Note: This article has been written by Raja Natesan who is a student of Vital Force Tai Chi Academy.
I was not an old man when my lower back pain started.
I was in my mid-twenties, loved outdoor games and would frequently be on the field playing tennis, cricket, football, badminton.
Then I got injured. Attempted a scissor kick in football for which I was woefully unprepared and fell on my back.
Got a stress fracture and then started a series of back ailments. Every six months I would have severe lower back pain and I would be laid up in bed for at least a week. Thrice this condition led to a slipped disc.
Each time there would be physio sessions and I would slowly limp to normalcy in a month or two.
I practically gave up tennis and other outdoor games. As an exercise, I would walk.
But every once in a while, I would be tempted to play tennis and I would too, for a few months and then face one more slipped disc condition. This situation continued for over ten years.
I then got a chiropractor in the UK to adjust my spine. This seemed to work and I was pain-free for the next couple of years.
When we came back to India, I ended up lifting some heavy suitcases during the shifting and the back pain returned with a vengeance.
I was getting really frustrated. My wife told me that I was now in my late forties and I should consider giving up tennis but I was not willing to.
I started to search for a chiropractor in Bangalore and at that time ( over five years ago), I could not find anyone. It was during this search that someone mentioned Tai Chi.
My Introduction to Tai Chi
I was not much aware about Tai Chi and Qigong other than that it was meditative form of martial arts.
I had been a karateka in my younger days so this was tempting.
But I knew I couldn’t perform any sudden movements. I was told Tai Chi was gentle and soft and had no sudden movements and even 70-year-old veterans could do it.
Among other things, it was supposed to strengthen the back, center the body and make you fitter, calmer and more flexible.
I decided to try it out.
I came to know Cicily Thomas ( my Tai Chi and Qi Gong teacher) in Bangalore through my wife in 2013 ( both Cicily and my wife taught French at the Alliance Française de Bangalore).
I spoke to Cicily and explained that I had multiple injuries ( two knee operations including the full ACL replacement), a fracture in my left leg, back injuries, ankle and shoulder injuries) and asked her if I should even attempt Taichi.
She smiled and said Taichi would possibly help me heal and get fitter. She said it would energize the mind, body, and spirit. I was skeptical but decided to give it a shot.
The Journey Begins
Tai chi is a graceful sequence that has many animal and bird-like moves. Everyone learns at their own pace and every move is soft and gentle.
I was used to the strong and hard moves I had learned and practiced for years in Karate. This was just the opposite. No tightening of any muscle, no jerks, no hard punches or kicks, no screaming, no jumping, no sparring.
Tai Chi was like a graceful dance.
There were warm-up exercises ( Qi Gong ) which were gentle but gave me a thorough workout.
At the Vital Force Taichi Academy, I saw the seniors perform the full sequence of 85 moves and I was hooked. It took me time to unlearn the lessons of Karate and get into the gentle swaying of Taichi.
How Tai Chi Helped Relieve My Back Pain?
In six months, I started to feel the difference. I was no longer slouching.
My stamina had improved and I had no back pain. My wife said I had become calmer.
While these were important benefits for themselves, for me, the ultimate proof would be tennis.
Would I be able to play my shots and stretch for my volleys and serves without my back caving in again?
The only way to test this out was to play.
I joined the KSLTA in Cubbon park and started individual sessions with the coaches. I did not tell them about my back problem. They may have played softer with me.
In 6 weeks I had gotten over my rust and could play tennis the way I wanted to.
I continued with Taichi and I continued tennis. No back pain!
A couple of years later, I moved to Delhi. I kept up Taichi and I still play tennis.
I am in touch with Cicily and cannot thank her enough for what she and Tai Chi did for me.
I would urge the young, middle-aged and the old, if you want to stay fit and centered, calm healthy and flexible, try out Tai Chi and Qigong. It will become a part of your life.