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Tai Chi and Me: Part 1

One area where I know my life habitts are lacking is exercise. If you don't want to put weight on a foot because it's screaming in pain, it's hard to, say, get on a treadmill. Needless to say, I was anxious about my college's exercise science requirements. I'd taken a relaxation course, but needed another credit of physical education type courses. The problem is finding something, anything, that isn't visual (no volleyball) and isn't bad for my pain (swimming in a very cold pool, for example). That mixture is a dangerous combination for finding a course I could take.

So this semester, I need to take a step back and re--evaluate some things in my life. So for now, I am taking Tai Chi now, then switching to a different, more manageable schedule. I've read enough pain management literature to know that Tai Chi can be beneficial for pain and enough about general stress management to know that Tai Chi can help with stress and anxiety. But without seeing pictures of postures, brocades and other aspects of Tai Chi, I didn't know much about it. Fortunately, my instructors are wonderful and we've worked out some accommodations so I can participate to the fullest extent possible. I asked for and received permission from my instructor to blog this journey, to highlight my experiences as a student of the Yang style of Tai Chi Chuan.



Blindness Accommodations


The first thing everyone else thought when they heard I am taking Tai Chi is how I know when, where and how to move. Negotiating accommodations has been trick for my, not because I have had to deal with resistance, my instructors are both wonderful. Rather, it's been challenging to know what will work best for me as a person who is blind with an art which I don't understand! How could I survive best in the Tai Chi group teaching environment, with twenty-thirty students and a very echoy gymnazium.


So what have we found which works? The first, and most helpful thing which contributes to any success I achieve is through help from and longer discussions with my instructor and we work out what I can and cannot do or just what I need to do differently. The blindness accommodations haven't been a problem. My instructor is wonderful at describing exercises and the student who's taken Tai Chi before andd whom the instructor and our Disability Services office worked with so I'd always have an assistant... She's great too. She describes well and isn't afraid to touch me if needed to help me understand the exercise's more challenging points. I use email to communicate with my instructor and she comments on my homework that way. She also makes sure I have questions answered and has provided me with as much accessible information related to the class as possible.

The RSD Accommodations


The RSD and pain related challenges have been much more difficult for me personally. I have never known which accommodations would help with the RSD in any area of my life. Asking for what I need when it relates to pain is somehow more challenging for me, maybe because I've had RSD for a shorter time than I've had blindness. The main accommodation I use for my RSD is stopping when I can't do any more. Meaning that I have to pace myself, because if I don't, I can and do suffer the consequences. I take my walker and my cane so that I have something to help me balance and I communicate with the student who helps me and the instructor to let them know how I'm doing. Now that the accommodations are out of the way, we'll be able to move on to the next part of the journey in another post.

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