This week two tai chi students, in separate classes, told me that they had experienced something unexpected, something they would not have thought about as a benefit from tai chi – increased leg strength and muscle tone.
The first woman discovered this in the midst of a Shiatsu bodywork session. The professional working with her commented on the strength in her legs and asked what kind of exercise she did.She did a quick review in her mind – not a long distance walker, runner; not aerobic classes or strength training; some bicycling but mostly in the summer. Then she mentioned tai chi.
“Ah, that’s it. Tai Chi is excellent for building muscle strength in your legs,” the healer said.
My student was excited about what she discovered, excited about such positive results she had not expected.
The second woman has only been in tai chi class a couple months. In each class, we practice deliberate walking, in proper alignment, focusing on the standing leg. When we place our weight fully on one leg, centered and rooted, that allows us to more easily lift the opposite foot and leg to step forward. That meditative practice promotes increased balance and increased strength and stability in our legs.
I asked the students what they were feeling, what benefit they were receiving from the walking practice. The first one to speak was the ‘second’ woman, who said she was feeling stronger, particularly when walking up and down steps.
“My legs don’t hurt so much. I notice that I can do more and it is easier. It motivates me to keep doing tai chi, even though I don’t remember the specific moves we do. But I do remember the walking, because I do it every day.
These little discoveries are actually ‘big’. I call them the little ‘a-has’ of life that make us feel good about ourselves, that keep us motivated to continue with our healthy practices, in this case, tai chi.