Epilepsy – Tai Chi as Physical and Occupational Therapy

Chinese moonwalking is a very interesting pastime (I find).

It also involves LOTS of breathing.

There are many who disagree, running does it for some, swimming for others or just good old-fashioned karate.

But for me, when I started to learn tai chi a door opened. A ray of light began to descend onto what was turning into a very bleak winter of the mind and body.

As far as health was concerned, it was the best thing that ever happened to me. I finally turned a corner.

It did take 2 years of training to turn the corner but the point was the seed was sown.

Unlike Michael Jackson’s moonwalking, the chinese moving meditation class was not fast.

Hedgehog rehabilitation was to be a slow, restful and ultimately time-consuming affair.

But at least in my tai chi incarnation I could become a tortoise (even if in evolutionary terms this may have been a step backwards). The point is you can’t learn to run before you can walk.

The beauty of being a tortoise is that it doesn’t require you to be inverted. Most of the serious standing practice asks that both feet remain firmly planted on the floor at all times (unless you happen to be standing on one leg).

Tai chi also helped me to begin to come to grips with my body’s limitations (of which there are many).

Some of the problems that occur from anticonvulsant prescription medication are fatigue and pain management. Either, I was taking SO much mediation that I couldn’t feel anything at all, OR  every time I had a seizure I would be in pain for months.

During the last few years I have suffered really serious back problems as a result of seizures. After one particular episode I couldn’t feel much of my right side and my back muscles were like jelly and had no integrity.

It has taken a long time to get them re-trained. Additionally, problems begin to show up in the rest of the body.

I would not have been aware of or able to correct these problems if I had not been introduced to Tai Chi and Chi Gung practice.

Tai Chi is very subtle and I think that if you are an athlete in prime condition, not a day’s ill-health in your life and in top cardio vascular fitness; the subtleties of slow movement may be lost completely unless long-term perseverance is sustained.

Life in the fast lane can mean that the slow lane isn’t an option for those fortunate enough to have qualities such as speed (more Hare than Tortoise), untill serious physical injury or illness leads to either immobility or seriously limited mobility.

 A lot of people only consider the slow lane when they get run over in the fast lane (they didn’t start out as a hedgehog or a tortoise). Sometimes, the Hare gives up and doesn’t try the slow lane because the Hare remembers what it is like to go fast and doesn’t adapt to the changes in circumstance.

Most serious professional athletes and sports people need physiotherapy at some time in their career.

It pains me to say that many hedgehogs do not discover yoga or tai chi, and therefore do not get the opportunity to experience evolution through internal (mind, body and spirit) self-development.

I would recommend Tai Chi to anyone who is suffering from a health condition, in particular Chi Gung. I would recommend it even if there is no health condition as it is a good practice as a life system, like yoga.

At some point I would like to talk about why Tai Chi is so good for health but not in this post.

It took approximately 2 years for me to stop having seizures in my Tai Chi class. I was having them very regularly when I started, and I used to be unable to complete the class because I would have a seizure.

A less patient teacher would have got fed up with me, but my tai chi instructor just took it in his stride and performed Reiki on me if  I was unwell.

I think on reflection where other exercise classes had failed this teacher succeeded, because there was no judgment about me and for the first time in my life I stopped comparing myself with what other people could do physically just for long enough to look at myself . Also, and this is very important, he never once told me that I couldn’t do something.

This last point is very important to how anyone learns. A class where a teacher  motivates, encourages and facilitates learning through enabling the students by providing skills that lead to understanding has a high success rate.

I would say that as a student of tai chi with a label ‘Disability’ this was the most important factor. It is really hard to learn if the teacher has given up on you before you have started. So many times the word ‘disability’ is mistaken for an excuse to expect less of the individual.

 Whether its physical or academic education the term ‘disability’ can break an education before learning has begun. Projections about expectation (or lack there of) from the external can impact heavily on what a person achieves, because if no-one around you expects anything of you how can you yourself hope to achieve anything?

I can’t compete with people when NOTHING about my body works properly. Much of the time exercise at school had been all about competition. Running the fastest, jumping the highest.  So what is the point in trying to be like everyone else in the class when it is clearly a complete waste of time?

 My body, like everyone else’s is unique to me. Not one person is the same. I think  this is something that is often forgotten in the haste to be the best, or be the same as other people in the haste to fit in.

 In particular if you are female, women compare themselves to each other in a dog eat dog world. This is a cultural and sadly often destructive pass time. How many of us have looked in a magazine and wanted to look like a model or movie star?  I don’t think that it is just women, but we are the ones who are supposed to have a job, be a mothers, look beautiful, be slim and have our cake and eat it!

So Tai Chi was taking care of my body, but as I mentioned, this change did not come about overnight.

The Body an owner’s manual. If only we were born with all the instructions.

The main thing that I have learned from this experience is that it doesn’t matter if you’re not as bendy, fast and fit as other people. It is MOST important that you understand WHY YOU are not bendy, fast and fit.

 It is  important that you know how to keep YOURSELF HEALTHY.

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2 comments on “Epilepsy – Tai Chi as Physical and Occupational Therapy

  1. hi ralph! how lovely of you to say so! I wish I felt it!!! you have made my day! 🙂 thank you. I also think your work is inspiring and very much enjoy reading your posts. I look forward to reading more soon.:)

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