©2022 Michael Raven
I weary of pain; it is an unwelcome and constant guest in my life. Rheumatoid arthritis, inflammation from other sources, a messed up shoulder (currently), residuals from three major car accidents (totaled vehicles) that I was found “not at fault” for their cause:
- A distracted teen on their phone who T-boned me on the driver’s side.
- An accordion accident when someone cut in front of a car in construction, causing the person in front of me to slam on their brakes. I stopped, but the car behind me was not paying attention.
- A head-on collision by someone under the influence with expired plates and dubious ownership of a car reported destroyed/junked in official records. He skipped the scene. Huh.
And that doesn’t even begin to cover the not-major accidents caused by other drivers.
Without go too far into it, let’s just say I can mostly manage my response to pain and when I say something about it, it generally means on a scale of 1-10, it’s hovering around an 8 to 11. This shoulder thing is driving me bonkers because I can’t even sleep it off. And I am tired of doctors of all stripes giving me tools to rehab my body that just plain don’t work. And yes, I do give each of them a fair chance before getting frustrated with the lack of efficacy.
As I was exploring movement to see which muscle groups are really contributing to my shoulder pain, I recalled the tensions and pulls being similar to those muscle groups that one uses when doing certain tai chi movements, and it made some lights go on inside my head.
For a while there, I was taking tai chi classes as community outreach with my professor who was teaching me my First Responder skills back in community college. I should have kept up with it, as the price was more than reasonable and I like Dr. Smiley’s approach, but completing my degrees at a private college left me almost no time to myself, and the tai chi was on the opposite end of town from where I lived. You might be able to teach yourself tai chi, but I was never good at such things.
Since then, Dr. Smiley has passed away and I’m left with the choice between expensive charlatans (who may or may not know what they are teaching) and even more expensive teachers who have such odd training hours as to make you wonder who actually can attend a session. There is a place across town, but it is a distance and I’d have to drive in rush-hour traffic to maximize my membership. Needless to say, I haven’t had much of an opportunity to return to the practice, although it did seem to help with my health way back then (and the places I have tried… like I said, charlatans more into music and incense than training).
But one of the things that we covered with Dr. Smiley was a bit of qi gong called “Eight Pieces of Brocade” or BaDuanJin. The tai chi class often ended or began with the Eight Pieces in the place of stretching out or cooling down, often a shortened version of the technique at both ends. As stretched out my muscles to find out the loci for my source of pain, my monkey mind recalled that some of the areas of tension were similar as to when I first started doing BaDuanJin exercises during my tai chi days.
I need to refresh my memory any time I do qi gong, so I went hunting for videos to see the variations and make sure I am doing the right kinds of moves. This gentleman uses techniques slightly different than what I was taught, but not much more filled with variation than the rest of the internet. Trying some of the moves as he performs them (sometimes with more flair than necessary, LOL — showoff), they feel about right and that they’ll hit some of the muscle groups I need to hit.
I have done Eight Pieces since my days with Dr. Smiley, largely because they are relatively simple stances to assume that need less correction than the full 24-form Yang variant of tai chi, but I have drifted away as one thing or another comes up and I get out of the habit. But, when I was experimenting a few years back with these stances, I wore my Fitbit and over the course of a single week, by resting heart rate went down by about 20 beats per minute. My rate of about 62-70 bpm is pretty good for a mostly sedentary old guy. I was down to lower 50 bpm after a week. So it helps improve breathing and heartrates.
While I don’t expect qi gong to perform miracles for me, I do recall my episodes of inflammation also decreased in frequency when I was doing it on a more regular basis.
The best part about this technique is that it has cardio, flexibility, core, and strengthening benefits — all for less than 10 minutes a day, 20 minutes if you do it morning and night. Perhaps slightly more if you go real slow. You won’t probably turn into a svelte hottie through qi gong alone, but it has been proven to have quite a few health benefits and is surely better than sitting around all the time. (Note: I’m also equally sure that there are the rare individuals who’s bodies thrive on this kind of workout and do become svelte from qi gong alone — I’m just not one of them).
So another goal to go along with the fact that the persistent rain or bitter cold appears to be leaving the area — and I’ll need to recommit to using the camera as well now that I won’t drown or freeze. For the qi gong, I’ll commit to 30 days (of 2/times a day) to see if it helps or negatively impacts my overall pain (especially that darned shoulder), starting tonight, but counting begins tomorrow.
If you’ve had experience with qi gong and or want to join me in this goals, please comment below. I’d be interested in whatever you have to say or hear how these kinds of exercises impact your life.