Meridian Star


April 6, 2014

Who can do tai chi?

MERIDIAN — Meridian Activity Center has always been open for people ages 21 and above. It was the sign “Senior Citizen Center” that threw everyone.

    For a while there when I was taking yoga from Sybil at the center, I thought I was "sneaking" a good thing. Imagine, a yoga class in Meridian in 1994! I remember griping about all the talking the senior ladies were doing, that just wasn’t done in a California yoga class where I first learned – but I adapted.

    There were a lot of things I learned, living in San Francisco. My first job was on Fillmore Street at Kotzbeck’s, an Old World frame shop, where my boss was a German who designed the frames, an Italian who milled the wood, a Phillippino who did the stain and gold leafing, a Mexican made deliveries and Thomas was the fitter; he was gay. My job was to learn all I could from Gus about design. It was a one-of-a-kind opportunity.

    I rode the bus from the Haight over to California Street, passing the now defunct Fillmore where the California rock 'n' roll scene flourished. But on the way we passed the edge of Golden Gate Park, where figures were moving eerily in the early morning fog – primarily Asians doing their morning tai chi. Imagine how strange it would have seemed to someone unaccustomed to such exercise.

    On one of my visits home, however, I visited a class I’d read about in The Meridian Star — Ken Staggs’ Tai Chi class across from Broadmoor Shopping Center. By then I knew that tai chi was a form of exercise originating in China and was particularly beneficial for seniors. It did have beginning in martial arts so if you watch it you will see motions that if done quickly could inflict pain for someone well trained. However it has evolved into more of a kind of meditation or stress reliever. The Mayo Clinic observes:

    “Who can do tai chi? Tai chi is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, making it generally safe for all ages and fitness levels. In fact, because tai chi is low impact, it may be especially suitable if you're an older adult who otherwise may not exercise.

    You may also find tai chi appealing because it's inexpensive, requires no special equipment and can be done indoors or out, either alone or in a group.

    Although tai chi is generally safe, women who are pregnant or people with joint problems, back pain, fractures, severe osteoporosis or a hernia should consult their health care provider before trying tai chi. Modification or avoidance of certain postures may be recommended.”

    Matthew Brown is a Chi-Fit instructor at East Mississippi State Hospital and an excellent teacher of the movements of tai chi, as exercise. Matthew grew up in Meridian but left in 1984. (Another home grown leaves and returns!) He has been employed at the hospital for 15 years and completed his standardized training in Qigong (a form of tai chi) with Master Michael Leone in Phoenix, Ariz. He began teaching it at the hospital about four and a half years ago.

    Matthew plans to teach three free classes at the Center on Tuesday nights, beginning April 15th, at 5:30 immediately after the Zumba class. We want to see if anyone is interested enough to keep going in May, once a week on Tuesday eves. Please mark your calendars and plan to come to these classes this month. Call if you have any questions, (601) 485-1812.

    Meridian Activity Center is offering exercises classes with the hope that citizens in our area will find something they can continue making a part of their lives. Eating well and keeping fit are two requisites for good health and we all know that we need to make some changes in Mississippi. The tai chi class will add one more evening program to our Zumba (Monday thru Thursday) and Slimnastics (Monday/Wednesday/Friday)— both at 4:30 p.m. — to promote a healthy lifestyle.

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