Elizabeth has always been interested in Eastern philosophies. She began learning yoga in 1968, a practice which she continued until 2011 with a break of just a few years for health reasons.
Tai Chi wasn’t available in Canberra in the early days but it was something she’d be been interested in exploring for some time. So when, in 2000, the Tai Chi Academy opened classes very close to her home, Elizabeth took advantage of the opportunity.
“I’m not a believer in signs as such but it did seem to be the right time for me to start.”
A major health issue intervened in 2002 and it wasn’t until 2003 that she was able to ease back into exercise with a stretch class, and in 2004, yoga again. Seven years later, an eye problem meant the end of yoga – no headstands – and Elizabeth returned to Tai Chi. She also began swimming regularly.
“When I began classes again, my biggest challenge was remembering the sequence. Even now I can have slipped in concentration. One of the things I enjoy about the practice is that it works subtly on many different levels, regardless of ability. Improving memory is one of the benefits but not the most obvious.”
“In my naivety, I thought learning Tai Chi simply meant learning the form, the sequence of movements in a neat package. I didn’t realise this was a portal to a much larger system of energy cultivation. I have since done a lot of the extra courses in Qigong taught by Fontane, which have been hugely enriching. A system of health cultivation with hundreds of years of history behind it is a pretty impressive recommendation, as is the fact that in China there are hospitals which use Qigong to treat patients.”
“The benefits I have experienced in the immediate sense are joint flexibility and a greater range of movement, a deep sense of well being and overall warmth and vitality as the qi circulates. I find it also has an elevating effect on my mood, and I feel generally happy for no particular reason by practising both the dynamic form and meditation. There is also a sense of relaxed energy after practice.
In the longer term, I understand that it conveys many health benefits into older age when practised regularly. I am certainly conscious of much better balance and improved leg strength since learning and doing the Tai Chi form for 3 years regularly.
I have been on 2 Tai Chi and Meditation Retreats (held in April at SIBA in East Gippsland) with the Academy. These were excellent opportunities to immerse me in the physical practice through the intensive daily sessions. I was also able to learn and appreciate so much more about the extent of the wider Chinese philosophy and of the ancient proven wisdom which informs the teachings of the Academy.”
Elizabeth discovered other courses on offer which have been wonderful. She has attended the retreats, learned the Hun Yuan Tai Chi form, Taoist Stretching Qigong, the Bang (Stick) and the Walking Qigong. She has also completed the foundation of the Energy for Life system which includes the Microcosmic Orbit sitting Qigong, the Self Healing Qigong, the Advanced Self Healing Qigong and the Taoist Five Elements Sitting Qigong.
“As I age, I’ve become more conscious of maintaining my health, especially leg strength. The measured controlled pace of Tai Chi suits me and the benefits on so many levels are immeasurable and subtle. I like the holistic approach to health care, and it’s a nice feeling to be doing something proactive towards my health.”
“I enjoy coming to classes. There’s a nice social feeling which builds as you progress through the levels with the same group and strike up friendships. Occasionally, a couple of people will go for coffee after the Saturday class. We’re all there for different reasons but we all find similar benefits and similar pleasure in the movements.”
“We are so fortunate to have the Academy and its offerings available in Canberra. Everyone can receive some benefits from Tai Chi and Qigong. It is subtle, gentle and accessible, particularly to older people who benefit from keeping active as they age. Its effects on our most precious asset – our health – are powerful and profound; it repays the investment in time and practices many times over.”
(This is an actual interview, but the name has been changed for reasons of privacy.)