I am speaking from my direct experience of teaching seniors Tai Chi and Qigong for close to two decades.
First, our concept of exercise needs to be reconsidered. In school, PE (physical education) is mainly competitive sports, that many do not desire to engage in, or are discontinued quickly after they graduate. Additionally, exercise is either presented as cardiovascular endurance (aerobics) or resistance training (lifting weights or using machines).
It is for the sole reason that exercise is envisioned as hard work (laborious) that many don’t make it a part of their daily routine. Therapeutic exercise will keep a person healthy and not cause injury or excessive wear and tear on the body.
I tell my students; our objective is simple. Make less into more. The practice of Tai Chi and Qigong only takes 20 to 30 minutes a day. The study takes an hour a week with your teacher. As we progress we focus on clear objectives like improving stability and agility in movement through the selection of appropriate exercises. As these Skills improve, a sense of accomplishment can be “felt” and is the motivating factor to go into practice deeper.
A beginner requires more study initially to establish their practice. An intermediate student requires more correction and clarification of the exercises they initially studied. We don’t need more and more choreography. What we need is a means to improve what we already possess. Quantity of life is all about quality of life.
Circa a little before or about the ROC period 1912–1949 in China, martial arts began to be promoted openly to the public. This movement was to strengthen the people. (See Sick Man of Asia, Huo Yuanjia, Zheng Manqing, Fist of Fury) in response to foreign invasion. Although this may have been more geared toward civil defense, as time went on it was about improving the general health of the people.
My point is, first as students and then later as teachers, we need to find exercises that are appropriate for our age, level of health, and adaptable to physical limitations. This keeps changing. The objective is not to compete with oneself but embrace and accept ourselves. Once we are no longer at odds with what we can’t do, we can begin to advance what we can do. Please don’t consider yourself, your greatest obstacle to be conquered.
I have seen noteworthy improvements from my seniors who have dedicated themselves year in and year out to this practice. There are no quick fixes. As we age, we must constantly reevaluate our practice, no differently than a child has to be given age appropriate lessons. It is not a one size fits all approach. It is extremely personal and intimate; despite the fact it can be practiced in a group. There is no substitute for solo home practice.
Image: We don’t need to put our foot next to our head. We should not feel this is the objective of practice.