Body work - The road less taken
by Kamalini Natesan
Cicily Thomas is one of those rare breed of women who have the courage to follow the calling of their hearts. With unconcealed pride in her fiery black eyes she admits that her heart was never in the corporate sector. She had the courage to break free and follow the dictates of her heart. She is a French teacher and a Tai chi master running classes in Bangalore for over ten years.
“My quest for Truth began around the age of 11 when I started questioning theories on Creation. I was just 12 when my dad passed away. This was the most difficult and sorrowful experience of my life. My first reaction was ‘Why God, why did you take him away?’ I was really mad at God for taking away the person I loved most. Despite coming from a large and loving family, I felt like an orphan. I could not accept theories like ‘God takes away the best’ or that ‘Dad was now watching over me from heaven.’ I began questioning the existence of God. However, I felt in complete oneness with nature, and so, on every possible occasion would venture into forests, mountains, or the deep seas. I would on many times slip away into my own world of day dreaming or be all to myself in meditation. During these forays, I realised many truths about existence, acceptance and purpose of being. I made peace with the maker and with myself.”
Even those who have never exercised before can benefit from Tai chi Being of an artistic bent of mind, she studied designing, and joined a major company as a designer. However, the tough schedule of working in an MNC didn’t quite suit her and she quit. Believing life to be a gift that needed to be shared and nurtured beyond the computer screen, and working with machines, she broke free.
Her older brother was a Tai chi master. She decided to study the technique under his guidance since she discovered that it gave her what she was searching for. She says, “Meditation and prayer are a part of my daily life that enables me to go deep into the unconscious and connect with the universe. Since childhood, exercise has been a way of life. It has taught me discipline and given me a way of release from stress. I have been into yoga, swimming, tennis, and mountaineering. I first came in touch with Tai chi when I saw someone practicing it bare torso, in a ski resort in the Pyrenees, France, in 1991. Clad in six layers of warm clothing, and desperately trying to warm up before beginning my first ski lesson, I was both amazed and mesmerised watching him. The next time I saw a live demonstration of Tai chi was in my own warm living room in Chennai in 1996 when one morning, at 4 am, I saw my brother, Sifu George Thomas, practise it. I was as impressed as at the time I had watched it in the mountains. Being a kinesthetic person, it really appealed to me. I felt comfortable and at ease with it as it is a moving meditation; dynamic, yet soft and fluid.
I began learning Tai chi in 1996 from my brother, and since 1998 have been teaching and propagating the art form. This did not prevent me from exploring the self through reiki, counselling courses, human process labs, neuro-linguistic programming, and vipassana which have given me immense insights into myself and others. I am thankful to my teachers who gave me direction and inspiration in my pursuits.”
Cicily also found her calling, pretty much in conjunction with her desire to reach out to people, and effect positive change through a loving hand, when she became a French teacher at Alliance Francaise de Bangalore in 2001. She runs her Tai chi classes from there. The blend of teaching a language – verbal reasoning, and Tai chi, a dynamic form of self-defence, purely meditative in nature, completes her beautifully. She finds that she is in her element in both the spheres, as one complements the other seamlessly.
Cicily is married to Hari Ram, her partner for 10 years now. She believes in life and love and as a Tai chi expert, she continues to find, and renew herself each new day.
Of Tai chi she says, “Tai chi helps fight fatigue, asthma, indigestion, and insomnia. It lowers blood pressure, reduces heart rate, relieves tension, arthritic pain, backache, anxiety, stress, depression, and revives drooping spirits. It balances the immune system, central nervous system, vascular system, respiratory and digestive system. Tai chi helps the practitioner resist diseases and it heals her as well.
She adds, “Tai chi has helped me to control my temper. I practise it before a game of tennis and it not only serves as a warm up but also improves concentration and stamina. Even in the Himalayas, after 9-10 hours of rigorous walking, I find it the best way to cool down and the next day, I don’t have sore muscles or aching joints! I have not even had a fever for the past 10 years, touch wood.”
Tai chi helps in better co-ordination of the internal organs. The beauty of this form is that the more we practise, the more energised we get. It is an excellent preventive therapy and a good way of assisting recovery from accidents and injuries. While practicing the Authentic Yang Style Tai chi, after completion of the 21 minutes sequence, the pulse rate does not increase though perspiration would occur. So, one gets the benefits of a cardio-vascular exercise without any high-impact aerobic activity.
Most importantly, it has no side-effects and anyone can practice it! There is no age limit. Tai chi is suitable for all. There is no prerequisite either to commence Tai chi. It helps to maintain fitness level amongst sportspersons. Even those who have never exercised before can benefit from it. Tai chi also helps in strengthening the joints, ligaments and tendons, stretching the nerves and toning up the muscles. It is safe for pregnant women, heart patients, and people suffering from ailments.
Says Cicely, “It gives me immense joy and gratification when my students share with me the benefits they have derived out of practising Tai chi. Relief from chronic back pains, knee and joint pains, coping with stress, feeling an inner glow, being peaceful, are some of the positive feedbacks.”
She concludes, “Tai chi enhances the quality of life. It requires repetitive practise and discipline in order to reap its benefits. It is an internal art form which could be your path to inner peace and harmony.
Kamalini Natesan is a writer, linguist and French interpreter who loves travelling, cinema and theatre.
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