|T’ai Chi Mondays teach students to find balance|
|Written by Kyle Deg, Daily Vidette Senior Staff|
|Monday, 07 February 2011 22:18|
The small group of people took their positions on the gym floor, waiting for instructions from their teacher. As they stood relaxed and with their arms to their sides, Lilly Meiner, a wellness instructor and senior student of T’ai Chi, overlooked the students and began her lesson.
“Now put your hand on your belly and try to take the weight off of your lower back in your standing meditation,” Meiner said. “Now relax your shoulders and let everything get calm and be quiet within.”
Meiner now stood in front of the group with her eyes closed and her body loose, while the rest of the class tried to mimic her. Meiner then gave instructions on the motions, and the class followed along.
T’ai Chi is a martial art that is practiced worldwide, and it can offer many benefits. That is why Health Promotion and Wellness holds free classes every Monday at 5:15 p.m. in room 139 of Thomas Metcalf Laboratory School.
According to Stephanie Ralph, a kinesiology and recreation graduate student and graduate assistant of special events outreach for Health Promotion and Wellness, the class can also help people who are stressed out from school and other problems.
“It’s a very good stress reliever, and it’s a good relaxation class,” Ralph said. “It gets you to focus on something other than the outside world and it can calm you down while you’re participating in it.”
While watching T’ai Chi as a viewer, one can see the slow movements and the precision that goes into each action, but watching is just part of the experience.
“You have to try it,” Ralph said. “It is a completely different thing to watch than when you actually participate. You actually get to experience the way it works.”
As T’ai Chi is being used to promote health and well-being on campus, the continued used of T’ai Chi can allow people to become healthier and stronger. According to Meiner, it can help with arthritis, flexibility and even diabetes.
“It’s common knowledge that the more you exercise, the more physically fit you can be,” she said.
During the hour-long class period, Meiner demonstrated the beginning forms of T’ai Chi. Almost every student in the class was a beginner, and they were trying to get the form down.
The students tried to move their body to and fro, with everything moving in relation to another. Their whole bodies got involved, and towards the end some pivoted effortlessly while moving, their balance shifting from one foot to another until they finished.
But every time the movement was completed, the students started over again from the top.
While the students practice their movements, Meiner observes and corrects them when needed, giving them advice in a calm voice.
“This is a lot like music,” Meiner said to the students. “Just try to retain the basic movement and then let your ch’i expand. You don’t want to lock up your ch’i. Let your balance be invited for attention.”
The ch’i that Meiner refers to is described as internal energy which is stored in the dantian — the physical sense of gravity in the abdomen. Ch’i is also the energy flow inside a person and their surroundings, and is essential to gaining balance and technique in T’ai Chi.
For beginning students, Meiner said it is difficult because the body is not used to doing certain movements and it resists. That is why people have to do it over and over again to nurture the movements.
For Michael Rosales, a junior Spanish education student, the T’ai Chi class gives him a chance to keep up with his exercise.
“I was at a community college before, and we had a T’ai Chi class there,” Rosales said. “When I came here, the teacher of my class recommended this and I decided to do it. I decided to keep practicing.”
Rosales has been doing T’ai Chi for three and a half years, and it shows in the class. Beginning students watch Rosales’s movements to remember what to do.
For Rosales, T’ai Chi is a way to stay in shape and to stay relaxed.
“It’s very relaxing for me and it’s a great stress relief,” Rosales said. “It’s also very good for my reflexes. For example I can react more quickly when I drop something or if I slip on the ice. Instead of falling down, I am able to keep my balance. My joints are also more flexible and I have better coordination. This is what older people actually try to do because it helps them keep their balance. But it’s just a good way to relax.”