Story by Pamela A. Keene | Photos by David Barnes
The slow and graceful movements of Tai Chi can be deceiving. They can pack a punch for building body core stability and strength and many people swear by the benefits for people with aching and sore joints.
“Doing Tai Chi can improve your fitness, balance and ability to relax,” says Megan Poole, wellness coach at the J. A. Walters Family Branch YMCA. “It’s not very hard to catch on to the movements and you can go at your own pace. It’s great for all ages and fitness levels.”
Imogene Palmer teaches Tai Chi at the YMCA.
“People call Tai Chi ‘meditation in motion,’ but it’s so much more than that,” she said. “It’s based on the ancient Chinese understanding of nature and it’s one of most effective and prominent methods of Chinese Martial art, but it’s soft and focused, not abrupt and quick.”
Tai Chi uses your internal strength, controlled movement and breathing to work out the whole body.
“It works the deep core muscles, the internal organs and the mind by doing slow repetitive movements in a fluid way at a relaxed tempo,” Palmer said. “It can increase flexibility, reduce stress, create better balance and have positive effects on the joints.”
Most of the people Palmer teaches are aged 50 and older, but she says that people of any age can benefit from regular classes and at-home practice.
“It’s so much more gentle on the body than traditional exercise, and the level of exertion can be adjusted to suit the individual. Plus you do Tai Chi standing up or even seated in a chair, so there’s no getting down and getting up,” she said.
Participants need no special equipment or clothing; just wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes and comfortable shoes. Most classes last 60 minutes including a programmed warm-up and cool-down.
There are many types of Tai Chi, each with formalized and specific movements and patterns. Learning Tai Chi forms, the postures or positions, is progressive. One of the most popular styles, and one of the most modern, is called Sun. Developed in the early 1900s in China, it combines several other Tai Chi styles.
“In many ways, Tai Chi is about depth and resistance,” Palmer said. “Once people learn the moves, then they can use more resistance to increase the intensity. And, of course, breathing is an important part of Tai Chi; breathing deliberately and deeply can aid in focus and the ability to relax.”
Tai Chi Classes at the YMCA will resume in mid-January as a six-week program offered on Tuesdays and Thursdays.
“The class will start with the most basic moves and then work through the sessions by adding more challenging movements and forms,” said Jennifer Vandiver, personal trainer, wellness coach, instructor and active older adult coordinator. “Come out and give it a try. You’ll be surprised how much fun it is.”
For information or to register, visit www.gamountainsymca.org/jawalters or call 770-297-9622.