The Swan School of Tai Chi and Chi Gung

 

 

Our Latest Newsletters:

 

October Newsletter

 

Welcome to your October newsletter. We have plenty of lovely tai chi events happening as we move into the Autumn days, come along to a class and see how tai chi can improve your overall health and well-being, setting us up nicely for the colder months ahead.

 

Dates for your diaries – Compton Verney:

 

October will be our last first Thursday of the month tai chi, from 1.15pm to 2.15pm. We practice by a gorgeous and secluded spot by the lake which has an amazing view, and is protected from any wind or rain. Everyone is welcome to join us, cost £7.

 

On Sunday October 8th, Compton Verney are holding China Revealed. Learn about Chinese culture, history and art with a variety of music, dance, crafts and tours related to their internationally-acclaimed Chinese collection. Swan Tai Chi are teaching two free tai chi taster sessions of a half hour each, at 12 noon and 2pm, please dress warmly. Look forward to seeing you there.

 

Everyone is also welcome to our third Saturday of the month sessions at Compton Verney which run from 11.15am until 12.45pm. These cost £7 per session and as usual you will need your Compton Verney annual pass. (November 18th will be the last one of 2017)

 

 

Our Fan and Sabre demonstration and workshop at Compton Verney’s Wellness day on September 10th were both very well attended. On a rather dull day the tai chi fans helped to brighten things up considerably. Here is the group going through part of the Chen style Fan form. Well done to all who attended.

Taster session – Tai Chi Fan form:

 

Debbie is teaching a taster session of the Tai Chi Fan form on Saturday December 2nd, from 10am until 11am, cost £7at Holy Trinity Parish Hall in Stratford CV37 6BG. Please let us know you are coming by booking your place, and as with all our weekend courses, paying in advance! Fans are available to borrow on the day, or you can buy your own from Amazon for less than £10 on the link below, (or search on Amazon: bamboo tai chi fan). We hope to be able to do longer sessions to learn the whole form in the new year, also on Saturday mornings.

 

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=bamboo+fan+tai+chi&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Abamboo+fan+tai+chi

 

“The Tai Chi fan has been used for both graceful dance and lethal combat. Join us to learn some of the beautiful and dynamic movements,

as passed down to us through the centuries from feudal China.”

 

Compton Verney

 

We enjoy all the wildlife we encounter on our Compton Verney outings, we’ve seen weasels, voles, squirrels, plenty of swans, geese and ducks, and all manner of birds. On our most recent Saturday class we were entertained during our warm up by three white chickens…

 

Move of the Month – Scoop up the lotus blossom

 

Taking a wider stance, with the back of one hand in the middle of the back. Take a breath in, circling the free arm across the top, then transfer the weight to one side, exhaling scooping down with the arm and across, then breathing in moving up and across, as if you were drawing a large circle with the free arm. Keep it feeling easy and gentle in the back, making sure you straighten right the way up in between scooping. Do several then change the arms over and do several more circling the other way around with the other arm scooping.

 

Autumn top tip!

Before the cooler weather kicks in with certainty, try this top tip of keeping your pulse points of neck and wrists warm by wearing scarves and gloves early, to keep yourself healthy by warding off the winter chills and blues…

 

Tai Chi is a journey, not a destination…

 

The end of an era….

A massive thank you to Jain, Alan, Paulines, and everyone else who has watched out for and helped me collect these little fellas. I will be keeping a couple of dragons back just in case they breed…

 

 

The old pound coins cease to be legal tender from October 15th onwards.

 

Paul is Puzzled

This month, Paul would like you to make a nine-letter word from the following letters:

REN

TDO

ICI

 

Clue: this is something you can change, in tai chi…

 

Tai chi latest research

Tai Chi gets you fit, from the inside working outwards – we’ve said this for many a year and here is an article to back that up! http://slantedflying.com/understanding-the-science-backed-health-benefits-of-tai-chi-a-beginners-guide/

 

There are also other interesting articles here, including one on tai chi and tea 😊 http://slantedflying.com/tai-chi-and-tea/

 

And another article on the benefits of tai chi and why you should try it during the weekends (come along to one of our Compton Verney sessions!)

http://slantedflying.com/3-reasons-to-try-tai-chi-this-weekend/

 

September Newsletter

 

Welcome to your September newsletter. We are back off our hols and ready to start our lovely classes with our usual passion and enthusiasm!

 

Dates for your diaries – Compton Verney:

 

We are looking for new members to join us on the first Thursday of the month from 1.15pm to 2.15pm. We practice by a gorgeous and secluded spot by the lake which has both sun and shade, and is protected from the wind. At the moment it is the best kept secret but to keep it viable and running we need to expand our numbers a little!

 

On Sunday September 10th, Compton Verney are holding a Festival of Wellness and Wellbeing entitled ‘Relax, Reflect and Revitalise.’ At 12 noon Swan Tai Chi are performing Tai Chi Fan and Tai Chi Sabre demonstrations, followed by a free Tai Chi Fan workshop, 12.30-1pm. Look forward to seeing you there.

 

Engage Festival:

 

Swan tai chi are happy to be doing a free 20-minute workshop at this Information Day for older people, on Saturday 30th September, at 10.30am, at The Levi Fox Hall at KES in Stratford upon Avon.

New class – Tai Chi Fan form:

 

Debbie will teach the Tai Chi Fan form on a Saturday morning over the following dates: October 7th, November 4th and December 2nd. The classes will run from 10am until 1pm, cost £20 per morning and will be held at Holy Trinity Parish Hall in Stratford. We have a minimum number requirement and a maximum number that the hall will hold comfortably so please book your place! You will also need a bamboo fan, they are available through Amazon here for less than £10 (or search on Amazon: bamboo tai chi fan)

https://www.amazon.co.uk/s/ref=nb_sb_noss?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=bamboo+fan+tai+chi&rh=i%3Aaps%2Ck%3Abamboo+fan+tai+chi

 

 

“The Tai Chi fan has been used for both graceful dance and lethal combat.

Join us to learn some of the beautiful and dynamic movements,

as passed down to us through the centuries from feudal China.”

Class member profile: Carole

 

How long have you been doing tai chi and which class(es) do you attend?

Over 12 years. I started at Jaguar Land Rover with Debbie and have followed her classes from there to Leamington Spa, Warwick and now Stratford-Upon-Avon. I have also done classes in single and double sabre, single and double fan and the spear.

What were your reasons for starting tai chi?

I had watched the classes from the gym at JLR and though it looked beautiful. Then when my gym buddy left I thought I would give it a try and I loved it.

What benefits have you found, and have your friends and family noticed a difference in you?

Initially it helped me regain my waist. Now I just love it as a healthy low impact exercise which keeps me supple and calm. I have also made some really good friends through the classes.

Are there any tai chi tips you’d like to share? Stick with it. If you learn the form it is a long term project. You won't learn it in a couple of weeks, it takes commitment, but it is worth the effort when you feel you have achieved something.

Anything else you would like to add?

Even after 12 years, there is still room for improvement. 😊

What other work/pastimes/hobbies do you enjoy besides tai chi?

Singing, Gardening, Reading, Walking, Photography. Meeting friends for a walk, or coffee, or food.

 

Please get in touch if you would like to be featured here,

reading people’s experiences really does help to inspire and

encourage others!

 

Paul is Puzzled

Answers to our August crossword: Across: 2) chi, 5) golden rooster, 6) dragon, 7) buddha, 8) heaven, 9) sabre; Down: 1) silk, 2) cannon, 3) mountain, 4) tea cups. More puzzles from Paul next month.

 

Move of the Month – The Fisherman

 

Stand in bow stance, with one foot diagonally forward from the other. Take a moment to check that your knees are pointing over your toes and not falling inwards. This is important to ensure correct tracking from the knee down to the toes.

Begin by taking a breath in, then as you exhale move the arms from the back shoulder and the back leg forwards over the front leg, as if you were casting out the net, moving the weight forwards here. Breath in returning to the back leg bringing back the catch, bringing the arms back towards you again. The arms are drawing a vertical circle to the side of the body as you cast out the net, and bring back the catch. Feel that the arms, shoulders and the upper body remain relaxed, you’re allowing the legs to do the leg work here taking the body gently backwards and forwards; ensure that the body stays upright and relaxed.

 

Tai Chi Top Tips - Breathing through your nose.

 

There are many different schools of thought when it comes down to breathing, and it is something we’re often asked about in tai chi. We recommend always where possible and comfortable to breathe both in and out through the nose rather than the mouth. The absorption of oxygen happens mostly on exhalation. Breathing out through the nose, which is smaller than the mouth, creates greater air pressure and therefore a slower exhalation. This gives the lungs extra time to extract a greater amount of oxygen. If you are exercising and become out of breath, it is faster to exhale through the mouth than the nose, but this will reduce the amount of oxygen extracted from each exhalation as our brain is tricked into thinking that carbon dioxide is escaping the body too quickly. This stimulates the production of mucous, as the body attempts to slow the breathing.

Additionally, the nostrils and sinuses play a part in filtering and warming the air that is inhaled into the lungs. This filtering effect is helpful in keeping bacteria and particles out of your body. When exercising in chilly weather, breathing through the nose prevents cold air from going straight to your lungs and causing chest and throat pain.

Average adult breathing is 8-10 breaths per minute at rest, in and out through the nose, not through the mouth, driven by the diaphragm, not by the upper chest. Most importantly of all, breathing should be silent. If breathing can be heard, it’s not functional.

 

Tai chi latest research

This interesting information is related to breathing and the importance of the vagus nerve and its functions throughout the body

https://www.honeycolony.com/article/vagus-nerve/  

 

 

August Newsletter

 

Welcome to your August newsletter. It’s holiday month for us all at Swan HQ, here are the dates during August and into September:

 

Debbie’s weekly classes: will finish on Friday August 18th, and resume on Tuesday September 5th

 

Judith’s weekly classes: will finish on Wednesday August 23rd and resume on Tuesday September 12th.

 

Our Compton Verney classes will be unaffected by our holiday breaks and run as normal throughout the summer, the dates are: Thursday August 3rd, 1.15pm; Saturday August 19th 11.15am; Thursday September 7th 1.15pm.

 

 

We’ve had some gorgeous sunny days in July, here is our lovely Tuesday 1pm Chen style tai chi class taking advantage of the weather with an outside class in the Bancroft Gardens, Stratford.

 

Compton Verney - dates for your diaries:

 

We are looking for new participants to join us in our outside class at Compton Verney on every first Thursday of the month, from 1.15pm to 2.15pm. We meet at the visitors centre, and practice by a really gorgeous and secluded spot next to the lake which has both sun and shade, and is protected from the wind. At the moment this class is the best kept secret, but to keep it viable and running we just need to expand our numbers a little!

 

On Sunday September 10th, from 10.30am – 5.00pm Compton Verney are holding a Festival of Wellness and Wellbeing entitled ‘Relax, Reflect and Revitalise.’ Swan Tai Chi are pleased to be taking part in this, more details and times will be in our September newsletter.

 

Move of the Month - waving hands in the clouds:

 

Stand with the feet shoulder width apart. The arms move alternately upwards and outwards, drawing vertical circles in the front on both sides of the body, the weight changes continuously from one side to the other. Try also in a wider stance to get more of the body moving. This exercise helps to keep all the joints supple and mobile, and it’s a good toning exercise for the heart and the muscles over the front of the body. Also because the whole body is gently and continuously moving it can help to calm the mind and uplift the spirits.

 

Tai Chi Top Tips

 

When you are standing during classes, check that you are standing with your feet parallel to each other, so that the knees are pointing over the toes. There are a couple of very good reasons, one of them being balance; your body will balance much better with your feet parallel rather than with the toes facing outwards. For some people, it seems easier to stand with toes pointing out, but this can also be detrimental to the muscles on the inside of the knee joint, it can cause those muscles to atrophy and eventually it could cause some knee problems. So, standing with your feet parallel and in alignment with the knees can help to keep those muscles healthy, and ensure that the knees stay healthier too. When you are stepping into a wider stance, (especially during the tai chi form,) also check that the toes are pointing forward in the same way, for the same reasons. Take this into your normal week and check throughout the day, whether you are standing at the kitchen sink or in a queue at the post office that those feet are parallel!

 

….when practising Tai Chi we are learning how to harness

the fundamental forces of the universe, balance them with

the elemental energies of nature, and harmonise them both

with the essence, energy and spirit of human life…

 

Paul is Puzzled

Answers to our July crossword: Across: 6) fisherman, 7) string, 9) Debbie, 10) sun;

Down: ­­1) pearl, 2) fingers, 3) whip, 4) rainbow, 5) lotus, 8) bear.

This month Paul has another crossword:

 

 

Tai chi latest research

 More research about knees, especially during the Chen style form in this article: http://violetlitaichi.com/knees-hurt/ lots of other interesting information here too!

 

 

July Newsletter

 

Welcome to your July newsletter. Here at Swan HQ we are enjoying the summer months, especially our outside classes – hope to see you at one of them soon!

 

Events reviews

Leamington Peace Festival:

Many thanks to everyone who popped by to our gazebo to say hello over the weekend, the weather was absolutely gorgeous and we enjoyed chatting to many people who passed by. A big welcome to all our new members!

 

 

Compton Verney:

Our first Thursday of the month was quieter this month as it coincided with half term, but although the park was very busy we have our own secret established Thursday spot with a nice view of the lake…

The third Saturday was a very exciting affair as after 3 years of Saturdays at Compton Verney we finally had our first perfect summer’s day weather-wise! We took full advantage of the glorious day, the tai chi was fabulous and we hope for many more days such as this to come.

Park Life on Sunday June 25 was a much wetter day, although the rain managed to hold off as we did our tai chi fan and sabres demonstrations.

Many thanks to all who turned out to support us. 

 

Class member profile - Wilf

How long have you been doing tai chi and which class(es) do you attend?

About 15 years, 7 of those at The Gap (Warwick)

What were your reasons for starting tai chi?

I used to practice Shotokai (karate) every week, when they moved to a new venue I was unable to go, so I needed something to fill the gap.

What benefits have you found, and have your friends and family noticed a difference in you?

Because I’ve always been active family don’t really comment. Since doing tai chi I feel younger and fitter.

Are there any tai chi tips you’d like to share?

I have arthritis, and since I have been practising every day I get no pain, and the most important time to practice is when you don’t want to.

Anything else you would like to add?

I have found by practising every day tai chi makes you feel good.

What other work/pastimes/hobbies do you enjoy besides tai chi?

Walking, cycling, voluntary work, travel, coach trips at home and abroad, playing scrabble, reading, watching films and documentaries, also like to crochet.

 

Class member profile - Irene

How long have you been doing tai chi and which class(es) do you attend? July 2016 I started tai chi-chi gung in Henley, May 2017 I started Chen style tai chi in Stratford.

What were your reasons for starting tai chi?

Dad passed away May 2016. Being his carer my emotions were all over the place which made me unbalanced, and I could not focus my thoughts.

What benefits have you found, and have your friends and family noticed a difference in you?

After a few weeks my emotions calmed down which brought back balance, then I began to focus again. Over a period of time I noticed I hadn’t had a migraine, any back problems and the arthritis in my knee was free from pain. Twelve months on I feel very supple. Friends say how well I look.

Are there any tai chi tips you’d like to share? What ever you choose to do in life eg tai chi, you have to believe in yourself. And by doing so the results are amazing.

Anything else you would like to add?

I’ve always enjoyed walking, music, but most of all dancing. Being supple I can now dance again, like I did when I was a teenager.

 

Please get in touch if you would like to be featured here,

to help inspire and encourage others!

 

Move of the Month – Separate Heaven & Earth

Take a wider stance. Breathe in with the weight at the centre, bringing both hands up to chest height. Breathe out pushing one hand upwards, the other downwards. Transfer the weight over to the higher hand. Breathe in again bringing the weight and both hands to the centre, breathe out pushing the hands apart and taking the weight over to the other higher hand.

 

Paul is Puzzled

Answers to our June crossword: Across: 3) water, 4) Chen, 5) Compton

7) dragon, 8) snake. Down: 1) white crane, 2) moon 4) clouds 6) tiger.

 

This month Paul has another crossword…

 

 

Tai chi latest research

You are doing more than you think in your tai chi class with this lovely article:

 

http://www.theindependent.com/news/local/gentle-movements-produce-more-exercise-than-you-might-think/article_dd554912-91ac-11e6-bd24-176169d193be.html

 

 

June Newsletter

 

Welcome to your June newsletter. We have plenty of events going on this month besides our regular classes, we hope to see you there!

 

Leamington Peace Festival June 17-18

 

We have a stall at this popular and free outside festival, held at the Pump Room Gardens in the centre of Leamington Spa on Saturday June 17th, and Sunday June 18th. If you are heading that way please drop in to our gazebo and have a chat with us about all things tai chi… We are situated at stall number B12 on the quieter north edge of the festival, it’s the same pitch as we had last year – just look for our Peace flags flying!

The Peace Festival also coincides with our 3rd Saturday at Compton Verney – but rest assured we will be multi-tasking and doing both events!

 

Compton Verney Park Life! June 25

 

Beside our regular 1st Thursdays and 3rd Saturdays of the month, we are taking part in Compton Verney’s Park Life! event which is being held on Sunday June 25th. We are doing a tai chi fan demonstration and a tai chi sabres demonstration from 12 noon until 12.30pm. We will have enough fans with us to allow willing participants to have a try, please come along and find us!

In the afternoon, you could join a distilling session workshop with Judith and Shakespeare’s Sister’s Soaps, cutting and distilling flowers from Compton Verney’s beautiful garden, making a unique hydrosol that you can take home and use as an Aromatic mist. There is plenty going on in this Compton Verney free event for Seasonal Pass holders, more information is here: http://www.comptonverney.org.uk/thing-to-do/park-life/

 

Tai Chi Top Tips: Footwear

What oh what to wear on our feet for tai chi! ‘Soft comfortable shoes’ or ‘light trainers’ we say when asked. Shoes are important, as they can enhance, or be detrimental to your balance in tai chi. Once you have found the perfect shoes we recommend buying several pairs of them! Looking round, there is huge variety to choose from, as many different pairs of shoes as there are to feet, but looking closer, what brands are popular with us?  Paul buys tai chi trainers from Tai Chi Link, you have to measure your foot length to order the correct size for these flexible leather trainers, specifically designed for tai chi, available in black or white. http://www.taichilink.net/catalog/leather-shoes-c-11_46/

 

Both Judith and Paul favour shoes from Vivo Barefoot; and according to the Vivo website: “Vivobarefoots are foot shaped to allow your feet to move like feet. They have no heel or support. Whilst our ulta-thin protective sole gives you maximum sensory feedback.”https://www.vivobarefoot.com/uk

I go the opposite way & like plenty of support in my footwear, I should have bought shares in the company when I started recommending Skechers trainers. Also available with memory foam soles… https://www.skechers.com/en-gb/

Sometimes people turn up in the ‘old school’ style of tai chi shoes/slippers, which are more plimsoll based. I often wonder if, given the huge choice we have today, the old tai chi masters would still have preferred these traditional shoes?

We don’t recommend ‘dress’ shoes, or anything with a heel that could upset the alignment in the back whilst exercising; flip flops, backless shoes or mules and crocs are a No with us, alongside just wearing socks which can slide on a wooden floor, particularly in our Chen style classes. On the Yes side is a plethora of trainers and sports shoes, plimsolls, walking shoes/sandals, etc. Whatever you decide, there is a big choice – it can be walking boots in the mud at Compton Verney, down to our hardiest tai chi folk in our Shipston class, which has the largest number of barefoot tai chi-ers, perhaps due to the underfloor heating there…

 

Move of the Month – Circle the Sun and the Moon:

Drawing vertical circles in alternate directions in front of the body.

Stand with the feet shoulder width, begin with both hands together at hip height. Breathe in circling both the arms together up the side to the top, breathe out back down the other side; then change the direction and breathe in circling up the other side, breathing out back down again. Feel the weight change constantly from one side to the other, sinking down into each foot. Remember to keep the shoulders relaxed at the top, bending the elbows and not taking the arms up any higher than head height.

 

….there is an old Chinese saying that states:

who ever practices Tai Chi Chuan in the correct manner, twice daily,

will over a period of time acquire the suppleness of a child,

the health of a woodcutter, and the serenity of a wiseman…

 

Paul is Puzzled

Answers to our word ladder last month, changing SWAN into BEAR:

swan, span, spar, sear, bear. Or: swan, scan, scar, sear, bear.

 

This month Paul has a crossword for you:

 

 

 

Tai chi latest research

Great article on how tai chi can help us as we age, from Harvard university: http://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2017/04/tai-chi-can-prevent-elderly-from-falls-add-mental-agility/

 

 

May Newsletter

 

Welcome to your May newsletter. Last month, we had several outside events  – big thankyous to everyone who came along and supported us with sunny smiles, at Compton Verney and Stratford for Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations.

 

This month we have the usual top tips and move of the month, a new evening class learning the Chen style form, and our brand new feature: ‘Paul is Puzzled.’

 

 

Here are our Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations groups going through their paces….

 

 

Compton Verney

 

We are continuing with our First Thursdays of the month at 1.15pm, and Third Saturdays of the month at 11.15am, cost £7 each; both classes are well attended and we are enjoying observing the changing scenery at Compton Verney as we stride towards the summer months. You can book the classes in advance with Compton Verney, seasonal membership is a bargain at less than £10 for 12 months, everyone is welcome to attend. May dates  are: Thursday May 4th, and Saturday May 20th.

 

Here, below, is our April Saturday group.

 

Image may contain: 2 people, people smiling, people standing, tree, grass, sky, outdoor and nature

 

 

If you’ve never tried tai chi outdoors before, you are in for a treat!

 

New evening Chen style form class

 

Massive congratulations to Debbie, Mo and Malcolm from our Thursday evening class who have completed the Chen style form and will now move up to our advanced group! Well done! Which also means we will be starting another beginners’ class at Holy Trinity Parish Centre, Stratford, on Thursday May 11th, 7pm-8.30pm. Would you like to give it a go? Our class members who have previously learned the Chen style form say the following:

 

“The way each movement flows into the next, in a set order, without pause ensures the body is in constant motion. I find this very meditative and, with continued practice, the ability to improve is limitless which makes it extremely satisfying, and it is also fun to learn.”

 

“The form has shown me how much I lack concentration, coordination and balance. All of these have improved since starting to learn the form.”

 

“I love the feeling that during the form, when the group is moving together I can feel our energy field so strongly. It reminds me of the difference between meditating alone or in a group. The collective force seems so much more profound. The form is more like a group meditation with everyone moving as one.”

 

“The health benefits of tai chi are very real but for me the main reason I practice Chen Style Tai Chi is because it feels so good. Each morning I wake up grateful that I am able to do so."

 

 

Paul is Puzzled

This month Paul has a word ladder for you.

Can you change the word 'swan' into 'bear' in four steps?

SWAN

---------

---------

---------

BEAR

 

Move of the Month – Separating the Clouds

Standing (or sitting) with the feet shoulder width apart: breathing in moving the hands together up the centre of the body to the top, breathing out moving them down the sides, relaxing the knees a little. This is a great exercise to do first thing in the morning, especially outside! Remember to keep the shoulders relaxed, by bending the elbows as you raise the arms above the head.

We often neglect or take our breath completely for granted, until we begin to have problems in that area. Breathing and posture are linked, this exercise is one of the best we can do to help improve both. When the arms are raised, the air drops down lower into the lungs, helping us to utilise all of our breathing apparatus, slowing down our breathing and keeping the body upright.

 

Tai Chi Top Tips:

Often, when we are asked to ‘take a deep breath’ we will respond by lifting and perhaps tensing up our shoulders, and filling the top of our chest cavities full of air. When we practise tai chi we are trying to use the whole of our lung capacity. Gently does it – as you inhale try to allow the air to trickle down to the bottom of your lungs, filling that area first; the arms that are often raised in tai chi for an in breath will assist you in this. It’s a ‘catch 22’ situation – as your breathing slows and deepens so your posture improves, making more of your lung capacity available – no one can breathe properly if they are slumped. Try to also aim for a more complete exhalation: we often focus on the in-breath, but it is during the out-breath that we expel any toxins from the lungs, as well as activating the parasympathetic nervous system which helps to calm the whole body down.

 

Tai chi latest research

The following is a great article on breathing, on how scientists have discovered the benefits of slow breathing, and how that has a positive effect on the way we feel.

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/brain-waves/201704/the-inside-story-how-slow-breathing-calms-you-down

 

April Newsletter

 

Welcome to your April newsletter. This month at Swan we have an outside tai chi class followed by a picnic, more news and developments from Compton Verney, top tips, move of the month and announcements of some new ventures for Swan Tai Chi.

 

Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebrations – Sat April 22

 

Swan tai chi has been taking part in the birthday festivities in Stratford since 2010, sometimes taking part in the parade, and we are a familiar sight performing tai chi demonstrations around the Waterside area of town. Over the years the organisation has changed hands, and this year they have decided to organise the community performances around Henley Street only. We have decided to ‘do our own thing’ down by the river Avon and hold a tai chi class at 12noon, followed at 1pm by a tai chi picnic. After liaising with the RSC and Stratford District council, we will meet on Waterside in the gardens between the Swan Theatre and the Dirty Duck Pub. Everyone is welcome to this event, it is free of charge, partners, friends and family are all most welcome – bring your own picnic!! Please remember to ‘dress for the weather,’ it can be a bit erratic at this time of year and we will be watching the forecast closely!

 

 

Photo – were you part of our 2011 team?

 

Compton Verney

We had a fabulous opening 3rd Saturday class on March 18th, with 17 people attending. The weather was kind to us and it felt so lovely to be back again amongst the now familiar yet still inspiring grounds. Our next Saturday outing will be on April 15th which is also Easter Saturday. Please be there for 11am which will give you ample time to get your admission sorted, before we start at the Willow Tunnel at 11.15am. We finish at 12.45pm when everyone is welcome to join us for a cup of tea in the main building.

 

Are you free on Thursday afternoons?

Due to a successful and very sunny Thursday afternoon session held in March as part of Museums and Wellbeing week, we have arranged to do a second monthly class at Compton Verney, on every first Thursday of the month, 1.15pm-2.15pm, cost £7. This will run for a trial period and the dates are: May 4th June 1st and July 6th, meeting at the Visitors’ centre at 1pm.

 

 

Move of the Month – Figure 8s

Some of the best exercises to keep you fit and healthy are the figure 8 patterns that we draw. With this one, stand with your feet shoulder width and imagine a figure 8 lying on its side in front of you at waist and chest height. Begin to trace it by moving both of your arms, constantly changing your weight with your arms from one side to the other. This is a great exercise to practice the top tip of keeping the little toes down. Figure 8s are natural energetic pick-me-ups: as the arms appear to cross the centre line it enhances the communication between both hemispheres of the brain. This exercise is also great for keeping the joints of the body loose and fluid, match it with your breathing and it helps to calm and strengthen your nervous system too.

Tai Chi Top Tips:

When you are changing your weight from side to side, remember to keep the little toes on both feet anchored down to the ground for the whole of the time. This helps with the grounding procedure which tai chi is renowned for, helps to improve your ‘rooting’ which enhances balance, and importantly it also helps to keep the knees pointing over the toes which is where they are at their happiest. If you have noticed any discomfort or twinges in your knees recently then keeping your little toes firmly on the ground could really help!

 

New Ventures

Here at Swan HQ we are delighted to announce our brand-new Tai Chi Professional Course for Health Practitioners. This exciting course is aimed at professionals who already work with the body (example physiotherapists, NHS staff), who would like to add tai chi skills to their repertoire. In the not-too-distant future if you need to visit a professional, then you may well be given some tai chi exercises to help you! If you know of anyone who may be interested in participating in the course, then all of the necessary information and details are on our website.

 

Later this year also sees the launch of our equally exciting ‘Tai Chi-Chi Gung Instructors’ Course’ which aims to deepen practitioners’ knowledge and practice of tai chi-chi gung, either for personal development or with a view to teaching it to the public. More information will be available and posted on our website in due course as we finalise all of the details (prerequisites in place!).

 

Tai chi latest research

 

Tai chi can help with PTSD according to this latest study from Australia: https://www.wellbeing.com.au/mind-spirit/mind/tai-chi-can-help-ptsd.html

 

And whilst slightly more yoga based, this interesting link will show you exactly which muscles to target:

https://www.davidwolfe.com/34-pictures-muscles-stretching/?utm_content=buffer765ad&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer

 

 

March Newsletter

 

Welcome to your March newsletter. This month at Swan we are very much enjoying the brighter weather and the lengthening of the days. On March 21st as we celebrate the spring equinox, the days and nights come into equal length and perfect balance; and so balance is what we are focussing on in this issue.

 

As instructors, some of the most common questions we are asked are: “What is the best exercise for my back?” and “Have you got something that will help my shoulders?” and also “Please can you tell me the benefits of each exercise as we go through them?”

 

To address those questions, we have to remember that tai chi works holistically – it works all of the body of the time. What works for one person might have a different effect on another, and we all have our own unique strengths and weaknesses as far as the body is concerned. So whilst we can say in general “this exercise is good for breathing” or “this one helps the spine” it will work slightly differently for each individual, and you may find even more benefits that are personal to yourself.

 

Remember, that tai chi as a whole is bringing you into balance

– body mind and spirit

 

At one class in particular I overheard the following conversation: “After last week’s class I felt so energised that I went home and cleaned all the kitchen cupboards!” to which the reply was “I felt so relaxed that I went home and had a nap!” So, we are all getting just what we need from tai chi, whether it is to have more energy, or to be able to relax more.

 

Tai chi works by softening the body – traditional Chinese medicine tells us that the body cannot be healthy where it is holding tension, so by learning to soften our joints and eliminate any stress we can bring ourselves back to optimum health and balance.

 

It’s never too early – or too late - to start work on improving our balance, and unless we have an inner ear issue, balance is one of the few things that the doctor is unable to give us tablets for. Just about everyone we meet says they would like to improve their balance, regardless of their age or fitness levels.

Balancing the body

 

To help with the physical balance, there is no need to go around practising to stand on one leg, in fact this can often work in a counterproductive way as we can wrongly tense up one part of the body to work the other. Generally speaking, any exercise which transfers the weight from one leg to the other (that will be just about all of them, then!) will help to improve balance, and also the confidence around balance. A lot of older people say that they feel unbalanced whilst they are turning, this following exercise addresses that by making the body feel confident as turning becomes a more common movement. Keep it safe and steady, and try different footwear and different surfaces to practise.

 

Turning to look at the moon

 

Check that the feet are shoulder width apart, symmetrical and parallel. Breathing in with the hands parallel at the centre, breathing out by turning the body and the arms to look over the shoulder. Breathe in again turning back again to the centre, breathing out by turning to look over the opposite shoulder. Remember to feel the movement in the middle of the body, both the feet stay rooted down to the ground, and to feel the shoulders stay relaxed.

 

As we get older, we tend to take smaller steps as we become more unsure of our balance. By taking a wider stance in tai chi, or a bow (forward) stance, our bodies learn to feel more confident with our balance, our posture improves, and with that our whole outlook on life becomes brighter.

 

Balancing the mind and spirit

 

Tai chi makes us feel calm yet energised, and reducing stress levels ranks as one of its top benefits. The slow movements slow down the breathing, making us calmer inside which can slow the movements down further still. Tai chi encourages us to take a fuller, deeper breath which improves the oxygen levels throughout the body (more about breathing in future newsletters!)

 

Lifting Water

This is the exercise we do at the start of all of our classes. It helps to bring us back into focus, back into balance, back into our bodies. It helps make the in breath the same length as the out breath which is a great balancer for the emotions. This exercise is also recommended to help with arthritis, it is a very common movement which we make many times a day in our daily routines.

 

Breathe in bringing the arms up to shoulder height, breathe out bringing them back down again, relaxing the knees a little and keeping the body straight. Feel that the body lifts the arms, and the body brings them back down again.

 

Remember that our balance changes as often as our thoughts!

 

Compton Verney

 

With the warmer weather fast approaching we are also very much looking forward to our first outside classes of the year, held in the beautiful grounds of Compton Verney. You will need your Compton Verney membership/seasonal pass which starts from just £9.50/£8.50 concessions for a full 12 months.

 

 

Our first outing will be on Thursday March 9th, 1-2pm

 

This is an outside class held as part of the nationwide ‘Museum and Well-being week.’ Cost will be £6, plus your usual membership/seasonal pass. We will meet at the visitors’ centre just before 1pm.

 

Our regular 3rd Saturdays of the month begin on Saturday March 18th

 

Meeting at the visitors’ centre from 10.45am onwards, ready to begin the session at 11.15am, finishing with a well-deserved cup of tea and a chat in the cafe in the main house around 12.45pm. The cost of the tai chi is £7 for the hour and a half session. For latecomers, we can be found after 11.15am at the Willow tunnel, and the visitors’ centre staff will be happy to direct you there. From there, depending on the weather we will be doing tai chi at various beautiful locations around the lake and amongst the trees.

 

Please remember to ‘dress for the weather’ for our classes at Compton Verney – the classes will go ahead and they will be outside! We are so far still waiting for that perfect summers day – and this might well be the year!

 

 

February Newsletter

 

Well done to all who have kept their new year resolutions to stay fit and healthy, and a big welcome to everyone who recently joined our classes.

 

February is the month of love, and we’d love to hear what it is that you love about your tai chi – please drop us a line! At Swan, we really love teaching & sharing tai chi. We also love the way that tai chi makes us feel, how it can take you out of any stress that’s going on during your daily life and bring you right back into the present moment. It’s lovely to see the friendships and support groups that have grown in our classes too.

 

Debbie first started Swan Tai Chi on moving to Stratford in 2001, Judith started teaching 5 years later, then a couple of years after that we were joined by Paul. Between us we do all the classes listed on the other side of the newsletter. There are still class members with us from our original classes many years ago, proving that tai chi really does keep you going!

 

Here are Judith, Debbie and Paul in a rare photo, we realised recently that there haven’t been many photos taken of the 3 of us together – it’s usually one of us behind the camera!

 

 

Changes to some existing classes

 

Up until recently, some of our classes had been running on behalf of AgeUK. We decided the time had come to break with this arrangement, to bring all of our classes further together under the Swan umbrella. This enables us to tailor our classes more specifically to the needs of those participating both now and in the future, creating a class for an older (over 65s) age group, and opening up age restrictions in other classes to all-comers. We continue to work closely with the Falls Clinic, doctors’ surgeries, and local physiotherapists; all of which provide us with many referrals. Our main source of new people however comes from word of mouth, so thank you for sharing what works for you with your friends, neighbours and colleagues…

 

Please check the timetable on the back of the newsletter for new timings of classes at Bidford, Blackwell, Lower Quinton and Melville House Stratford.

 

New Classes

 

January saw the start of two new daytime classes, in Stratford and Wellesbourne, both of which are going well. We got off to a busy start in January, but there are still spaces available in lots of our classes. If you are wanting to swap or add a second class to your week please get in touch with one of the team.

 

Compton Verney

 

 

 

Our first outing at Compton Verney will be early next month on Thursday March 9th.

As part of the nationwide ‘Museum and Well-being week’ we are doing an outside class here, from 1-2pm. Cost will be £6, plus your usual membership/seasonal pass.

 

For a seasonal pass and admission prices in 2017 please check their website: http://www.comptonverney.org.uk/plan-your-visit/opening-times-and-prices/

 

We have some lovely photos that have been taken at Compton Verney, so if you’re a regular here with us please get in touch and we will email some copies out to you!

 

Tai Chi Top Tips:

 

Remember that string from the top of your head? This month allow it to become your best friend. Think of it often, while doing your tai chi, but also at other times too! So next time you’re stood in a queue, or waiting for a bus: feel your feet rooted down to the ground, your weight evenly distributed and then lift from the top of your head, as if there was a balloon at the top of the string gently pulling you upwards. Feel your spine lengthening. When you’re out walking - ‘walk tall!’ Whilst sat at the dining table (watch your digestion improve) or sat waiting: feel both feet equal on the ground in front of you, and remember to lift from the crown of your head, rather than the front.

 

Move of the Month – Snake spits out its tongue

 

Still trying to shift those last few pounds from Christmas? This one is for you! Feet shoulder width apart, one arm stretched out in front palm downwards, the other hand by the waist palm upwards. As you breathe in change both of the arms over; then turn both of the hands over as you breathe out, changing the arms back again. Feel the movement in the middle of the body, feel the shoulders stay relaxed. Bend the knees a little, turn the body one way breathing in; bend the knees and turn the body back again as you breathe out.

 

Happy (Chinese) New Year!

 

The Chinese New Year started on Saturday January 28, and celebrations will last around two weeks, as the year of the Fire Rooster is welcomed in. The Chinese New Year always starts on the second new moon after the winter solstice.

 

According to legend, the Lord Buddha summoned all the animals to wish him goodbye before he departed the Earth, but, only twelve animals came to bid him farewell. He rewarded them by naming a year after each one in the order that it arrived. Hence the First year belonged to the Rat, then came the Ox, the Tiger, Rabbit, Dragon, Snake, Horse, Sheep, Monkey, Rooster, Dog and Boar.

 

In a Rooster Year, all of the Chinese animals can reap great rewards by tapping into Rooster traits. Loyalty, commitment, hard work, family values, and top-notch appearances are just some of the characteristics that will be rewarded this year.

 

Gong hei fat choy is a wish for prosperity for the coming year.

 

 

January Newsletter

 

Welcome to our first monthly newsletter! Whether you’re returning after the Christmas break or starting new with Swan tai chi, Debbie, Judith and Paul at Swan Tai Chi wish you all the very best for a healthy, happy and tai chi filled 2017.

 

We’ve lots of lovely tai chi planned for the year as well as our regular weekly classes, and please get in touch with one of the Swan team if you’d like any tai chi event planning especially. (We’re especially fond of doing tai chi in beautiful outdoor locations!)

 

New Chen Style Form Class

 

Debbie is starting a new beginners Chen style group on a Tuesday afternoon 2pm-3pm at Holy Trinity Parish Hall in Stratford, learning the Chen style form. If you fancy learning something new and giving it a go then please get in touch! It starts on Tuesday January 24th, the cost will be £6 per class on our usual pay as you go basis.

 

Not sure if it’s for you? Our class members who have previously learned the Chen style form say the following:

 

“The way each movement flows into the next, in a set order, without pause ensures the body is in constant motion. I find this very meditative and, with continued practice, the ability to improve is limitless which makes it extremely satisfying, and it is also fun to learn.”

The form has shown me how much I lack concentration, coordination and balance. All of these have improved since starting to learn the form.”

“I love the feeling that during the form, when the group is moving together I can feel our energy field so strongly. It reminds me of the difference between meditating alone or in a group. The collective force seems so much more profound. The form is more like a group meditation with everyone moving as one.”

“The health benefits of tai chi are very real but for me the main reason I practice Chen Style Tai Chi is because it feels so good. Each morning I wake up grateful that I am able to do so."

 

 Compton Verney

Hooray, we’re back again at our favourite art gallery, holding our 3rd Saturday of the month outside classes once again, starting on Saturday March 18th arriving at 11am to start the class at the Willow Tunnel at 11.15am.

 

This year there will be a small price increase to £7. At the moment we are unsure of any changes to Compton Verney’s annual pass prices, although your Compton Verney seasonal pass will last a full 12 months from when you purchase it, so it’s great value for money all round!

 

 

                    Photo above from China Revealed, courtesy of Clifford Armstrong (June 2016)

 

In 2016 we had very mixed weather throughout the year, with one of the sunniest days being in October! For our third Saturdays of the month as long as you ‘dress for the weather’ you can be sure we will always find that sheltered and all-encompassing spot amongst the trees….

 

This year we will be working more closely with Compton Verney – here are a couple of dates for your diary:

 

We will be participating in:

 

Park Life, on Sunday June 25th

The Health and Well Being Fair on Sunday September 8th.

 

More details to follow later in the year, and as you know, participants are always welcome!

 

Tai Chi Top Tips:

 

This month when doing your tai chi, try to feel a slight resistance to the move you’re doing, as if you were moving your body through water or thick clouds. This will help to build up your muscle strength and increase the flow of chi

(life-force) energy throughout the body.

 

Move of the Month - Push the Mountain

 

Stand in bow stance, with one foot diagonally forward from the other.

Take a moment to check that your knees are pointing over your toes and not falling inwards. This is important to ensure correct tracking from the knee down to the toes.

Begin by taking a breath in, then as you exhale gently push the arms forwards over the front leg, while moving the weight forwards. Breath in returning to the back leg, bringing the arms back towards you again. Feel that the arms, shoulders and the upper body remain relaxed, you’re allowing the legs to do the leg work here taking the body gently backwards and forwards; ensure that the body stays upright and relaxed.

 

Tai chi latest research

 

Yet again, science is catching up with what all tai chi practitioners believe – tai chi really does make a positive difference to our health and well-being!

 

Harvard Health Publications issued this article recently:

This gentle form of exercise can help maintain strength, flexibility, and balance, and could be the perfect activity for the rest of your life.

Tai chi is often described as "meditation in motion," but it might well be called "medication in motion." There is growing evidence that this mind-body practice, which originated in China as a martial art, has value in treating or preventing many health problems. And you can get started even if you aren't in top shape or the best of health.

And the full article is available to read here: http://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-of-tai-chi

 

 

 

 

If you would like a copy of any of the photos here, please get in touch with the Swan team!

If you have any pictures you would like placed here please contact either Debbie, Judith and Paul

Please click a thumbnail to view the picture at it's original size, please be patient as pictures may take a while to load:

Leamington Peace Festival - June 2011
 

 

Shakespeare Parade 2011

Tai Chi on the High Street, outside the new RSC and at the Fireman's memorial.

 

June 2010 - Stonehenge (sunrise Tai Chi)

A beautiful, magical annual experience for all who attend at Stonehenge, Woodhenge, Avebury and Glastonbury. For some it was all too much...

 

Shakespeare Birthday Parade 2010

Tai Chi in various locations around Stratford Upon Avon

Swan Tai Chi Video

(Please Click)

 

June 2010 - Rollright Stones (Sunset Tai Chi)

A wonderful evening of Tai Chi at the Rollright stones watching the Sunset and a glass of mead to round off the evening.

 

 

 

May 2010 - Bluebell Chi Gung

Oversley Woods near Alcester was glorious & will hopefully now become an annual event!


February 2010 - Karel & Eva Koskuba

The Chinese Internal Arts Association (CIAA) hold a Saturday morning workshop

 

Shakespeare Birthday Parade 2009

Tai Chi on Bancroft gardens - Stratford Upon Avon

 

 

Older Photos: