This CMTer took up Tai Chi
If I woke up early enough when I was a kid, I might grab my Grandmother, my “Po Po”, doing his tai chi exercises in an open space of our house right next to the front door. For a long time, tai chi was part of his morning ritual. It was his way of clearing his mind and preparing his body for whatever the day had in store for him. And I found it fascinating.
The martial arts movements favored by my Po Po were different from the forms of martial arts I have seen on TV and in movies. Compared to the fast and explosive forms I was learning in my karate classes, my Po Po forms were much slower and calmer. But they were no less strong and intentional.
I sometimes tried to imitate my Po Po and his tai chi movements. However, I have never had much success. I think even though I had the balance and flexibility at the time, I lacked the necessary patience.
My memories of my grandmother’s tai chi came back to me as I found myself yearning for a greater sense of control and awareness of my body, and I thought maybe Tai Chi would be a relatively safe, low impact way to help me relax and test the limits of what my Charcot-Marie-Tooth (CMT) body can do.
Many practitioners praise the meditative qualities of tai chi and the fact that it is gentle on the joints. Studies have even shown that practicing tai chi can improve a person’s mood and sense of well-being.
After I started training in tai chi this fall, I can tentatively call myself a fan. The experience has made me reflect on the flexibility and stability that CMT has taken from me over the years. And it definitely gave me new respect for my Po Po.
I like to try my hand at tai chi, but it’s really hard – CMT or not CMT.
For example, I hadn’t really appreciated how difficult the slow, calm movements that characterize tai chi are until I tried to do them. Slow is not at all easier. Often times, slowness is more difficult because it involves constant adjustment to accommodate movement while maintaining balance.
And I sometimes wonder if some tai chi movements are even possible with a CMT body. Can I balance on one foot while kicks and punches at the same time? Should I even try?
During times like this, I try to remember my goal. I am not aiming for mastery. For me or any other CMTer who might be interested, I think tai chi is still worth a try, despite the challenges. It might not be for everyone, bbut there is a reason why it is advised for people with CMT and other chronic diseases. It is indeed low impact. And if you have a decent instructor and are open to your limits, tai chi can be adapted to accommodate them.
For my part, I choose to keep trying. At the moment my goal is simply to get the “tai chi walk“down. If all I can do is get halfway there, I think that would be an accomplishment. Already, it allowed me to learn a little more about my body.
And it brought back fond memories of days spent trying to keep up with my Po Po.
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