The covid lockdown in 2020 got me thinking about exploring other interests, or pursuing interests I had put on the back burner. One of these was taichi, which I knew some basic stuff about and had been aware of since my dad came home with a book about it far too many years ago than I’d like to think about. He never practiced it and I’m not sure how he got a hold of the book to begin with (or even where it is). But a combination of ongoing stress along with the need to move and simply do something physically saw me rifle through my bits and pieces.

I had picked up a cheap book/DVD combination at some stage but never actually done much with it. I had definitely tried the DVD at some stage because I remember finding it had to get a grip on what I was supposed to do. And then life, as it so frequently does, moved on and I forgot about the whole thing. Until lockdown. And suddenly I had a little bit more time to pause and reflect.

Youtube was my friend here (it was still a while before I did much with the DVD) and I explored a few basic moves and drills to see if it was either doable or indeed vaguely enjoyable. And it was, much to my delight, as it had been a while since I’d picked up a hobby.

Then, unexpectedly, while searching for beginner taichi stuff I came across qigong videos. I didn’t know anything about, though I know now it’s one of if not the most commonly practiced fitness thing in the world, and that taichi is a strand of it. Oblivious I was at the time though. In the end I did a Lee Holden five-day challenge and now I’m low key mad about it even though I don’t practice it anywhere near enough.

At its most basic it’s a form of moving meditation, where you synchronise your breathing and movement to reduce stress and develop mobility. There are plenty of opportunities for isometric holds (like in yoga; they both seem to have a similar root, tao yin). Lots of people practice it as a form of energy healing (qi meaning energy) but that’s not me. I can say, though, that at one point during lockdown I was crippled with back pain and that qigong movements freed it up and got me moving again. Generally I find the slow movement and deep breathing help clear my head or moments of stress.

This is the video that triggered my love affair with qigong, a routine done by a former Shaolin monk who lives in… Wicklow. I had to check that out twice when I came across him because I was sure that couldn’t be right. But it is, and he is a lovely man with a very good training business. The routine below is one of the most popular sequences in qigong, and there are many variations in it because there are about 3,000 types of qigong.

I still don’t do the taichi forms, mostly because I don’t have that sort of patience but also because I like improvising a bit. Qigong lets you do all sorts of movements repetitively and they may, or may not, be in a prearranged sequence. This makes it good for beginners but also lets you experiment better with what does or doesn’t work for you.