T’ai Chi for Life
Paul D. Ellner
My first experience with T’ai Chi was about thirty years ago on Taiwan. I was spending a month there giving a series of lectures to doctors at the major hospital in Taipei. I observed that every morning, people came into the streets in front of their homes or work places to engage in a series of exercises that looked like an Oriental dance in slow motion. I learned that these exercises were one of the Chinese martial arts, performed for health reasons rather than combat.
About a year ago, now in my nineties, I needed something to help my balance, which had deteriorated along with my vision loss. Having heard that T’ai Chi might be helpful, I was referred to Keith Mutch, a T’ai Chi instructor. I found Keith at the Torrington Family Kempo (TFK: 860-626-1114), a spacious studio near Lakeridge on Winsted Road. He explained the principles of T’ai Chi to me and I enrolled in his hour-long bi-weekly classes.
Classes were small and I often had the benefit of what was essentially a private lesson. Keith patiently explained all of the movements and the breathing, which started with some gentle stretches before progressing to the actual positions called the form.
T’ai Chi was started in the 14th-century in China. This series of exercises was developed over hundreds of years and conforms to the principles of Chinese medicine. Its benefits are physical, mental and spiritual. T’ai Chi increases range of motion, can decrease high blood pressure, improves balance and reduces the effects of stress.
After three months of classes with Keith, Connie and I spent the winter in South Carolina where I continued to practice T’ai Chi in our apartment and even took a few private lessons. Returning to Lakeridge, I have since continued classes with Keith, to find Gail Hauss, another Lakeridge resident, as my classmate.
Gail has been practicing T’ai Chi for years, along with classes in yoga. Yoga tends to advocate stillness, while T’ai Chi seeks constant movement.
T’ai Chi is suitable for all ages and is particularly beneficial for seniors. I have found that T’ai Chi helps me with meditation. It has definitely improved my balance and on a few occasions, helped me to avoid a fall. I plan to continue T’ai Chi indefinitely.