Teaching an old dog new tricks

I recently accomplished something I had been striving for for several years.  Ever since I started doing Tai Chi a few ago I had this hidden goal to someday be a certified teacher.  I had no idea how realistic this was or even if I would ever have the opportunity to get certified let alone teach a class at some point.  I only knew that I loved the practice and believed wholeheartedly in it's value as one of the best exercise forms available to those of us with RA.

Because of my work with the elder population and the program Bone Builders I launched here in Vermont (a strength training and balance program designed to prevent/alleviate osteoporosis)  I often get wind of opportunities around exercise programs for older adults or folks with movement limitations.  That is how I found out about the opportunity to take a Tai Chi for General Health, Arthritis and Falls Prevention Teacher Certification two day training.  To say I was excited would be an understatement!  I was ecstatic to know that my dream of teaching Tai Chi might just become a reality.

A little background about the Tai Chi I practice is in order. Originating in  ancient China, Tai chi is one of the most effective exercises for health of mind and body. Although an art with great depth of knowledge and skill, it can be easy to learn and soon delivers its health benefits. For many, it continues as a lifetime journey.  There are many styles but the one used for arthritis is the Sun style.  Tai Chi is a gentle exercise for all parts of the body and the mind, improving relaxation and serenity while at the same time enhancing cognitive (thinking) ability. Tai Chi can be many things for different people although regular practice will bring everyone better health and wellness.

Numerous studies have shown Tai Chi works to improve muscular strength, flexibility and fitness. Muscle strength is important for supporting and protecting joints and is essential for normal physical function. Flexibility exercises enable people to move easier, and facilitate circulation of body fluid and blood, which enhances healing. Fitness is important for overall functioning of the heart, lungs, and muscles. In addition to these components, Tai Chi movements emphasize the importance of weight transference, which helps balance and prevents falls. One of the big advantages of Tai Chi is it is easy to learn and becomes a way of life for many practitioners.  The meditative side of Tai Chi makes it an ever-changing and ongoing process that changes and shifts over time making it a very versatile practice as well.

I fell in love with it several years ago when I was looking for something to compliment my aerobic activities of swimming and walking and biking.  Tai Chi seemed the perfect fit.  The slow, deliberate, gentle and careful movements were fun and interesting to learn yet each time I did them they felt slightly different.  And that is the beauty of Tai Chi.  There is no wrong movement as long as you do it SAFELY.  That is one of the key mantras of Tai Chi practice and it is instilled in the practitioner from the first instruction.  The goal is to learn the forms and do them in a way that works for you.  That makes this practice very personal and versatile, just what someone with RA requires!

So once I became hooked on Tai Chi I wanted to spread the word and share the practice and so I took the training and completed it!  I am now a Certified Tai Chi instructor for the beginning levels of Tai Chi for General Health, Arthritis and Falls Prevention.  I took the training with a colleague and she and I will co-instruct a class later this year after we have time to "practice teach" on one another and get more comfortable with the entire 12 forms we learned.

So here I am at 61 not only learning a new exercise but learning to teach that exercise!  I could not be prouder of both!  I am living proof that you can teach an old dog new tricks!  In fact I would say that as we age we are more open than ever to taking on new and interesting challenges.  And when those challenges make our lives more complete and our RA more manageable that is icing on the cake for sure.


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