Witnessing the beauty of tai chi

While I was in Vancouver I met a friend at Queen Elizabeth Park, which is a “horticultural jewel” according to the City of Vancouver’s Parks and Recreation Department and I would have to concur.
The park is at the geographic centre of Vancouver. The park is a former rock quarry when settler population began in earnest in the 1870s.
The park consists of 130 acres. At the top of the hill, Little Mountain, the highest point in Vancouver proper at 500 feet above sea level, is the Bloedel Conservatory, a geodesic structure with a lovely view over the city below.
It was a sunny morning, but cool, as I climbed Little Mountain. Aside from the beauty of the white-capped mountains in the not so far distance, the blossoms and rhododendrons were shouting out in colour.
I paused to take it all in when five or six groups of various sizes of elderly Asian men and women gathered and began performing what I imagine is a morning ritual of tai chi.
It was an amazing sight, the calm gentle approach to welcoming the day, to settling the soul on a gentle path, to stretch the body and release the worries and concerns.
I found a bench and sat and watched them while I waited for Allison.
Tai chi, a shortened reference to tai ji quan, historically was practised as a martial art. Tai chi now tends to become a combination of modern and historic techniques, with more emphasis on health, to relieve those side effects that stress has on the body, replacing stress with the benefits of calm and meditative forces.
The origin of tai chi is said to be over 700 years ago and some believe it goes back even further, to 1500 years.
There are many styles of tai-chi, but the people I watched moved together as one, their movements almost fluid, without start or stop, with one position flowing into another and I was mesmerized, my own breath lengthening as I looked on.
Tai chi has been credited with improved balance and core strength and thereby reduces the risk of falls for the aged, which seems to be me considering the number of falls I had this winter though I would like to blame it on the ice.
Tai chi’s low impact, slow movement matched with deep breathing focuses on relaxing muscles rather than straining them.
This type of exercise improves cognitive function, as all exercise will do, but paired up with the relaxing meditative nature of tai chi there is an added benefit to maintaining memory.
Tai chi improves the quality of sleep and the heart’s efficiency, which in turns reduces resting blood pressure.
Sounds like a win-win to me.
The Mayo Clinic credits tai chi with fighting stress in a “gentle way.”
I think I shall add tai chi to my to do list, if I can remember where I put it.
wendistewart@live.ca

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