Tai Chi at the Museum with Thistle

Would you ever consider using museums to support your health and wellbeing? You may have visited museums many a time to explore their exhibitions and collections, but is it possible to find new approaches to using museum spaces and galleries?

On Friday 16 February, at the start of Chinese New Year, we invited Thistle, an amazing health and wellbeing charity who support people living with long term health conditions, to do just that. Thistle were invited to the National Museum of Scotland to demonstrate the regular Tai Chi sessions they host at their venue in Craigmillar. For those unfamiliar with Tai Chi, it’s a form of Chinese martial art with slowed down movements (there are many variations but this was one of the more relaxed versions), which focusses on breathing and gentle, repetitive stretches.

Tai Chi in the Museum
Tai Chi in the Museum – Fri 16 February 2018 – National Museum of Scotland, Edinburgh. Photo © Andy Catlin.

A Tai Chi demo by 40 staff, volunteers and participants from Thistle was led in Hawthornden Court, and later free bookable sessions for the public encouraged over 50 participants to try it out. The fantastic thing about Tai Chi is not only its benefits for mind and body, but its accessibility – anyone can do it, it needs no special equipment or clothing and can be practised by anyone of any age. Some performed the moves seated or in wheelchairs, and we watched in awe as one young girl carefully followed the session for 30 solid minutes – her focus was amazing!

Tai Chi in the Museum
A young visitor trying Tai Chi. Photo © Andy Catlin.
Tai Chi in the Museum
Tai Chi is accessible to everyone. Photo © Andy Catlin.

At the end of the day, despite my having run around to help coordinate the event, after a bit of Tai Chi I felt simultaneously more calm and energised. I think for me taking a moment out of your day to do something just for your body and mind, where you have to focus on the movements and allow all other thoughts to drift away, is hugely beneficial. I also loved the sense of connection you have with the other people in the room – it wouldn’t have been quite the same doing it alone and I really felt it was best as a shared experience. Many people commented on what a great space Hawthornden Court and the Museum was for Tai Chi – how magical and inspiring. Whole families came and did this together, which was really wonderful to see. I’d love to see more of these health and well-being initiatives based at the museum in the future.

Tai Chi in the Museum. Photo © Andy Catlin.

Do you ever use the museum to support your health and well-being? If so I’d love to find out how.


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