How Tai Chi helped me Survive the Coronavirus

I have been learning Tai Chi for more than 20 years and I must confess that before The Virus took control of our liberty and imaginations, my Tai Chi skill level was at best mediocre. Not long into our first lockdown, when Tai Chi classes were no longer possible, my neighbour and Tai Chi teacher, Margaret Rogers, suggested it might be helpful if I joined her in some Tai Chi practice. Fortunately, Margaret and I live in contiguous units on the same street number, so we were able to rationalise that doing Tai Chi together, with appropriate distance of course, was within the lockdown regulations. Ingeniously, we became members of the same household for the purpose of maintaining physical and mental health through Tai Chi. We began simply with few basic exercises, followed by the Yang style 108 routine under the guidance of Grand Master Eng Chor Khor’s audio-tape. Over time, we extended our routine with some Qigong. Then we took a step to the West with the addition of some weight training – lunges, squats, biceps and triceps exercises with dumbbells. Then a further step to the East as we added more Qigong and the Beijing 24 routine.

By a month into lockdown, we had an hour-long routine which we practised every day at around 10 am, often with the soundscape of the voices of our Premier Dan Andrews or CMO Brett Sutton, who kept popping up on our screens about that time of day to give us the latest update on the virus. We did Tai Chi as the numbers went down to almost nothing, then into the second wave as they went up to round 700 and then down again. By about the middle of the second wave, we went commando style and abandoned the security of Eng Chor’s audio. There were exciting times – most notably when Margaret was prescribed prednisolone for a spider bite and our practice became tai chi on steroids, shaving a full 15 minutes off the routine. Then we became distracted after a friend told us Brett Sutton was Victoria’s new sex symbol and we watched the Coronavirus daily report more closely to find out why. I think that was when we lost the control of the routine and had to revert to the Eng Chor’s audio which added back the 15 minutes we had lost. But with another few weeks we regained autonomy not only turning off Eng Chor, but also Dan and Brett whose voices and messages became quite predictable and were not a bit sexy at all!

By the end of 2020, we emerged out of lockdown, energised by our regular Tai Chi practice. Some of our friends despaired about not being able to fit into their jeans. Not us. We had not put on any weight despite gobbling down a lot of very expensive exotic Swiss chocolates, Turkish Delight, Italian nougat and other assorted treats purchased from Leo’s supermarket, and a fair amount of Irish whisky, Australian gin and French champagne! Neither of us caught the virus. We had an international gastronomic experience – of a kind. We both maintained a zen-like sanity throughout the whole year – except for the week Margaret was on steroids. And we had a few laughs along the way.

Best of all, I learned the Tai Chi routine perfectly during the year of the Coronavirus – after twenty years of mucking around. I finally understood the importance of regular practice. Now I practise the routines in my sleep – I have even incorporated some moves into my vacuuming. Fortunately, practising Tai Chi regularly kept me looking and feeling young, so I didn’t mind losing a year.

That’s how Tai Chi helped me survive the Coronavirus.

Angela O'Brien, Student
Ashburton Centre

Updated: 2 March 2021

Want to know more?