From the Worldwide Faith News archives

Church's Tai Chi class improves balance, peace of mind

From "NewsDesk" <NewsDesk@UMCOM.ORG>
Date Fri, 16 Apr 2004 15:17:20 -0500

April 16, 2004	News media contact: Kathy L. Gilbert7(615)742-54707Nashville,
Tenn. 7 E-mail: 7ALL{181}

NOTE: Photographs and a UMTV report are available at

By Wally Athey*

PHOENIX (UMNS) - Slowly they move - not to the beat of the soft, gentle
music, but to the words of the leader.

"'Around the Platter' to the left five times." A minute or so later: "Now to
the right."

Next is "Bass Drum," followed by "Pulling in the Energy."

These practitioners of Tai Chi Chih at First United Methodist Church in
Phoenix are exercising more than their bodies. Once a week, under the
direction of parish nurse Robin Spencer, they gather to practice their moves
and find a spiritual connection through exercise and one another. Nineteen
moves and a pose at the end of the moving meditations make up Tai Chi Chih.

"The purpose of Tai Chi Chih is to move energy within us," Spencer says.
"Think of it as a prayerful moving meditation. Plus, it is great exercise,
helps improve balance and leads to reduced falls in older adults."

Each move requires the constant shifting of weight and balance that leads to
improved physical fitness, flexibility and stamina.

In his socks and exercise shorts, Bruce Smidt describes the value of his
weekly attendance. "This helps reduce my stress level." 

During his early days with Tai Chi Chih, Smidt recalls, he really noticed the
physical aspect of it.	Following today's session, he says, "It makes me feel
very calm, relaxed, peaceful." 

Next to him, Elaine Waelde goes through "Rocking Motion" and "Push-Pull." A
senior citizen, she was encouraged to start Tai Chi Chih by her daughter and

"They wanted me to get into a class for Tai Chi cause I was falling all the
time. I always seemed to have a black eye or a bump on my head. Since I
started this (Tai Chi Chih), I haven't fallen for a long time."

Two more moves, "Pulling Taffy" and "Passing Clouds," ease the group past the
half-hour mark of today's session. The final pose is held for nearly a

"It's a good workout ... a lot of exertion," says JoAn Hand, as she begins to
cool down from the 45-minute routine.

"Sometimes I go through the moves too fast. It stirs up the energy, and I
need my energy stirred. But it also helps quiet down my thoughts." 

The mind also gets a workout with Tai Chi Chih, which translates from Chinese
as "knowledge of the supreme ultimate."

In the church setting, Spencer adds, "We can connect with God while we are
doing this. And I remind my students to think about the presence of God in
their lives." 

Having done Tai Chi Chih for only a couple of months, Cindy Klinger put it
this way: "I feel good.  I can't put my finger exactly on what it is ... but
it's an overall feeling of well-being." 

The spiritual element that Spencer incorporates into the exercises - "imagine
you are praying" or "imagine you are communicating with God" - is special,
her students say. 

In addition to the weekly open practice at the church, Spencer provides
instruction in the 19 moves of Tai Chi to beginners on a weekly basis.

# # #

*Athey is director of communications for the United Methodist Church's Desert
Southwest Annual Conference.


United Methodist News Service
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