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My Journey (so far) with Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia

life is better with taichiBack during my first years as a member of a support group (before I became Chair) we had someone come to do some Tai Chi with us at a meeting. As a result, whenever we ask what members want at meetings, Tai Chi is mentioned and so a began the search to find someone. Initial searches into Tai Chi indicated that there is a particular form practiced specifically for people with arthritis so I decided this would be the best place to start. Unfortunately this was a dead end as I could find no-one who practiced it within travelling distance. My next idea was to talk to a local Tai Chi instructor to see if she could help us out.

She was very enthusiastic and offered to come and do a practical session at a group meeting. Unfortunately, she had done a quick internet search on Fibromyalgia and, not only couldn't understand the range of physical ability within our group, but also expected us to be able to follow unfamiliar physical movements and control our breathing whilst she talked extensively about completely unrelated aspects of Tai Chi (did you know there are six seasons?!) This didn't put our members off, they still wanted tai chi sessions but with someone who had a better understanding of Fibromyalgia. My next investigation was with Age Concern North Somerset as I had seen in a local magazine that they offer Tai Chi Qigong (pronounced chee gung") classes that have been specially designed for people over 60.

My mission when i picked up the phone was to persuade them to allow some of our younger members to join the classes. It didn't quite work out that way as not only was 60 the lower limit, the majority of the classes were full and before I knew what was happening, I had signed up to not only train as an instructor, but to run a class for Age Concern North Somerset so that they would pay for my training!

A few weeks later I have had my first Zoom training and I really loved it. I had done a few classes about 15 years ago but even then (pre-Fibro), I found it quite hard to remember the order without someone to follow. This however seemed so much better. Shibashi QiGong (QiGong means "energy work") Shibashi consists of 18 simple movements which anybody can learn and almost anybody can perform. The slow, graceful movements have been proven to have great benefits such as improving balance, coordination, the cardio-vascular system and for our mental wellbeing. Due to a fantastic teacher at Tai Chi For better Health and one to one sessions over Zoom, I was soon beginning to see some of these benefits for myself, I felt calmer (in spite of moving house and downsizing) but also had plenty of energy and my morning Shibashi session really set me up for the day.

Some parts of the course were harder than others, especially remembering which movements were good for which specific conditions and the Traditional Chinese Medicine Assignment but I took heart by remembering that it is said that it takes two lifetimes to completely master Tai Chi. In January, I led the first session at our monthly group meeting (I wasn't officially an instructor then, but it is all amongst friends!!) The session went down well with the members but I could see it was going to take quite some time for the coordination of arms, legs, breathing and staying upright to become the graceful Tai Chi we imagine and it is so hard to remember so many things at once.

I talked this over with my tutor Mabli, and she showed me how to do the seated form of Shibashi 1. This would be very useful for our wheelchair users and those who can't remain standing for the full session but also takes away that over-riding balance worry allowing the group to concentrate on the other elements. February's session went much better and is definitely the way forward (now that I am qualified). Unfortunately we haven't been able to practise at group in March and April due to lack of time and the AGM but we have booked the hall for an extra hour each month from May onwards so that we can all give this our best shot. Oh and a venue has been identified for me to start my sessions for Age UK North Somerset next month. I've come quite a long way from that initial phone call but I am enjoying it and I am sure it is helping me with energy as well as thinning out the Fibro fog. ????

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