When a father–of–two hit rock bottom he turned to an alternative method from the East to help him get back on his feet again.
“I couldn’t sleep, I could no longer eat food,” Stuart McLarkey, of Matlock, explained.
“From 15 stone I went to ten stone. I couldn’t be a parent to my children.
“I crashed completely.”
After years battling with the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, he broke down.
The 38-year-old was prescribed a cocktail of anti-depressants and sleeping pills by his GP - but he began to look for another way of tackling his problem. Stuart went to a tai chi group in Bakewell, run by instructor David Hall.
“It enabled me to do breathing exercises and calm my mind,” he said. “It also enabled me to sleep. My nervous system was soothed and suddenly I was off the tablets.”
Stuart was so pleased with his progress, he decided to bring tai chi to his home town, enlisting David’s help to do so.
Together the pair set up their own weekly group in the Imperial Rooms, Imperial Road, Matlock.
“Tai chi is good for body and mind. It’s a very de stressing activity,” David said. “It keeps all your joints and muscles moving and exercising.”
He explained that Eastern cultures refer to ‘chi energy’, which is also known as ‘life energy’.
“Tai chi keeps the chi energy flowing,” David added. “Chinese medicine talks about this energy flowing through meridians and when you get these meridians blocked, tai chi helps to unblock them.”
The group, which runs on Wednesdays between 1.30pm and 3pm, now has around 25 members.
David continued: “People come and take it on whatever level they want.
“For some people it’s a moving meditation.”
Stuart, who works as a learner support assistant for the adult education department of Derbyshire County Council, has such faith in Tai chi as an alternative way to tackle mental health problems, he wants to encourage more people to take it up.
He said: “I thought ‘hang on a minute, if this is getting me better it could help other people in the area’. The quick fix is a pill – that’s not a fix.”
Stuart’s wife, Sarah, has seen the change tai chi has brought to him.
The 35–year–old said: “He’s not so pent up all the time, he’s just calmer and relaxed.
“Some people call tai chi a massage on the inside.”
Stuart recently made a presentation to members of Matlock Town Council about the benefits of tai chi and they were so impressed they granted £500 to the group.
The first session at the Matlock tai chi group is free. For more, call 01629 733915 or visit www.taichimatlock.com. To view a video of the group, visit www.matlockmercury.co.uk