Tai chi offers gentle exercise, stretching
Bill Wilkes found tai chi to be so beneficial to his health, he decided to pass along what he has learned. Every week now he teaches a class at the YMCA and another at Cross and Crown Lutheran Church. Three years ago, as a volunteer math tutor, Bill found it difficult to climb the stairs at Poynor Adult Education Center due to osteoarthritis in his knees. He found a tai chi class for arthritis at the McLeod Fitness Center and became hooked on this graceful form of exercise. His walking and knee problems greatly improved.
Bill started his own class, he said, because he loves to teach and because he wanted to “pay it forward.” According to the Mayo Clinic’s website, tai chi is a noncompetitive, self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching. Originally developed for self-defense, this ancient Chinese tradition has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that’s now used for stress reduction and a variety of other health conditions.
Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing. Each posture flows into the next without pause so the body is in constant motion. In May of 2014, Bill began teaching tai chi for health classes at the Y and at Cross and Crown. He describes tai chi as mobile meditation, explaining that the moves are “fairly precisely choreographed. “There is a right way to do the movements, but no wrong way.
You take the moves taught and adopt them to your own body style, mold them to your own capability,” he explained. Cara Murphy started Bill’s tai chi class at the Y out of curiosity and she is still there. “I really enjoy it,” she said. “It is so relaxing. It relaxes not just your body, but your mind,” commented student Jonnie Britton. At the Y, Bill teaches a style of tai chi called Wan 24 which features 24 forms. This class is offered on Wednesdays at 2:30 p.m. to Y members only.
The class at Cross and Crown is offered on Tuesday evenings from 7 to 8 p.m. It is open to the community and participants pay a $10 fee per class. In this class Bill teaches Sun 73 which includes 73 forms. All the forms are progressive, Bill, noted, explaining that students in each class learn a movement, practice it and move on to another. Because the movements are progressive, it would be difficult for students to follow if they did not start when the class began, Bill said.
If there is interest, he will consider starting a new class in January. Tai chi puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. Because is it a low impact exercise, it may be especially suitable to older adults who otherwise may not exercise. Anyone interested in finding out more about the tai chi classes, may contact Bill at 843-662-7124 or 843-230-1546.