Wednesday, June 30, 2004


Doesn't that sound delicious? It sounds like a new Oriental dish, made of yummy, fried sweet/sour, clog-your-arteries goodness. Before you go running out looking for it at your local Frontier Wok, I'll tell you that this is my friend Wendy's new form of exercise. It sounds better when you say it without the dashes, but I had to put those in so you didn't think it was Wendychipilatesyogchi, because that's just daunting. Not unlike saying "suoicodilaipxesuoiciligarfilacrepus" as only practically perfect Mary Poppins can and sounding like you're showing off. ("Indubitably!") Which, now that I look at that, I don't think that's at all what she says in the actual movie, even though I just typed "supercalifragiliciousexpialidocious" into Word, then repositioned all the letters manually so that it was backwards. I think Mary's tea was spiked with more than just a spoonful of sugar.

ANYway, my ju-jitsu class through the Burbank and Recreation center started last night. Tonight is my first tai-chi class. I need to unblock my chi.

No, more time in the bathroom won't help, but thanks for asking.

Here's how it all started. My hip has been bugging me for a few years. A good friend asked me to dog sit for her. A really good friend, as it turns out, because it really messed up my inner thigh muscle. (Groin actually, but then I sound like a football player.) Her dogs are some sort of Alaskan sled dogs. It doesn't matter if there's a sled behind them or not, they'll pull anything. It just so happened that on the other end of their rope was me. And my thigh muscle. We both got pulled. I got over it, the muscle didn't.

Eventually it started feeling a little better. Then I took up golf. The physiological mechanics of golf are such that while swinging a club, your front leg stays locked into position while the rest of your body torques forward, resulting in all the force landing on your front leg (still locked in a stationary position) so that the ball can go long and straight.

I happen to have a very good swing.

I now happen to have a very messed up hip/butt/thigh muscle.

I went to physical therapy. That an educational sort of way. I found out that there were big muscles that hurt more than others which helped me pinpoint the pain and be aware of that part of my body more than usual. It taught me not to limp as much. I also learned that I probably have bursitis (bursa = the small sack filled with joint fluids located between joints. itis = inflammation of. You do the etymology.) How depressing is that? Thirty-seven years old, and I not only have a golf injury, GOLF! for crying out loud!, but bursitis to boot! Aren't those things that should be happening to old people? With frail joints and bones and stuff? (And now I'm Nancy Kerrigan: "Why me? [sob] Whhhyyyyyyyyyyyyy meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee?")

So, the therapy was nice but I'm a typical American. I want results NOW with little or no effort on my part.

So I went to acupuncture. Yes, the thing where they stab you with needles. No, the American Red Cross wasn't exactly thrilled the next time I donated blood, but I'll tell you what. That has been the only thing that's worked.

Wendychipilatesyogchi and acupuncture? You wonder where I'm going with this? I'll tell you. Each time you go to acupuncture, before they even get around to opening the package of steril needles, you get a mini-physical. They look at your tongue: "Tsk, tsk," they say, scribbling notes in your chart.

"What's wrong?" you ask, though it comes out more like, "Wotgh hong?" because your mouth is still open because they haven't told you yet to shut it.

"Teeth mark in tongue. Very bad. Bad spleen. More hot foods."

Then they grab your hands and examine your fingernails. "Tsk, tsk," they say, scribbling more notes.

"What's wrong?"

"No half-moon. Very bad. Bad spleen."

"Huh." (Never mind that my nail beds are totally small, and the only finger I've ever had half-moons on are my thumbs. They don't care. EVERYone should have half-moons on all fingers.)

They flip your hands over and grab your wrists with four fingers. A western doctor would be taking your pulse, but not here. Well, they're checking your pulse, but in a different way.

"Tsk, tsk," they murmur. (They don't write anything yet because both hands are busy.)

"What's wrong?"

"Weak pulse. Slow, then fast. Thready."


"Thready," they confirm. "Bad. Bad spleen."

With my spleen feeling thoroughly chastised, I'm now ready to get poked. One time though, I got a talkative intern who was willing to tell me what all this meant. It helped that he spoke fluent English, was already a licensed chiropracter, and understood why this was a little confusing to a round-eye such as myself. (Although if you've read my Macy's makeover entry, you would know I'm not really a round-eye.)

He explained about chi -- or energy. In doing a little research on my own, it really means more than energy in a

's law type of a way, but there's not really an English equivalent for all the many meanings of chi. Fen shui is one way of unblocking chi -- in the house. "Feng Shui is an age-old practice that embraces the idea of living in harmony and balance with our environment." Once you start reading about that, you'll see chi mentioned all over the place there.

And since I don't know really anything more about it than what you can find out yourself by googling "chi," I'll simply tell you that my chi is blocked which is why my hip hurts. It may be a little more complex than that, and my spleen may or may not be to blame (which, I still have no idea how to tell. I mean, what does your spleen feel like? I've been kicked in the kidneys before, and I've had the occasional stomach ache. But my spleen? What did it ever do to deserve this?)

Tai chi is the ancient Oriental martial art practiced for health. It looks like ju-jitsu in slow motion. (You've seen the wackos in the park, looking like they're a slow-mo replay on a sports channel. Though they're not really wackos, that's what you've thought. Isn't it? ISN'T IT?!) This will help: "in the period of the Three Kingdoms (220 to 265 AD) there was a physician Hua-tu'o who relied not only on medicine but also taught the movements of the five creatures: tiger, deer, bear, ape and birds -- a system he called Wu-chi chih hsi. He believed that the body needed to be regularly exercised to help with digestion and circulation and only by doing so could a long and healthy live be achieved. He advocated a system of imitating the movements of these animals to help exercise every joint in the body. His teaching, and its connection with the movements of animals, is probably the earliest pre-cursor of Tai Chi."

And Lao Tsu (you'll remember him from your World Religions class in college) summarized the philosophy of tai chi in the Tao Te Ching:

Yield and Overcome;

Bend and be straight.

He who stands of tiptoe is not steady.

He who strides cannot maintain the pace.

That, boys and girls, is why I'm taking a tai chi class. I bend and am not straight, but must become straight, so I need to bend.

Yup. I'm going to release my spleen of the guilt of blocking my chi. I'm going to learn to bend. In slow motion.

Which sounds like a topic for later musings on my own "Life: A User's Guide" manual.

Chapter 1:

. Straighten. Unblock.

I'll let you know how it goes.

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