People sometimes start tai chi almost too late. They waited too long. I started at age 46. Ten years before, I had begun yoga and had 2½ years of Shotokan karate. And for decades, I hiked the mountains and deserts and canyons. Wherever I traveled, I walked. Although, I had injuries and illness when I started, I consider myself lucky. I was still in relatively good shape.
Every now and then, someone comes to take tai chi as a last resort, or they finally found a place or teacher who offers it. But some are too ill, too old, or too injured. I don’t say this lightly. I have only found that if they had found it, looked for it sooner, it would be easier.
One reason why is because they have too little time to learn the basics, which could help them build up skills that can help treat conditions, alleviate them, and prevent further deterioration. Another reason, the main one, is that they have more difficulty changing their minds about how they move. Tai chi is really a brain exercise more than anything and the mind is where changes must occur. Healing in the body follows changes in the mind and energetic configuration. This is what I have found to a great a degree. You would need to work with someone privately everyday at great cost in order to see the most progress. It’s not impossible, but the challenge would be great.
Recently, a couple in their 70s came to a free intro class I offered one Saturday and advertised in the local newspaper. The wife brought the husband as a way to get him doing some light physical activity, I assumed. I learned during class that he had had a mild (apparently) stroke, was blind in one eye, and had part of a lung removed for whatever reasons. His mental capacity was slightly limited. He was not overweight and looked as though he had lived an active lifestyle and had been financially successful. He came to two classes.
It was clear that he had difficulty raising his arms over his head and I asked him if he was in pain. He said no, but he clearly had difficulty. A few days later his wife emailed and said they had to quit tai chi because he was in pain. Tai chi class just wasn’t what could help him, at least at the time. He really needed special, customized care.
Why they thought tai chi could help is a question I would like to ask them. I assume the group interaction and some sort of activity in the day was at least part of her reasons. I respect that they gave it a try, in any case, because that is what we all should do if we haven’t yet.
I say don’t wait too long before starting tai chi. If you can stick with it, you should try to practice tai chi whatever your circumstances, in whatever capacity you are able to.
Even now for myself I have to be sure and practice regularly, almost everyday really. Because it doesn’t take long to feel the effects of age and of a lifestyle defined by the work that I do; the sitting and driving in automobiles and sitting at computers.
Whatever age we are, we should be learning and practicing relaxation movement in tai chi basics, form, and qigong, and adding power stretching and other practices as we progress.
p class=”MsoNormal”>But if you decide that you can’t do tai chi, and even if you can, I recommend walking instead. If tai chi turns out to be too difficult, walk as much as you can. If you can incorporate some tai chi principles in your walking then do it. There are many mental practices that you can do. You might need help from a partner or a pro, but it can be done.