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Cascade Quarterly News Archives
Autumn 2011 - Volume 5, Issue 3

Feature Article: Tai Chi: A Beginner’s Perspective

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In this issue:

1) Feature Article: Tai Chi: A Beginner’s Perspective
2) My experience of a Beginners Course
3) What I have learned
4) Tidbits
5) Would I recommend Tai Chi?
6) About Cascade Massage Therapy

1) Feature Article: Tai Chi – What is it?

As a Massage Therapist, I am often helping clients to discover exercise options that will assist them in their healing and be enjoyable for them to do. One form of exercise that often comes up for discussion, with colleagues and clients alike, is Tai Chi.

I think the appeal for people initially is that Tai Chi is considered to be both a relaxation technique – often described as a ‘moving meditation’ – as well as an exercise technique to increase strength and flexibility. These benefits are very useful for the people I work with in my practice; we all desire comfortable movement and strength in our lives and we yearn for hobbies that provide us with peace of mind as well. Tai Chi appears to answer to all of these desires!

Wikipedia describes Tai Chi as: ‘a Chinese martial art practiced for both its defense training and its health benefits.’ To read further, we discover that Tai Chi can be broken down into different types or styles, with variations on the focus of the art.

In my town of Vernon, BC, we are fortunate to have access to a location of the International Taoist Tai Chi Society. So in my search to learn more, this is where I was led...

2) My experience of a Beginners Course

For the past 4 months, I have been participating in a beginner’s Tai Chi class at our local Taoist Tai Chi Society Centre. The greatest appeal to me at this time in my life was the idea of a moving meditation, as I know that I could use a couple of hours of meditation every week!  I was not certain of how my body would feel physically – would I truly notice increased strength and flexibility? I began my class with an open mind and heart and a desire to learn.

On day one, I was instantly attracted to the art and the welcoming feeling in the studio. The Tai Chi movements are very detailed in their proper execution, yet the Instructors have a lovely, gentle way of relaying the ‘need to know’ info for the beginner.

The Instructors reminded us to let go and instead of getting caught up in mastering the set, to enjoy the movements we were learning, trusting that it would all come together in time.

Some students expressed distress at ‘not getting it’ or struggled with the positions that were so new to their bodies. Isn’t it amazing how our bodies become stuck in the postures that we are familiar and comfortable with? When we try a new form of exercise it is so enlightening to discover our imbalances and areas with room for improvement!
Other students expressed a peaceful calm – many of us agreeing that for the 2 hour class we were somehow escaping from the myriad of personal thoughts and problems that we came in with. Fascinating that Tai Chi seems to gently bring us to a place of stillness.

So I went to 2 classes per week for 4 months, and now I can actually complete the entire set of 108 movements! This doesn’t mean I have it memorized, no, no, no; this means that in the group setting of the class I am not feeling like a fish out of water anymore! The group moves together, and the synchronized flow is energetically so peaceful and mentally so reassuring!

There are experienced people on the 4 corners, in view for us newcomers from every angle that we glide into – these ‘corners’ are a great gift for the new student. I so appreciated having them in my view, and I am certain that this method of learning contributed to my ability to simply be in the moment, and thus begin to embody the movements I was learning without the stress of having to memorize the sequence.  

3) What I have learned

How would I describe Tai Chi, now that I have a beginner’s perspective to draw from?

Well, I can honestly say that my mind clears during class; this in itself is a reason to keep going! How many times a day do we find ourselves lost in the chatterbox of the mind, rolling over the various issues in our lives, even during moments or activities that are meant to be relaxing?! It is uplifting to have a space whereby the mind is focused solely on the task at hand – in this case, learning and practicing the Tai Chi set of 108 movements. Done in a flowing, seamless manner, these 108 movements come together and become one fluid dance of martial art movements.

The words that come to mind when I think of Tai Chi today are: movement, mindfulness, mind clearing, body-mind connections, letting go of patterns of strain, opening up to new movement possibilities, relaxing and focused, inclusive.

Oh, and have I found that I improved my strength and flexibility? To my delight, I have indeed! My nagging sore spots have literally vanished – and in fact it was about the 1 month period that I suddenly realized that an aching shoulder was no longer aching. I feel more energy and less fatigue by the end of the week. I also noticed that my core strength has improved, my knees are not as noisy as they were before and in general I feel that Tai Chi is helping me to live the full life that I do with greater ease.

photo courtesy of:

From the International Taoist Tai Chi Society Website:

Over 30 years ago we began with a set of principles established by our late founder, Master Moy Lin-shin. These principles, which are still followed today, are as follows:

  • The Taoist Tai Chi internal arts are not to be practiced as a martial art technique or in a competitive spirit, but rather as a means to cultivate every aspect of health.
  • Those who’ve improved their own health and understanding of these arts are encouraged, under supervision, to use them to help others.
  • Members should share their knowledge on a volunteer basis and not for personal gain, and should seek to help others improve their health as well.
  • Members should cultivate an attitude of compassion and service to others.

4) Tidbits

The Taoist Tai Chi Society is associated with Jung Loy Kok, which is the spiritual aspect of the Society. This information is not  discussed much in the beginner Tai Chi classes, where the focus is simply to help people reap the health benefits of the physical movements of the Tai Chi set.

One of the classes that the club offers is a ‘Health Recovery’ class. The Tai Chi set is done in a modified form in this class, which enables people struggling with balance issues, joint problems and a myriad of other concerns to be able to participate and enjoy benefits of Tai Chi. Fantastic!

Once the beginner class is complete, the participant is welcome to move on to the ‘Continuing’ class, whereby the group practices the set, fine tuning the movements. As well, the group is led through strengthening exercises that assist in successfully executing the Tai Chi movements within the set to improve the overall experience and to heighten the benefits achieved. 

5) Would I recommend Tai Chi?

I am happy to report that Yes, I would endorse this form of exercise as being useful for many people who I work with.

As with any exercise, if you are recovering from an injury or have limitations in your body, please remember to discuss this with your instructor. Exercise is meant to feel good, if you notice pain or discomfort, do stop and modify as needed.

The Instructors I have met so far have all spoken to the fact that every person finds their own Tai Chi, within the limits of their body. This piece is a key to success in exercise, so please do be mindful of what feels right for you and then work within that comfort.

If you are interested in learning more about Taoist Tai Chi, I invite you to visit the International Taoist Tai Chi Society Website at
A new series of Beginner classes begin regularly, so if you are keen to give it a try, just contact the club and check it out!

2015 note:

Since writing this newsletter, several more private instructors have begun offering Tai Chi classes in Vernon. I am pleased to say that in addition to the international school noted above, we have several wonderful Instructors offering classes now through the Rec Centre and other venues. Please check the local paper and online for current offerings.

A fantastic teacher who I must mention is: Howard Ketola. He offers Yang style Tai Chi at his studio and is a wealth of knowledge and experience. I highly recommend Howard as a Tai Chi Instructor. Please visit his website for more info:

As always, I invite your feedback to my article. Feel free to give me a call at 250-550-4727 or send me an email if you have questions or comments.

6) About Cascade Massage Therapy

My Approach

I bring over 18 years of bodywork experience and education to the massage table!

I offer you diverse and comprehensive massage therapy sessions. Your treatment goals are foremost and your needs will be heard and addressed. I utilize both traditional and alternative treatment techniques, and recommend self care tips and exercise options that evolve with your individual healing process.

This is your time - I encourage you to enjoy the stillness of your session, and sense the changes occurring in your body while we work - you don’t need to be entertaining or start a conversation; that being said, please recognize that I do not read minds. I expect my clients to participate in his or her experience and give feedback as needed during the treatment.

Cascade Massage Therapy is focused on education and prevention.

It is important that you know what you can do to help prevent stress, tension, and pain when you are not with me. I allow for time at the end of our session to converse, suggest self care tips and exercises that would be beneficial for you, and answer any questions that you may have.

I believe that prolonged stress, whether environmental, physical or emotional is a primary factor in dis-ease and a true obstacle to healing.

Therefore, I welcome you to a peace-filled and relaxing environment where you can experience relief from pain and tension.

Sonja Rawlings, RMT
1601 – 30th Avenue
Vernon, BC V1T 2A3



If you have specific health concerns consult your medical doctor.

The information in this newsletter is educational only and is not intended to replace the advice of your personal health care providers.

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Office located in Vernon, BC, Canada. Serving Vernon, Coldstream,
Lavington, Armstrong, Lumby, Enderby, Salmon Arm, Sicamous, Chase,
Falkland, Kelowna and the rest of the Okanagan.