Kew is a dream come true!

To me, working at Kew is a dream come true! When I first started to learn tai chi, I used to come to Kew to practise, despite the fact that I live right across the other side of London. Even when it was raining, I would still visit Kew, as one of my favourite things was to sit in one of the follies, breathing in the pure air, while watching the world getting a good soaking! And there's plenty of huge trees to provide shelter, if I felt like doing tai chi in the rain. With the British weather, it's best to be adaptable!

The peaceful surroundings of green growing things, water features, plants and birds makes Kew the ultimate place to do tai chi. The fresh smell of of flowers, grasses and trees; the way you can wander among formal settings or among wilder settings; the way you can be alone, even when people are passing by; all of this adds up to the perfect Kew experience.

When I used to teach kids, I took one party of children to the local park to stand among the trees – it was the first time they had ever experienced the heady aroma of trees growing. These were not young children, but they'd never had that experience before. Kew really promotes children having these types of life-enhancing experiences, with all the various school parties visiting and enjoying the gardens.

Kew is my only outdoor class – I normally teach clients at their indoor premises (offices, community centres, clubs, etc) – and it's also the only one with a widely varying group each time. While my other clients have a regular group of people, Kew classes have plenty of curious people trying out tai chi for the first time, as well as a small band of “Kew regulars”. I might have anything from 12 people to 55 people in a Kew session, depending on the day of the week, or the gloriousness (or otherwise) of the weather. Luckily Kew provided me with a voice amplifier, which means my voice isn't strained, however many people might turn up. Though I try not to talk too much anyway – after all, people want a peaceful experience of Kew as well as of tai chi.

Everyone seems to enjoy their session, with nice comments to myself and positive feedback to the Kew team too. Indeed, people have been interested to ask days and times, so they can know when to turn up for future sessions too. I am hopeful that people will be inspired to take up tai chi themselves, even after the Plantasia Festival is finished, as several have asked how to get in touch with clubs in their area (my website has a links page for this type of query). Tai chi has made me so happy, that I am very glad to be able to help people who want to take it further themselves.

In Kew sessions, because there is a varying set of people every time, we do a selection of different types of activities that could come up in a tai chi lesson, though a normal lesson would probably spend far more time on any of the activities, or include other things as well, depending on the particular club or instructor.

Below is the information on the physical signboard at Kew, which I think expresses very well what goes on in a Kew session:

Tai Chi

Tai Chi is a Chinese Martial Art that is practised for defence training as well as its health benefits. Tai Chi aims to strengthen your body and purify your energy as well as giving you an overall sense of well-being.

Through medical research, evidence has been found to show that tai chi is beneficial for general psychological health and improving balance.

Class breakdown

Warm up exercises – These exercises are used to get your body ready for Tai Chi. They loosen your body and joints to prepare you for the class.

Tai Chi walking – An ancient discipline that aims to provide gentle exercise as well as improving your overall posture. It revolves around the transfer of body weight in a gentle shift making sure all your muscles are working. This is said to improve the flow of ‘chi’ (life force) around the body.

Single form exercises – Single form exercises make up part of a sequence that involves 108 forms. This sequence is learnt in stages and once the moves have been mastered it is all about concentrating on the flow of energy through your body. We won’t be learning all 108 today, but you will get a taster!

Qi gong “Life energy cultivation” – A selection of breathing exercises based on Taoist breathing methods. This is all about synchronizing your mind, body and breath in order to enhance your general health and well-being.

Anyway, do feel free to drop in and try a tai chi session at Kew, on the beautiful Syon Vista, (marked on the Kew Plantasia map as “Tai Chi”) at 11am or 3pm on Thursdays or Sundays, during the Kew Plantasia Festival. Come and test it out for yourself!