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Muscle Atrophy the Fast & Easy Way.

I’ve learnt a lot about recovery from illness in the last 12 months. I realise now how difficult it can be, and in particular how easily muscle wastage can happen, and how quickly it actually takes place; it really doesn’t take very long at all.

I taught almost every day through the 2 years of Covid. I was in front of the screen constantly demonstrating; there was no opportunity to stand back to observe how the rest of the class was doing because, with about 70 people doing the classes most days, everyone had to have their video off. The classes were therefore like miniature TED Talks.

Catching Covid.

In December 2021 I got Covid.  Not doing things by halves, I got it badly.  I wasn’t hospitalised, but was in bed for just under three weeks, pretty much unable to move, and unable to eat most of the time.

Losing your way.

By the end of the three weeks I felt very weak. Although the worst of the virus was over, I hadn’t fully recovered, partly due to having pneumonia, but also because I had lost so much muscle tone from lying still in bed for those weeks. It was amazing how quickly it vanished! I particularly noticed that the deterioration in my health altered the way that I thought about my life; I was living in a new (changed/weakened) reality, and I couldn’t see how I could ever get back to how I had been physically, prior to catching Covid.

After 8 weeks, having recovered (in that I was eating again and able to go out), I felt so weak that I was seriously considering either cutting down heavily on the number of classes that I did, or stopping teaching altogether and changing what I did.  This seemed to be the only option.

Returning to exercise.

I have noticed exactly the same thing taking place with many of my students. 1) There is a loss of strength – before Covid and two years of lockdown, their legs were much stronger because of tai chi and qigong. 2) After two years of lockdown and isolation, there appears to be a change in attitude and a sense of having had their lives altered irrevocably making it very hard to return to how things had been.

Dealing with setbacks.

There’s a negative idea that we have about setbacks and ageing. Someone said to me the other day, partially jokingly, “Once you hit 60, it’s all downhill”.

Personally, I think this is isn’t anywhere close to the truth; I think you can undo a multitude of ailments, and can change anything, but you have to want to, and it has little to do with being 60+. Muscle wasting (in my case), along with many other setbacks, can be reversed.

In my own post-Covid experience, for quite some time I didn’t entertain the idea that I could strengthen my legs again; it felt as though I’d never be able to.  It was a watershed moment. 

Anything is possible.

I’m very glad that I made the decision to persevere with my own recovery to strength, as it didn’t take as long as I’d thought to repair the damage. 

What I’m saying is, just because something isn’t working correctly in your body, in my case my legs, it is not a reason to give up. I mention strength of legs, not just because it was my experience, but because they are a major reason for the deterioration of your over-all health. Once you start using your legs less, you are going to be sitting down a lot more; things are therefore only going to get worse – how could they do anything else?

The body starts to stagnate, and not only in the leg department. All your organs gradually start to slow down, the body gradually congeals and collapses in on itself, muscles lose tone and become slack, and many start to shorten as they are no longer being stretched. Your general health can only deteriorate.

The mind is a powerful tool.

I realise that Covid has created a great deal of stress. Isolation and disconnection do that, and, in that state of mind, motivation is doubly difficult. However, once you’ve got going again, even in the smallest way, you realise very quickly that it doesn’t take that much to alter your perspective.

My own view is that the mind is far more powerful than we think. We can alter our perspective of anything, and by doing so can heal ourselves without resorting to medicines.


Recently I read several studies on the ‘placebo effect’. The general view is that, if you are prescribed a sugar pill for an ailment, the mind is capable of triggering the body to produce for itself the necessary chemicals to start healing. Those chemicals do not have to be input into the body in the form of a chemical pill or injection. The most interesting thing is that studies have shown that it works even when the patient knows that it is a placebo.

Finding your way… Your perspective.

So if you’ve lost your way either with your mental or physical health, you can try changing your perspective. The most important thing to realise is that the way that you look at things or feel about things is not reality, it is just one way of looking at things – it is never the whole picture. Changing your perspective will change how you perceive things.


I read a book a long time ago about ‘altering your reality’. One of the examples in the book was about how to win the lottery. The author told you that you had to put yourself in the position of feeling as though you had just won the lottery (imagination isn’t enough, you had to feel it).

How would it feel to be in that position where you’re just won several million pounds; how would it alter your life (feel it); how would it affect your work (feel it), your family (feel it), your confidence (feel it), … well, everything and anything? You should run your life as though this has already happened – which doesn’t mean you have to spend lots of money that you don’t have, but you feel all your encounters with everyone and everything as though it has happened.

In other words, live your life with an altered perspective, as though you are already living the new life that you’ve chosen.

Winning the lottery.

The book was not only about the lottery, but nevertheless I tried the lottery idea in a minimal way; I did all the feeling part of it, and maybe didn’t put as much into it as I should have done.

The result was that I won the lottery. Okay, so it was only £10, but I’d never won before on the occasional times that I’d bought a ticket.

About a year later, having not bought a ticket even once during that 12 months, I tried exactly the same process again, and this time won £7 the first time that I tried it.

The best version of yourself.

For me the message was very clear. This works, and I have used it countless times since in my everyday life, both with my health, and with anything that I want to achieve, for example, getting back to tai chi or qigong classes, or any other form of exercise that you prefer. In effect, you become a different person, the person you want to be. I’ve never tried the lottery since – I’m not that interested in being a multi-millionaire, and you do have to really want what you’re asking for, because this is the person who you would like to be – the best version of yourself.

__________________________________________________________________________________________________ James Drewe teaches Tai Chi and Qigong in both London and in Kent and online. Details of weekly classes both live and online can be found on the website, and there are classes for 2-person Tai Chi on one Saturday a month.

CONTACT: Email: Phone: 07836-710281 __________________________________________________________________________________________________

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