Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Playing Tai Chi

Like a lot of people, now that the holiday season is over, I have renewed my vow to go to the gym and pool more often.  Whenever I swim or go workout, my mind wanders.  To be honest, this is where a lot of my blog ideas are born – maybe all the activity gets my creative juices flowing and helps to fill my brain with the next profound thing about which to write.  Or maybe (probably?) it’s simply a desperate attempt at focussing on anything other than the chore of exercise.  At any rate, yesterday while treading water in the deep end of the wave pool, something I remembered caused me to see the task at hand in a new light, something I think maybe we could all benefit from. 

My husband and I love to travel.  In 2006 on our honeymoon, we were on a bus tour driving through Beijing.  Our lovely and ever-cheerful guide, Mily, pointed out a group of people standing together in a plaza next to a large office building.  With their briefcases or shopping bags on the ground next to them, all the people were standing with a similar pose.  Their feet were apart, knees slightly bent, arms outstretched in front of them as though holding a large round imaginary ball.  In unison, they moved as though in slow motion.  “They are playing Tai Chi”, explained Mily.  The people were on their way to work or going home from shopping and they just stopped to congregate and start a game of Tai Chi.  When they were done they carried on to whatever it was they were doing before. 

So here I was yesterday, floating around and thinking about the concept of “playing” my exercise.  What if, instead of “working” out, I chose to “play” in the pool or “play” while riding the recumbent bike?  What if I applied that same feeling of joy and exuberance I had as a child on the playground, to swimming or jogging or doing bench presses for that matter?  If I change the mindset and the terminology perhaps I will feel more enthusiastic about achieving and maintaining good health.  When we watched those people playing Tai Chi, they were all very engaged in what they were doing.  No-one was grimacing, wearing headphones, watching a screen, or focussing on anything other than the fluid movement of their play.

I’m going to give this a try – to bring along a positive and playful attitude when I go to the gym or pool.  I will smile and remember to enjoy what I am doing, to focus on the pleasure of it and allow myself to experience it as joy.  Hopefully over time I will improve not only my physical health, but my mental and emotional health as well.  At the very least, I will enjoy the experiment.

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