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Tai Chi Chih: a mindfulness moving meditation

Community members can take the time to learn something new and relax at the same time at weekly Tai Chi Chih classes.

First English Lutheran Church parish nurse Laurie Wernke started teaching the classes Oct. 7 and meets every Monday at 7 p.m. at First English. Originally planned to last 6-8 weeks, participants wanted to keep going so they continue to meet. Wernke notes that the class runs about 40 minutes and is open to anyone.

Wernke first learned about Tai Chi after attending a workshop at a nurses conference in New Mexico 20 years ago. She liked it so much she attended that workshop every year she went to the conference and ended up buying a VCR tape to use at home, which she later wore out. She then started using written instructions.

She noted that Tai Chi was developed for warriors going into battle. What she teaches and practices is Tai Chi Chih, which is peaceful movements. The meditative exercise helps her calm down.

“I would quite often go to it if I needed to calm down; if I was feeling anxious, I’d do Tai Chi and I’d feel better,” Wernke said. “Most recently we went on a vacation and we did Tai Chi every day and we noticed we weren’t sore or tired. Sometimes when you travel you get jet lagged or tired. We noticed that wasn’t happening.”

Her husband, Doug, started doing Tai Chi with her in the last six months. Before that he used to make fun of it. However, doing Tai Chi on vacation helped change that.

After practicing Tai Chi off and on for the last 20 years, Wernke came to a point where she felt comfortable teaching others. She likes that the meditative exercise can be done by anyone. While most of her students are between 50 and 90, she has also had a 9-year-old too.

While Wernke feels relaxed and energized after doing the exercise, she notes that others can also improve their balance.

“In the AARP magazine, it has mentioned numerous times how it has helped with balance and strength to prevent people from falling. Also, it’s just very settling. It’s very grounding. It’s meditative. It just makes you feel peaceful. Some of the people that come here just say they love it because it’s peaceful and it’s very easy,” Wernke said.

She noted that anyone can do the exercise. Even if they cannot do the exercises standing, they can do most of it sitting. A lot of the exercises involve arm movements.

“It is a good exercise. It’s really not hard physically but it is a lot of arm movement and arm strengthening with the movements. I think the strengthening helps, too,” she said.

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