Four weeks ago, I started taking a weekly tai chi class with my sister. The intention was for my grandmother to take class with us, but she just hasn’t felt up to it. Nevertheless, I’m enjoying having something permanent on my schedule every week, especially because I get to see my sister. We’ve been trying to do “after-class” socializing too, whether it’s going out to dinner at the local vegetarian restaurant, visiting my sister’s friends and their new baby girl, or getting salads to go and eating dinner at my grandparents.

And, oh yeah, the class itself is pretty good too. 🙂 The studio space is a bit “clinical” (bright overhead lights, a bit on the cool side), but I’m trying not to let those things bug me and focus entirely on the movement. Here’s what I’m digging so far about tai chi:

1. Attaining a clear and focused mind. After an hour of meditative movement and breathing (along with listening to my hypnotherapist teacher’s voice), my mind is in such a better place. I always enter the room a bit rushed and dizzied, having driven there right from work, but I’m in a totally different mindset once I leave. Any crazy guilt I have about not getting a “real workout” (i.e., sweat and breathlessness) on Thursday nights dissipates once class is over because I know that I have given my mind the workout it needs and deserves.

2. “Beach” feet. Yoga, tai chi, qi gong…whenever you’re doing an activity that requires absolute presence and mindfulness, you begin to feel very in touch with your surroundings, including the way your feet feel against the ground. Sometimes yoga makes me feel like I have tree roots growing from my soles into the earth, but tai chi makes me feel like I have “beach” feet, as though I’m standing barefoot by the ocean, my feet sinking softly into the wet sand.

3. Balance practice. Part of our warm-up is to shift from one foot to the other, balancing in place while “holding the ball” in front of our abdomen. Standing on one foot after a day of sitting at a desk or driving isn’t always easy, but it gives me a sense of attaining balance not just on my feet but in life in general.

4. The diversity. I’m 31, my sister is 26. The teacher’s assistant looks like she is in her 70s and wears orthopedic shoes throughout the class. There is a woman who has spinal issues and cannot twist and a “senior student” Asian man for whom tai chi looks second nature. The class brings in people of all different ages, abilities, and backgrounds, and there is something endearing about such a diverse group of students all learning the same thing together.

5. The flowing nature of the style. When all 24 postures of the Yang style are linked together, the result is a flowing work of choreography. We are still learning just the basic moves, but with time I hope to synchronize the arms and legs more; sink deep into the ground; and use the whole space available, not just one little spot on the floor. This woman is my inspiration: