Water Song Tai Chi and the benefits of the ancient art
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For over 15 years, Water Song Tai Chi has been helping Marion residents improve their health. Tai Chi, also spelled TaiJi, is an ancient Chinese martial art that helps develop strength, flexibility and balance.
According to the Mayo Clinic, “When learned correctly and practiced regularly, tai chi can be a positive part of an overall approach to improving your health. Benefits of tai chi can include reduced stress, anxiety and depression, improved mood, improved aerobic capacity, increased energy and endurance, improved flexibility, balance and agility, and strength and improved muscle definition.
Everyone can enjoy and benefit from tai chi, regardless of physical condition or age. Some focus on the martial arts aspect of tai chi, while others focus on the health benefits. Over the years of classes at Marion, there have been successes including regained mobility and range of motion after a stroke, better balance for those with neurological disorders, and part of a health initiative general and a weight loss program.
Current student Steve Mygrant said, “I started Tai Chi for the exercise, but one unintended benefit I’ve found is the meditative and stress reduction aspects. After class, I find myself more relaxed and at peace with the world.
Water Song Tai Chi has three teachers: Carol Nelson and husband and wife team Steve and Marlene Renick. They volunteer their time as teachers, with nominal fees covering expenses.
Marlene says she started tai chi as part of her rehabilitation program after a serious illness.
“I’ve seen people regain strength, mobility and better overall health in my 13 years of teaching,” Marlene said. “One of our students had multiple sclerosis, had given up and ordered a wheelchair. She tried a class or two and felt her balance had improved. After a few months, she regained a significant level of mobility, strength and confidence. She continued with us for several years until she left the area.
Classes allow people to come together to practice. Although tai chi can be practiced in private, many benefits come from working in groups, with conscious movements in unison. Most courses for new students are taught individually.
“It helps us make sure people are doing the tai chi moves safely,” Nelson said.
Because the movements are all in slow motion, stress on the body is reduced while providing many of the health benefits of physical training.
Karen Chipman, respiratory therapist, started classes in October 2021.
“I’ve always wanted to do tai chi and I’m so glad I found this class. At the end of a long day at work, some nights I drag myself to class,” Chipman said of his experience. “At the end of the course, I feel relaxed and full of energy. I know it will take time to learn all the moves and the sequence of the form, but the people are great and the teachers are very patient.
Nelson also made reference to the martial arts aspects of tai chi.
“While we emphasize the health and wellness side of tai chi, we also remain very conscious of applying martial arts to every movement,” Nelson said. “Sometimes if you don’t know the original martial art app for the move, you can’t do it right. And for some people, knowing the martial arts side of tai chi makes it more interesting.
Classes are offered on the third floor of the RHAM building, 205 W. Center St., at 6 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday and 10 a.m. Saturday and 12:30 p.m. Friday at the Senior Center. Classes last 90 minutes. Students are encouraged to do what they feel comfortable with. The cost is $5 per course or $25 per month. There is no charge for courses at the Senior Center.