Tai Chi and Clare Meleady
*About Tai Chi and how it helped you??*
From doing tai chi I have noticed many things that have changed in my life and in my body and mind. The most important is that I have become more aware of my breath and breath deeper then I would have previous. My body is much stronger arms, legs, core, shoulders, and chest. From a physical point of view, having a stronger upper body helps when I get chest infections and a lot of coughing. The muscles get less sore as they are used to being worked. I am learning to live in the moment especially in times of stress like when I get an exacerbation. It helps with dealing with stress and also to slow down in my life where is not needed. I am taking the lessons from class and bringing them into my life when needed. It is a working progress but I know the knowledge is there whether I choose to use it or not!
When I get run down or sick I’ve noticed my body fights it much quicker and my recovery time is shortened so my immune system is stronger than ever. When I get a cold it doesn’t necessarily go onto my chest now so I don’t have as many antibiotics. Since my late teens, I get tired a lot of the time but I have noticed that the more I practice the more alive I feel and the more energy I have for doing more in my life and get through a day or night out with friends.
*How do you think tai chi has helped you to manage your CF?*
The major thing I have noticed is that my immune system is much stronger. I fight colds, sinus infections and chest infections much better and quicker. I haven’t had a chest infection in a year thankfully. It also helps with my digestion. I have CF related bowel disease and IBS that in the last 6 years has been crippling. Over the last 12 months I have increased my tai chi practice and I’ve literally had half the bouts of blockages. Can I put it down to tai chi alone? Probably not but I do believe it’s a factor. In relation to stress in my life, by practicing and reducing the stress and getting the parasympathetic nervous system into play, it helps my body to calm down and relax. This then aids my bowel and reduces the chance of an IBS episode and leading to blockages.
*Overall do you feel this has helped improve your mental health? *
As far as mental health goes, I am still learning and gaining the benefits of tai chi. It is a great calming tool. A huge struggle in my life would be accepting my limitations and the feeling self worth. Tai chi is teaching me acceptance in my Tai chi practice what I am and am not able to do right now. I am bringing this lesson into my life to help me accept my situation, my illness and my life. I made a choice not to work the last few years to get my health on track. I struggle every day with guilt of my choice and what is my purpose without a job to go to? We are programmed to work to live and I have always been involved in society, school and college. To suddenly stop after that is a shock to the system. I think that society has expectations of a person and a job or lack of does play a part in people’s perception of an individual. I am learning to accept that I have limitations in my condition and it is okay to be where I am. People work their entire lives and would do anything to be in my position of not working. So I pull myself back to how fortunate I am and see that my quality of life is much better.
In times of being unwell or feeling a bit down in the dumps or stressed like we all do, I practice my tai chi or even practice it in my head. It is a great calming tool. It is like mediation the way it clears your mind and brings you into the here and now. Life is tough for everyone no matter if they have an illness or not so we need tools to give us perspective or get us through a rough day. That is what Tai Chi does for me.
Tai chi is not difficult but it is an art. It is something that if you want you can progress through your whole life. For example I have been doing the 24 yang style now since I began and every time I do it I learn something new. Whether it’s a style thing or becoming aware of something different like foot work or hands position or using more waist/dentine to drive you.
It could take a year to learn one form and you build on it and improve on it over time. E.g. learning to use your waist more. Once you become comfortable with it and can do it without thinking that’s when it really deepens and you begin to feel the energy flowing and the full benefits. (In my experience) Once you have learned the basics you learn more forms but it’s NOT a race. Even outside of forms there are different basics and exercises which are as enjoyable that do not take long to learn and are as beneficial.E.g. silk reeling.
*Was it easy to integrative into your current regime?*
With tai chi you need no equipment bar a room that has enough room or outdoor space to move around in. that is a huge plus!
It is easy to work into daily routine as you can do as much or as little as you want. You can do a full form (yang 24 takes just over 6 mins) you can chose a part of the form to work on, you can spend hours doing whatever forms and exercises you want , it’s down to how you are feeling on the day. You can do it anywhere too so even if you’re out for a walk on a beach or park, sure you can just takes a few minutes to relax and do some.
*Do you think others could benefit from its use?*
I have met many people in the last 4 years and I am one of the only ones with a chronic illness. It is for everyone any age in every walk of life. Whether you struggle with coping with stresses in your life, if you have emotional problems, if you have an illness or complaint, if you want to do light exercise or if you simply want to learn a new art form. It is enjoyable, beautiful and hugely beneficial. I cannot imagine my life without it in it.