Traverse City tai chi instructor Ann Parker tells the many benefits of this gentle workout for the mind and body. Bonus: It’s effective and doable for almost everyone.
Practiced around the world, tai chi is a low impact, relaxing form of exercise that anyone can learn. Tai chi blends mental and spiritual aspects into movement and offers many health benefits—both physical and mental—especially for seniors.
“It’s really an economy of movements,” says Ann Parker, a physical therapist who teaches tai chi weekly at the Yoga Health Education Center at Grand Traverse Commons.
“It’s about awareness, about coming back into a more fully aware sense of your presence in your own body, about breathing and relaxation. Tai chi helps with chronic pain, circulation, balance, and coordination.”
Parker, who studied ballet as a teenager, turned to tai chi after experimenting with Taekwondo. Her education in tai chi began with Jane Hale at Northwestern Michigan College and continued after she moved to Seattle. She continued studying with instructors, notably Master Tao Ping-Siang and Madame Gao-Fu (both from Taiwan), as well as with visiting Master William CC Chen of New York City. Both Mr. Tao and Mr. Chen were top students of Cheng Man-ch’ing, who took tai chi around the globe in the late 1960s through the 1970s.
Learning tai chi, she says, is as easy as showing up to a class. “I have been learning tai chi for over 30 years,” Parker says. “It can be a lifelong endeavor.”