Tai chi expert Sandra Tjoa

My Story

From the time that I was a teenager, I was intrigued with Tai Chi. I knew I wanted to learn it and not just learn it, but master it.

Despite living in several Asian countries—including China, which is Tai Chi Central!—for one reason or another, nothing worked out. 

While I was in China looking for Tai Chi teachers, another opportunity came up. Each morning, at the break of dawn, I’d make my way into the headache-inducing city air with well-worn directions in my grasp. (No such thing as Google maps or translator apps!)

After an hour and a half on multiple decrepit buses,I would shadow a doctor who allowed me to observe him treating patients. This kind man spent his lunch hours gesticulating in a frenzy of charades as he and I took turns pointing to a translated text not understanding each other’s words.I was that desperate to learn anything in the Eastern philosophy of the Chinese medicine world.

I’ve often heard it said that when the student is ready, the teacher appears.

With a breath and a sigh, I share with you when that was for me.It happened on a Father’s Day. Our friends lost their baby boy. A parent’s worst nightmare. One moment he was a spirited toddler and the next he was gone. He drowned in the pool at our home. We have no idea how he got there.In all unexplainable tragedies that are completely beyond anyone’s control, I did what we humans do: I looked for someone or something to blame…I blamed myself.

A few short weeks later, it was our daughter’s second birthday. No friends. No music. No presents.  I see the photograph so clearly in my mind: With teeny toes dangling in the air, she is sitting by herself on a low, red brick wall in her beloved white sundress sprinkled with red cherries of love and green leaves of hope. Her gaze is fixated on her lap where a paper plate sits with a luscious piece of chocolate cake from our favourite bakery. With a fork in fisted hand, her tiny puckered lips are smeared with fudge icing as she savours each bite in pure delight.But back then in my grieving heart, all I could see was sadness and loneliness.

The years to follow were filled with isolation, more sadness, more loneliness and depression. On those nights I laid awake make-believing different scenarios, talking myself through conversations that were never going to happen and mulling over millions of what-ifs over and over again in my head.

My appetite disappeared; I can’t remember ever being hungry in that time. My slight frame was mere skin and bone, and I looked like I could barely hold myself up.I was running on empty. With what energy I could muster in every fibre of my being, I gave all that I could to our two toddlers in their waking hours. Once they were asleep, I had nothing left for my husband, myself, or anyone else, but that didn’t matter…all our friends had fallen away.

Three years after the accident, in my most fragile state, weak and brittle, the master appeared: there he was.  And so it began. 

After all tummies were fed and tucked into bed, in the late hours of evening with the hum of the air conditioner, barefoot on the cool white tile, I made sure to breathe and move every single night.  Within two weeks, I felt an uprightness in my posture, a tallness in my spine; my mood and energy were lighter; colour returned to my face. I felt alive.

Everyone noticed a difference.

Sparks of hope lit up my days.

Once I started getting a taste of what health was like again, I couldn’t stop.During one of the darkest and most challenging times of my life, training in Qi Gong and Tai Chi completely turned my life around.

The way these practices have sustained me through challenges that life throws my way has brought me the wisdom and knowledge to understand how amazing and brilliant they truly are.

My bones and muscles have strength.

My mind and body are resilient.

My nights are filled with nourishing sleep, and my mornings are bursting with fresh energy and excitement of what the day ahead will bring.

I am strong.

I am healthy.

I am happy. 

And that’s what I want for you.

For me, being “ready” meant hitting rock bottom. It doesn’t have to be that for you.

But if you are there, that’s all right too.

We can do this together.I know we can because I’ve done it—more than once.

And that’s all I need to know.