When Even Yoga Hurts: Tai Chi

Tai-Chi-Single-WhipNOTE: Scroll down for a practical guide to starting tai chi.

I could say she was a terrible doctor, but that isn’t true.

I could say that she doesn’t care about treating the whole patient , but I really don’t know that.

I will say this: Her research protocol and my body were not a good match.

She’s a guru. People around the country try desperately to get in with her. Doctors around the world listen to her. Medicine she helped create helps thousands of lupus patients. Clearly, she was going to make me well, right?

Of course not. There is no making lupies well. There is only helping them control their symptoms. But I didn’t know that then.

I was a pathetic creature, that first visit. Holding paperwork and walking were struggles for my swollen, stinging hands and feet. My head was too heavy for my neck, my brain too foggy to grasp what she was about to tell me. I was an 8 or 9 on the pain scale (10 is the kind of pain that makes you beg for death, or at least unconsciousness). I was in no way ready to hear that she could do very little to help me.

But that’s what she told me. Rather, she told me my lupus was here to stay and I have fibromyalgia, for which there is no effective treatment, too. There was “no going back to normal.”

There would be no new drug therapy. Less prednisone and tai chi twice a day, she said. She handed me an article from the New England Journal of Medicine.

I could hardly move and she wanted me to take up a martial art. A slow one, but still. I couldn’t even do yoga at that time: everything hurt too much. Any pose that required putting pressure on any part of my body was impossible. Savasana hurt. That’s a particular level of pathetic.

My only other option was to do nothing, and that didn’t seem very proactive, so I did what I knew would never work: I started learning some basic tai chi moves. Scroll down to see exactly how I did it.

And my pain got better. Not gone, but better.

I still didn’t believe it was the tai chi. I got lazy. And my pain got worse. I started again and it improved a bit. My range of motion increased. My muscle tone improved. I had a little more energy. I was still a non-functioning mess, but I was a slightly improved non-functioning mess. Even this is success, sometimes.

After a year of ignored symptoms and no new drug therapies, I went back to my prior doctor, the one who had diagnosed me originally, the one who got me in with the guru, the one who’s four hours from my home (the guru was less than an hour away). It was she who finally treated me. It was she who determined I do not have fibromyalgia but some illusive inflammatory process that mimics fibromyalgia but responds to immunosuppressant therapy.

It turned out to be a good thing that tai chi was the only thing the guru prescribed. Perhaps I wouldn’t have tried or stuck with it if I’d had a new medication and high hopes. In the end, tai chi turned out to be the one gift she gave me, one I plan to take with me into any treatment plan.

Want to do what I did? Here’s everything you need:

  • First, I did this (click image to go to the first of two videos). It convinced me that even someone as non-functioning as I was at the time could do SOME sort of tai chi.

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 11.05.33 AM

  • Next, I got this super easy to follow DVD (click the image to go to Amazon.com). I worked on this for a long time and recommend sticking with it until you have mastered every move and are both bored and ready for a more vigorous routine.


  • Then, I moved on to this, a traditional series of only eight movements and accompanying footwork, a.k.a. an 8-form (click image to go to the YouTube video). This is still my go-to practice. I can do all the moves, and I know it by heart, so it travels with me everywhere.

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 11.16.20 AM

  • And when I’m feeling up to it, I work on this 16-form, performed by the same couple (click image to go to the YouTube video).

Screen Shot 2013-10-02 at 11.20.26 AM

Good luck!


Comments always welcome!

Looking for more on this subject? The tags below or in the “cloud” to the right of this column will take you where you want to go.

8 Comments on “When Even Yoga Hurts: Tai Chi

  1. Pingback: Taper Town: Unpacking | Beth Landau

  2. Pingback: Benefits Of Yoga And Tai Chi | Find Me A Cure

  3. Thanks for this. I was (finally) diagnosed with lupus last year, after suffering for over two decades. I used to love yoga, but had to drop out of a teacher training due to pain. I’ve considered Tai Chi but didn’t know where to start.


    • Congratulations on finally getting a diagnosis! It is strangely comforting to have a name for mysteriously on-going health problems. Good luck with the tai chi!


  4. Thanks so much for this, Beth. I enjoyed the short 8-step film and will use it as breaks from writing. I also highly recommend CHi Quong, which I find simpler than Tai Chi because you don’t have to remember the sequence, if you have a teacher, that is. I am a firm believer in Chinese medicine. Also So Juk, a Korean treatment of the whole body through working only on the hands, is excellent. Glad we’re in touch. Judy

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Taper Town: A Daily Practice |

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