by Susan Hauser
Experience the benefits of this exercise and art form
Thirteen years ago I began my journey with the arts of Taoist Tai Chi™. I am now an instructor and dedicated member of the Fung Loy Kok Institute of Taoism. I was first attracted to Taoist Tai Chi because of its beautiful flowing movements; I have stayed for many reasons, including a lovely community of people, the chance to learn an ever-evolving art form and consistent improvement in my health. The Taoist Tai Chi arts, developed in Toronto in the 1970s by Moy Lin Shin, are based on a rich Taoist tradition. The body and mind are inextricably linked; they can’t be separated. The goal of this exercise form is to return both the body and the mind to their original state. Each of the movements helps you regain clarity, stillness, and wisdom in your mind and create a relaxed, balanced, healthy body.
Physically, the movements are designed to exercise the entire body, from internal organs to joints, tendons, and connective tissue. Mentally and spiritually, they help you tame your heart, develop calmness and compassion and reduce self-centredness. These benefits continue even when you’re not actively practicing, as you go about your everyday life.
Regular practice of Taoist Tai Chi can improve a wide variety of health conditions, including Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, arthritis and other joint problems, back pain, high blood pressure, digestive disorders and depression, as well as the long-term outcomes of stroke, trauma and aging. Taoist Tai Chi also helps concentration and memory retention—learning the 108 movements is good for your brain. The most noticeable health benefit I experienced when I began to practice the form regularly was the cessation of tension headaches. My overall fitness level benefits as well; I am not a sporty person but through my practice I continue to feel physically fit. I have better flexibility and balance, as well as improved circulation and body awareness. I also love the grace of the movements and the sense of flow I feel in the form.
Taoist Tai Chi goes beyond exercise and highly values volunteerism and community. Instructors, who receive regular training at their own expense and must undergo annual accreditation, are volunteers. Membership dues are used to run and develop the organization and allow members to take part in activities and classes.
With members in 25 countries, the Taoist Tai Chi community is a global one that connects people from diverse cultures. The sense of connection that being part of this local and global community provides has been cited as a source of its emotional health benefits. Taoist Tai Chi has given me the chance to travel to week-long workshops; I come away from them with rejuvenated excitement to be part of such a caring, bonded organization. It is amazing to be in a crowd of more than five hundred people from all over the world, all sharing experiences, volunteering side by side and learning together to improve our form so that we can take our knowledge back to our own clubs and share what we have learned with our students. Hearing members’ stories about recovering from poor physical or mental health is inspiring and makes me realize that continual practice of this art is what will keep me young in my old age.
I began learning the form in the Grande Prairie club, a smaller club where I was given as much attention as I needed and was encouraged to experience Taoist Tai Chi beyond the movements. Opportunities to chant at the shrine and to become involved in the administration enabled me to grow and learn in many areas. The Grande Prairie branch recently celebrated its 25th anniversary—a true celebration of Master Moy’s vision in action. We invited everyone to join us in recognizing not only the hard work of so many wonderful club members but also in celebrating the choices we make to be healthy, to inspire health in others, to be open to growth and to share the wealth of knowledge provided to us. More information about classes near you can be found at www.taoist.org.
Susan Hauser is an elementary school teacher and Taoist Tai Chi™ instructor in Sexsmith, Alberta. She loves to attend Taoist Tai Chi workshops, quilt, read and be creative with her daughter.by