Slowly in groups of two and three chatting quietly, the people emerge from the San Ysidro dorm to assemble in the parking lot surrounded by California oaks. Although we are in downtown Montecito, the only sounds we hear are the low voices and the birds. It's seven in the morning as we line up and face the instructor. "Ok. Let's warm up."
We shake our hands, twirl our ankles and warm our knees to wake up. We begin the day with a full set of the 108 moves of Yang style Tai Chi Chuan (Taijiquan). The four members of the Double Eagle Tai Chi class are celebrating their fifth trip to the Alan Kan Tai Chi Retreat which is in its 22nd year. Through the next three days we will do Tai Chi at least three times a day. We walk in the serene peace of La Casa De Maria, an Immaculate Heart Retreat . No TV, no traffic, no responsibilities but to focus on the internal (read meditative) art of Tai Chi Chuan.
Special instruction is provided by Master Su Zifang, "Queen of Tai Chi", a world renown master who introduces a new element each year. Aside from Tai Chi Chuan, Master Su specializes in Baguazhang, and Xingyiquan. In a special session our group from Double Eagle learned a new * Form Chi Kung (QiGong) developed by Master Su's teacher where the exercises emulate a poem. "When wind blows, willow branches sway gracefully."
Aside from the benefits of exercise and balance, Chi Kung provides health benefits - reducing stress, and strengthening the internal organs to encourage the proper flow of Chi (Qi), the life force in the body. Beauty, health and meditation, all in one. See you next June at the Alan Kan Tai Chi Retreat.