Achey, tired, grouchy.

Achey, tired, grouchy—in that order. That's how I was feeling when I went to the park to practise qigong and tai chi. I probably wouldn't have practised at all were it not for my son who really wanted to play disc golf and really needed a lift. He told me there was a nice space on the course where I could practise while he did his thing. He was right, it was a lovely spot ... not even close to being flat but anyway! We adapt.

A bit of personal backstory—skip to the next paragraph if you're not interested. I'm in the middle of quite the flare at the moment thanks to trigeminal neuralgia and bruxism. Overlay my body's sensitised nervous system thanks to fibromyalgia and I'm frequently feeling pretty crap. I've just had injections of Botox into my masseters (chewing muscles of the jaw) in an attempt to weaken/paralyse them so that I can't grind my teeth at night. That's the theory and I sure hope it works. The flow-on effect I'm hoping for is that my headaches will also ease up since I won't be creating massive tension overnight and will actually be resting. The trigeminal neuralgia is a complicating factor and I just have to wait it out (with the assistance of medication) until I see a neurologist. I say this not to garner sympathy, just to set the scene and emphasise how much tai chi and qigong can help. Like anyone with chronic pain, some days are good and others are ordinary; that's just the way it goes. [I'm not sure how much personal health information I want to write about here, but if it's helpful for people to hear, then I'd happily do it more. Leave me a comment on Facebook if you like.]

My session started with some quad stretches and some staring out to space. There was very little thought going on other than to appreciate my surroundings. Next was the lotus qigong, slowly, with deliberate breathing. Then yi jin jing health qigong. By now I was feeling a huge amount better. The yi jin jing is an amazing form and always changes my state—both body and mind—for the better each time I practise it. I moved on to 24-form which felt quite marvellous. I was flowing smoothly, balancing well and had focussed intent to each move. A local dog-walker smiled at me and so did her spotty dog. She gave me the thumbs up and said something like, "Ah, taiji! Wonderful!" and apologised for her dog sniffing around me. (I love it when dogs come over for a closer look and sniff. It's all part of the whole experience of exercising out in a public park.)

Then I moved on to 42-form. I can really only do 42 when I'm feeling pretty good, so that's a good indicator that body and brain had changed significantly since the start. The form requires total and complete attention otherwise it's easy to get lost. Alas I did get stuck (oddly at part the horse's mane, not that hard) so I looked up a favourite master on YouTube, and checked the spot. That's one of the plusses of learning a standardised form—there are heaps of videos to use for reference. Another dog-walker smiled and waved, although his little fluffy dog completely ignored me. I'd just about finished 42 when I had to keep eyes on a disc thrown by my son—a bit off target! So 42 wasn't quite as flowing as 24 had been.

I finished with 32 sword. There's nothing quite like the feeling of freedom you get when practising sword in a park with heaps of space. It's magic. By now my son was finished and I asked him to video me so I could check my form. I'm actually really pleased with it—not bad at all! I still look like I'm achey, tired and grouchy, with added puffiness, but I felt so much better than I had an hour previously. I felt relaxed but energised, my aches were much reduced, my joints literally felt lubricated, and I was very proud of myself for having done that amount of exercise. Plus, I no longer felt grouchy for which I'm very grateful.