In open spaces

When I was in rehab following my stroke, one of the classes recommended for me was tai chi. It was to help my cognitive function, as well as providing a gentle way of exercising. It combines slow movements with breathing exercises. It’s low impact, which was great for my joints, and encourages flexibility.

I was hooked. Once I could remember the routine – and that is another story altogether – I practised daily. In front of the TV with a video of water rushing down a mountain side, in the bathroom before I jumped/crawled into the shower, in the garden, in the sea when on holiday. I loved it. And I felt the benefits. I was definitely less stiff than I had been, and that time was my time, a bit of peace just for me during the day.

Then about six months ago, I realised that I had stopped doing it. It had started with the ‘I’m too busy today.’ I’d miss a day and do it the next. Then I’d miss a couple of days, and another, and then I just stopped altogether.

Why? I don’t know. Something that I had loved and valued just fell by the wayside. I thought it wouldn’t matter – I have lots of other things going on in my life. A few weeks ago I noticed that I was missing that quiet time, that me time. I would take a break with a cup of tea, read a book, watch TV. It simply wasn’t the same as the intense focus on the movement, the breathing and the dance of the exercise.

Then I saw an advert. In my area, there is a campaign to get people into the parks to make use of the open spaces. Tai chi is offered in many parks across Birmingham. Sessions are weekly, last an hour, and are free.

Needing a companion, I asked my daughter if she would like to go with me. We looked at the selection of parks and chose one that had a tea room, so we could reward ourselves with a hot drink and a slice of cake afterwards – after all, it is February and it is definitely cold.

There was a group of roughly ten people there – I didn’t count. The instructor checked we were medically OK to exercise, reminded us not to push it and if anything felt uncomfortable to stop doing it. He led us gently through the routine.

I remembered why I loved tai chi. My daughter and I agreed we would make this a weekly activity. I went home and starting making daily space in my life once again for this bit of me time.

Yesterday, I ventured out to the bus. One or two drops of very light rain made themselves known on my glasses. By the time I had arrived at my daughter’s (where I was meeting her to set out to the park) it was pouring down. Rain played drums on the roof of the conservatory. Hardy as I can be, I decided it was just too wet to be outside for an hour.

Did we abandon it? Not quite. We found a video on YouTube, chased her partner out of the living room, and had our tai chi fix. She is new to it, and loving it.

Roll on next week. Tai chi in the open air surrounded by the scents and sounds of open spaces is definitely something to look forward to. It’s a meditation and a grounding, renewed contact with nature.

Portland Jones Disability Liaison for Pagan Federation Midlands