Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Clouds, Adapted For Wheelchair Users

I tried Tai Chi today. Wheelchair Tai Chi, of course. It took me a little bit to get over feeling silly but once I did, I was quite taken by the whole thing. I liked the language of Tai Chi. Gentle movements were labled by poets it seemed. "Embrace The Moon," is a pretty image, "Part The Wild Horse's Mane," is an evocative phrase, "White Stork Spreads It's Wings," is simply lovely ... I began to concentrate on learning the movements and then became entranced by the imagery. I'm guessing that may be part of the point.

My instructor, the guy on the Chair Tai Chi DVD, had a very gentle and encouraging voice with which he kept asking me to stay in the 'now' ... not the past, not the future, but the now. This, for me was the most strenuous of the exercises. I found myself struggling to stay focused on the movements, not slide into past or dive into future. Worries and anxieties are rocks across the calm that my mind leaps to, launching from one, landing on the other. It seems that my imagination is way more limber and agile than I am. After a bit, with concentrated focus on breathing and purposeful attention to the movements and actively caging my imagination so that I could see "The Whips Tail", I managed to get to a place of calm simply moving my body.

Transitioning to life in a wheelchair for me meant that movement became cumbersome. I still walk, but with an awkward, unsteady gait, with fear of falling hindering smooth movement. I push myself down carpeted hallways or break my speed down ramps and curbs. Movement takes thought and energy and is anything but pretty. However, at one point in doing these movements I caught a glimpse of myself reflected in the computer screen - I kind of liked what I saw. Arms moved gracefully and hands formed shapes easily, I hadn't seen myself like that for a very, very, very long time. Since long before becoming disabled. Cumbersome and ungainly would have been words I used to describe myself. Certainly not 'graceful'. I think I may have been wrong.

When the 20 or so minutes came to an end I felt I had grasped most of the movements and could do them fairly well. A couple were difficult and need practice. But I had the flow down pat, I had the ease of movement and the fluidity of change between movements. It felt good. Physically. It felt wonderful. Spiritually.

I've often seen groups of people in parks doing Tai Chi and found their motions fascinating to watch. I didn't know that with just a bit of adaption, I could move like a cloud too.


Kristin said...

That is so cool. Thanks for sharing it with us.

Anonymous said...

Though I've never met you in person, I can totally imagine you enjoying Tai Chi.
It must be a nice change from screechy weight-lifting woman, besides. Balanced workouts, one gentle, one strong. Yin and yang, but with the traditional gender roles reversed. How fitting.

Colleen said...

Thanks for this Dave. I can totally picture you as graceful. Its nice that you can see that in yourself.

Brenda said...

How wonderful! I'm so glad you've begun, and shared, this amazing thing called Tai Chi. Many years ago, (we won't say how many), my brother used to be an instructor, and I would often attend his classes and work out with him in the park. It really does give you a feeling like no other exercise out there (that I've found, anyway). As life would have it, hubby and kids came along, and a few years later, disability. I'd completely forgotten how adaptable Tai Chi can be, and am now smacking my head in an "I-could-have-had-a-V8" fashion. I'm so glad you shared this - I'm off to find a DVD!!

Anonymous said...

Yay for finding your cloud! I love finding ways to move that work.

Kristine said...

Do you ever read Wheelchair Dancer's blog? I love her writing about the beauty, movement, motion, grace, control, and spirit of wheelchair use.