For those looking to improve their health and try something a bit different, Taoist Tai Chi may be something to consider.
Larry Gillard, a Tai Chi instructor with the Red Deer Taoist Society, said that he has seen, and felt first-hand the health benefits of doing Taoist Tai Chi.
“You do leave class feeling better than when you came in.”
In 2004, he started feeling like his body wasn’t working quite like it used to. It took just a little bit more effort to do things, like reaching into the bottom of a bin wasn’t as easy as it should have been for example.
“Things just weren’t quite like they were back in the day,” said Gillard. He added he tried to think of ways to improve flexibility and thought of Tai Chi as he had heard it was all about stretching and improving flexibility.
After hearing an advertisement on the radio and working up the courage, Gillard attended his first Tai Chi class. He said he was very uncomfortable and the movements of Tai Chi felt very unfamiliar to him that first night, but added it didn’t take long for things to fall into place.
“I was one of those lucky people it just clicked with,” said Gillard. He added that those feelings of discomfort and unfamiliarity are common for many first-time Tai Chi practitioners.
Gillard said the reason for this is that the structures and body positions of Tai Chi are very opposite to what is normally done with the body in western society. Instead, Tai Chi is the eastern philosophy on the body, said Gillard.
There are many types of Tai Chi. Despite Tai Chi technically being considered a martial art, Taoist (pronounced DA-o-ist) Tai Chi, the kind Gillard practices, is non-combative.
Gillard said instead it focuses on trying to improve the health of those who practice it.
Each of the moves, structures or body positions in Tai Chi have many variations and those who are more knowledgeable in Tai Chi may attempt them a different way. However, Gillard added that there is no best way to demonstrate those structures.
“The goal isn’t to reach a final form, it’s to improve your health.” As Taoist Tai Chi is focused on improving health, Gillard said many of the practitioners he instructs have some health concerns. Most commonly, those issues relate to mobility.
He added those who are keen to try Tai Chi are mostly retirees who are looking for something to do with their time that is a little bit different from what they are used to. However, all ages can still benefit from Tai Chi, he said.
Gillard said the object of Taoist Tai Chi is to try and make a person’s body behave the same way it did as a newborn child. He said ideally, the body is supple, has had no damage done to it and has no bad habits.
Taoist Tai Chi Society was founded in the 1970s and exists to promote the health benefits of Taoist Tai Chi, to make Taoist Tai Chi available to all, promote cultural exchange, and to help others.
As such, Gillard, as well as his fellow instructors, are volunteers. They pay their dues to the Society just like every other member and donate their time to teach classes.
Red Deer Taoist Tai Chi Society offers Continuing Tai Chi classes at St. Cyprians Anglican Church in Lacombe every Tuesday from 7 – 9 p.m. and beginner classes starting Sept. 11 on Wednesdays from 7 – 9 p.m. For more information contact 1-888-824-2441 or 403-346-6772.