I am a 55-year old Swedish American, six feet tall and generally in good physical shape and health. For the past twenty years, I have been a member of various gyms and work out weekly, both aerobically and on exercise machines.
About ten years ago, my knees started to deteriorate, and were often swollen and painful. On the worst occasions, they were so badly swollen that it was even difficult to pull on some of my tighter-leg trousers. I was told during a medical examination with a specialist that this was caused by arthritis and cartilage loss. It was suggested that I do leg lifts as physical therapy, which I did and continue to do, and further suggested that I would be a good candidate for future knee replacement surgery.
In addition to the difficulty with my knees, my feet and ankles had also become quite stiff, especially early in the morning. I sometimes felt I was beginning to loose my sense of balance - I found I sometimes used the wall to steady myself when I first got out of bed.
In January of 2008, I began studying Tai Chi with Elena Kotenkova - initially for two hours once a week, and subsequently for one hour twice a week. When I started, I informed my instructor that I had trouble with my knees. In the first classes, I noticed that I could not stoop down very far during stretch exercises because of sharp knee pain, stiffness, and related weakness.
I have experienced dramatic improvement in less than a year. My thigh muscles are much stronger and I no longer complain about knee pain, although I continue to be careful not to injure them. I can now stoop down completely with ease (I am still working on extending my right leg while stooping). Also I am aware that I have much greater flexibility in my ankles and in the bones of my feet. While this may sound minor, in fact, this flexibility ("oily" joints) have given me a stronger sense of balance. I try to focus on Tai Chi exercise during moments of stress, which also helps relieve psychological pressure. During a recent high stress project, many of my colleauges fell ill to the flu, but I remained healthy - and I attributed this in part to Tai Chi practise. I am grateful for these and other very noticeable health benefits.
Tai Chi with Attaining Harmony has been quite a transformative process for me on a physical, mental, and spiritual level. Training in circus arts, my body is constantly pushed to go beyond limits and tai chi truly rejuvenates my body. I've noticed that when I practice tai chi, my body stays strong and flexible despite the demands my training. Mentally, Tai Chi with Attaining Harmony has helped me let go of mental anxieties. I am better able to focus my mental energies on things that matter most instead of letting my focus scatter about. On a deeper level, Tai Chi has allowed me to act with more compassion and understanding. It has helped me relax, so that my true spirit can rise and thrive.