Saturday, March 5, 2011

How you roll with the punches

posted by Melissa

Note the intense tai chi concentration
Amy and I went to our first tai chi class today.  Amy mentioned it in her last post, "Where Legends are Born."  We took a lovely, chatty drive out to Bothell in King county.  It's about 25 minutes or so from Capitol Hill...just enough time to catch up and process life as we know it.  As we walked into Third Place Books, I felt nervous.  I was nervous to meet new people, I was nervous to be the newbie, I was nervous to ask people if they were the tai chi crew.  I suppose we looked lost enough that they found us, or maybe Amy asked, I can't remember.

We proceeded to head downstairs, in this mall-like building that houses the book store.  Turned out someone else had dibs to use the space that the tai chi people usually use for their practice, so we "rolled with the punches" and moved to another space, a more public space.  At fist it was hard for me to engage in the slow warm up exercises, while people were walking by heading to the ballet school down the hall or upstairs to join in the a capella festivities that outed us from the enclosed private space.  Slowly, very slowly I was able to let go a bit of my inner monologue.
"I wonder what the Chinese people walking by are thinking of all of us whiteys doing tai chi?"  
"I think that lady looked at my belly, does she think I am pregnant?  Great, after all this yoga people still flipping think I look pregnant."  
"Remember to breathe.  I am thirsty.  I had too much coffee.  I want more coffee.  Remember to breathe.  Relax my shoulders.  Wonder where those people are going?  Remember to breathe.  Shit, pay attention, Melissa."
I was finally able to free myself from my own worst critic when we paired up into a listening exercise.  I so wanted to run across the room and pair myself with Amy, but
decided to challenge myself by meeting someone new and turned to the woman next to me.  She was a short Asian woman, and she shared that she had been coming to this class for a year now...every week...and that is is still difficult to remember everything.  We each took a turn placing our hand over the other's and the hand on the bottom would guide the paired hand up and down.  The goal was for the hand on the top to "listen" to the hand on the bottom and lay lightly upon it the entire time.  You should give it a try.

holding my ball of chi
After the initial warm up and listening exercise, the teacher offered to go over a specific movement in the form to learn it more in depth.  This class learns the short form of yang tai chi.  It consists of 24 or 26 movements, I forget which.  And when I went to wikipedia to see which was right I found a list of tai chi forms, and man that list is long, so I feel even more confused.  The movement we went over this morning was what the teacher referred to as the hardest of the movements in the short form, and I do not remember it's name.

The last thing we did in class was to go through the entire short form.  I followed along, somewhat clumsily...partially due to my Dansko clogs and partly just because I didn't know what the hell I was doing.  The more beginner students then broke off and learned a few of the first movements on our own, which was very helpful.

I got home and went straight outside in the sunshine to practice (got Levi to come outside and take pictures of me doing tai chi for the blog.)  I sorta remembered some of this things we learned.  I remember some of the names, to the best of my ability...sweeping the knee, stumbling backwards over the monkey (ok, that may not be correct, but remember I said to the best of my ability), parting the wild horses mane, and backwards through the fan.  The picture of me above is taken during parting the wild horses mane.  Well, me trying to do parting the wild horses mane.

The teacher, David Cashman L.Ac. an acupuncturist, was kind and encouraging.  He was helpful and smooth with his dialogue when practicing the form.  I loved being with the people, so many shapes and styles.  I always find the people I meet when I go out to the county to be so "real."  I remember posting that after the time I went to Snohomish as well.  I am still simmering on what that is all about, all I know is that it is refreshing and it feels good.

My next goal is to keep practicing the form, but also to learn more about tai chi.  I can tell after writing this post that I have a lot of blanks when it comes to what tai chi is, why it started, why I am learning the form I am, which one would be best for me to learn, and what some of the movements I learned were called.

So, I don't know if any legends were born today, but I have to say the movie "Tai Chi Master" was really something.  It was like Chinese slapstick.  I liked it, but I think Amy did not.

Now off to yoga...did you know we are doing another 30 day challenge?  I guess we really like that yoga!



Melissa Baumgart and Amy Baranski said...

wow, sounds like the class was more intense than you told me. i didn't get much out of you about it but, doing the hand thing with a stranger musta been more than the usual interaction we as humans generally have with each other. amy, how was your class experience?

Melissa said...

actually, that previous comment was by jamie. and yes, the "hand thing" is more than we usually get with a stranger. (that just doesn't sound right) and it wasn't as bad as I thought it was going to be.