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Tai Chi Recovery

12 Nov 2009
My recent surgery and recovery were remarkable only in how smoothly everything went. The doctor's typical daily comment was "I'm going to go look at some sick people" and the nurses pretty much ignored me after the first day because I could get around as well or better than they could.

The big question had been how much I may exercise, and when. The basic answer is, no strenuous exercise for one month; no lifting more than twenty pounds for one month. But what is strenuous exercise? I discovered that none of the doctors knew what Tai Chi is, so were unable to make an informed decision. In the end I had to rely on my own judgment. Of course, I could just kick back for a month and do nothing, but that felt all wrong. I feel healthy, energetic, and strong - although surgical nurses tell me my surgery should have been debilitating. Someone forgot to send me that memo, so I decided to proceed, though carefully. I've heard too many stories of hernias from people who overestimated their recovery speed.

My rules of exercise are, nothing strenuous. That allows me to do any qigong except hard qigong, any neigong or meditation, and any Tai Chi that is not stressful to any muscles or tendons. That means no stretching, no high kicking (slow or otherwise), and no low crouches. In essence I am reduced to doing Tai Chi correctly because my body's limitations require it. This state of nature is one of the great ironies of Tai Chi Chuan as a martial art.

What remains is 90-95% of the forms. So although I am technically in recovery, I am practicing Tai Chi as much or more than ever. I am convinced it is my Tai Chi training that made me healthy enough for an easy recovery. As long as I do not introduce new stress, I am convinced that practicing will help speed my recovery even more.

Before that, I practiced neigong - internal orbiting - while I was in bed. I practiced standing post meditation, largely to relax. Pain creates stress, so I had a lot of pain-related tension to work on for four or five days. Once relaxed, I orbited to keep my qi meridians open and active, to be sure that my qi circulated healthily to aid my recovery. This reminded me of the exercises the doctors used to improve circulation in my legs after the anesthesia.

My recovery was all about being healthy before I "needed" to be. It allowed my body to be resilient, and my emotional state to be strong and responsive. I did not get this from lifting weights or running, I got it from practicing Tai Chi Chuan, qigong, and neigong daily.


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