Relax and unwind with some Tai Chi and Qi Gong

Jackie Fulton performing some Qi Gong in her garden.
Jackie Fulton performing some Qi Gong in her garden.

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The slow controlled movements of Tai Chi and the concentration they require leave people with a feeling of relaxation that may be the perfect way to combat the stress of lockdown.

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese exercise practised for its defence training, health benefits and meditation. The form most widely available in Argyll is Tai Chi for health, arthritis relief and fall prevention.

Instructor Jackie Fulton’s classes are cancelled for the time being but she says Tai Chi is easy to do at home, adding: ‘With the great spell of weather we have been experiencing, if you have a garden, that’s the place to be doing your Tai Chi.’

Jackie, also a Reiki master, continued: ‘Regular Tai Chi practice can improve strength and balance, but the focused workout will also improve general health and well-being.

‘Your mind will have enjoyed a break from the hustle and bustle of your usual self talk, lists to do, worries and, of course, lockdown and not seeing your family. If you are experiencing anxiety in these difficult times, doing Tai Chi may be helpful.’

Jackie hopes her class members will be testing their brains as well as their muscles as they remember the different movements but she has been sending out weekly emails with ideas of what to watch online to remind them of the moves they know.

She has created short videos, which can be found on her Facebook page Happy by The Sea – Reiki, and she is preparing sound files so class members can listen to her voice as she talks them through different moves.

She said: ‘In a normal class setting, or in a park in China, people learn the moves through continual copying of the person leading the group. In Tai Chi this is known as ‘sticking’.

‘With practice your subconscious or muscle memory will get to know the moves and your active mind will suddenly realise you know all the moves and the sequence.

‘This is a wonderful moment of realisation that you can now practise anytime, anywhere, but it is important not to rush through the moves and to remember it’s the concentration and the slow controlled movement that work the muscles hard yet keep your joints relaxed and allow your mind to be focused yet calm and still.’

Jackie says although Tai Chi is a gentle form of exercise, it still gives you a good workout, with one study suggesting Tai Chi can be as good for the heart as a Zumba class.

‘In most of my classes I introduce some Qi Gong,’ said Jackie. ‘This is similar to Tai Chi but is generally undertaken while sitting or standing. Tai Chi, too, can be done seated if you have mobility or balance concerns.

‘Qi Gong focuses on breathing and relaxation and is great for reducing stress and anxiety. Many of my Tai Chi students report they are benefiting from regular Qi Gong practice as they find ways to cope with the current lockdown.

‘Qi Gong is easy to do indoors as you don’t need any space other than where you are standing or sitting. At home, the Tai Chi warm ups are perfect as, again, they can be done just where you are standing, and if you have a safe slip-free space with room to take three steps to the side you can practise some of the Tai Chi for health form.’

Some of Jackie’s students shared their experiences of practising at home during the lockdown.

One said: ‘Tai Chi focuses the mind and keeps your body from stiffening up in the confined spaces we are currently living in. But it is also relaxing to do some of the moves outside in the garden, or wherever you can, especially in this mild weather.’

Another said: ‘If I am feeling stressed, I do some Qi Gong as I find the breathing exercises help to relax me. I enjoy Tai Chi too as it keeps me moving and focused.’

A third student said: ‘Qi Gong is calming and it only takes a few minutes to feel the benefit.’

Although Jackie has no classes at the moment, she is happy for anyone looking for information on how to get started with Tai Chi or Qi Gong to contact her by emailing jackie.fulton@sky.com or via her Facebook page, Happy By The Sea – Reiki.