trade, music, traditional medicine, among others, and this soft martial art called Tai Chi. Like Edsel and his family, their descendants have happily blended as part of the Filipino-Chinese community in Bicol.
Tai Chi as a health exercise
Imagine the brusque Kung Fu, Bruce Lee or Jacky Chan dancing gracefully, their hands and arms gliding softly around in motion communing with an invisible might? That’s Tai Chi, a form of exercise for health that develops a remarkable ability to balance and gain more discipline over one’s mind. Of course, Bruce and Jacky were not into soft martial arts. When they fight forcefully with their bodies, that’s hard, external, and strenuous. Tai Chi is the internal ancient gentle art of self-defense that looks like a cross between shadow boxing and slow-motion ballet. Tai Chi is an exercise for defense training, health benefits, and meditation.
Although Tai Chi was originally a Martial Art, it is mainly practiced today as an excellent form of exercise with many health benefits. It is an exercise that utilizes breathing, visualizations, and movements to work the entire body all at once. According to the Tai Chi Classics, Tai Chi was created by applying natural movements using relaxation and breathing to generate health, longevity, and internal strength and power. It is based on the Chinese philosophy of Yin (negative, dark) and Yang (positive and bright), their connectivity, that everything consists of two opposing forces that harmonize to create a whole. Therefore, if there is sadness, there is happiness, and if there is death, there is life.
Tai Chi benefits are immeasurable. I am a survivor of frequent falls, which broke a little of my arm and a little of my limb at a young age. My Mommy Eliza had a bad fall in her comfort room that wasn’t comfortable at all. It caused her to spend the remaining years of her senior life in a wheelchair. Studies have shown improved functional balance among the elderly, seniors, and the general population through Tai Chi which significantly reduces the risk of falling or loss of balance. I began to learn about how Tai Chi improves physical well-being, flexibility, and movement regulation for the bones and ligaments. When done regularly, I notice it gives me a wonderful sense of balance and rhythm and makes me more flexible. So, when I miss out on Tai Chi for months because of work, I sense a lot of stiffness, numbness, and difficulty in even getting up from bed. I began to see Tai Chi as a natural, affordable, stress-free, discipline-demanding chore for good health.
Let’s listen to some of our Taijerens: Judge Sarina Ros Co said, “Taichi has helped me manage my aching back and has made me move about more freely and be flexible.” It helps her to be calm and at peace despite the busy world around them. Elma agrees and adds that Tai Chi has healed her of various ailments and helped relieve stress and anxiety. She was all grateful for how it relaxes and helps exude love, compassion, and peace towards others. As regular Tai Chi participants, Elma and Annie believe the breathing and slow-moving exercises make them feel more relaxed and confident with life, “young and beautiful.” “There is less stress and motivation to stay healthy.” Both find it easier to “mingle with others, and we have more patience, understanding, and care for others.” Among those who have made Tai Chi a regular part of their lives are Aida, Bing, Destiny, Fe, Fely, Francia, Lorna, Tere, Maria Ana and Linda, Juls, Melds, Nellie, Norbie, Shirley, Sonia, and Rafael. They have told of their stories of great relief from stress, increased flexibility, sense of balance, ease in movement, social interaction, and added know-how of living a healthy lifestyle with Tai Chi.
Tai Chi as a low-impact exercise is increasingly becoming a popular, easy, safe, no-cost, no-tool antidote and powerful intervention, self-defense against the Pandemic and other chronic diseases of anxiety, depression, physical inactivity, sedentary behavior, and mental disorders suitable to all ages. It offers amazing health benefits. Just continue moving, slow but sure. Who can benefit from Tai Chi? Just about anyone!