In an earlier post, ‘Spring’s on the way. Get moving’, I wrote about how great Pilates and moving around was for me. It was with this inclination, that I began Tai Chi exercises on Friday – Tai Chi Qigong Shibashi; simple and relaxing. I became aware of this site through my discussion with Heidi at St. Mary’s University Centre for the Study of Sport and Health. We were talking about brain injury, or frankly any injury, mental health and movement, and she mentioned Tai Chi Qigong and Yoga. She also sent me articles about competitive athletes and qigong practice, as well as this video of Shaolin Monk Warriors. I’ve got a few points to make about this video: Firstly and needless to say, I don’t endorse smashing a steel bar into your head. Secondly, these guys have been training since they were very young. Nevertheless, I think it shows what people can do when they focus.
I’m not going to claim I know the best form of exercise for everyone, or even for me. I don’t know that there is one. Some may be more helpful for some conditions, some of the time, while others may be better on a personal or social level. I think the important thing for me is finding some exercise that challenges me enough to make me focus. Whether it’s a martial art (Tai Chi Qigong in my case), swimming, Pilates, working out, or helping out at local water polo games, if I like it enough to really focus on it, it’s so much more rewarding. I didn’t really think about this before my brain injury, but now I really appreciate how physical activity that requires focus is such a great way for me to challenge and focus my mind. While all my training for water polo, triathlon and cycling, used to be about developing the skill, strength, endurance, and agility that would make me better at those sports, my focus has now changed. I don’t play any of those sports now, so the incentive to get better at ‘a sport’ isn’t there anymore. My incentive now is to be in shape and to be able to move freely even though my mobility has been seriously hindered since my injury 10 years ago. If I’m not in shape and/or not moving the way I would like, my mind isn’t as clear or as focused as I’d like it to be, nor am I as calm as I’d like to be. For me personally, I don’t think there’s a balancing act between being physically and mentally healthy (as much as I can control it). It seems, more and more, to be basically the same thing. Whereas training to be focused on developing skill, agility, speed, and strength for a particular sport was awesome, I can say the same thing now about continuing to develop agility, speed, and strength, not for a particular sport, but for the overarching sense of calm and focus that results.