Chester Tai Chi practitioners caught the wave of energy that was passed around the world Saturday during a gathering for World Tai Chi & Qigong Day. At 10 a.m., seventy countries, in their local time, sent the wave of Tai Chi across the globe in an annual event to educate millions worldwide about Tai Chi and Qigong’s benefits and how to find local classes.
Local practitioner and teacher Mike Stephens conducts Tai Chi classes for The Shepherd Center of Chesterfield and offers free classes at Grace Lutheran Church. Students from all of his classes were invited to Grace Lutheran Church to participate in Saturday’s world event. Opening the event, Stephens expressed to his students the benefits of Tai Chi and how relaxing it was and how at the same time you have so much energy.
“I hope that you are getting the benefits of Tai Chi,” he said. “I know I am.”
Founded by Bill Douglas in 1999, World Tai Chi & Qigong Day has been officially recognized by government institutions throughout the world, including the United Nations World Health Organizations. He states on the official website that, “We are all connected by the field of life energy that physicists are now discovering permeates all existence. By emerging ourselves in the field of life energy again and again, we become more and more grounded in the absolute reality that . . . we are all connected . . . all part of the web of life. And, by cultivating and growing the realization personally and globally, we may help in a subtle, quiet way to usher in a more elegant future that nurtures us all in ways we cannot yet even imagine.”
“Tai Chi is meditation in motion and consequently reduces blood pressure, cholesterol and stress,” said Stephens. “It is good for you both mentally and physically. It relaxes you by reducing stress. It works like acupressure and acupuncture. It’s the same principal.”
Stephens first experienced seated Tai Chi 12 years ago. In 1991 he was diagnosed with MS. He had a heart attack and triple bypass surgery at 45 – life changed for him. Exercise was too painful. His balance and strength limited him from achieving his goals. He still has MS and heart problems today, but he says his quality of life has greatly improved and gives credit to a Tai Chi instructor at the Chester YMCA who invited anyone with MS to try seated Tai Chi 12 years ago. Stephens said he didn’t know if he would benefit from Tai Chi, but he knew he needed to try something. After one year, his balanced improved ,and feeling more relaxed and confident, he joined the standing Tai Chi class. Stephens practiced everyday and eventually began volunteering and teaching Tai Chi to people of all ages and abilities. He says he still has days when his MS overwhelms him, still he keeps fighting, but most importantly, he is happy that his overall health has improved.
The style of Tai Chi, the Wu style, taught by Stephens was taught to him by Master Tim Turner, of Turners Martial Arts Academy. Turner instructed students at the Chester YMCA and John Tyler Community College. Stephens states that he is also an accomplished martial arts instructor. Stephens began helping Master Turner with his classes. The classes ended at the Y when Turner left. The Shepherds Center of Chesterfield invited Stephens to share Tai Chi with their “Adventures in Learning” program. He also wanted to share Tai Chi without any cost to students and feels very fortunate that Grace Lutheran Church gives he and his students permission to use their church for practice. There are over 70 students attending the seven classes offered each week. Two on Monday evening at Grace Lutheran, four on Wednesday for the “Adventures in Learning” program and one on Thursday morning at Grace Lutheran.
Daisy Presswalla teaches Yoga and has been a practitioner of Tai Chi for three years. Presswalla participated in the World Tai Chi Day activity. She said both Yoga and Tai Chi work very well together. “It is relaxing,” she said. “Look around, everyone is smiling. It is very helpful.”
Shirley McPherson has been practicing Tai Chi for two years. McPherson also was a participant in World Tai Chi Day. “I would not miss it for the world,” she said. She began practicing Tai Chi when she heard it was being offered at the Shepherd Center. “I started doing research on the benefits and started taking the class and knew right off that it was my cup of tea. I am a diabetic and it has helped me with my control in keeping my glucose at the right range. My balance is a hundred percent better and with being a senior citizen reaching and bending over is a lot easier.” McPherson attends three one-hour classes each week with her husband and they practice at home.
“I cannot say enough about Tai Chi,” she added. “It has helped my mind and body. Mike is a great teacher and his calm way of teaching is wonderful. He makes the class a delight to come to. When you are through you feel like you have taken a short nap. It is so peaceful. For a while it takes one from the stress of life. Even my granddaughter, Rachel Hibbard, was at the World Tai Chi day, because when she is free she takes the classes with us.”
Stephens said they all have lots of fun together, speaking about his classes. “They are a great bunch of people. They get to do a lot of socializing and we have a lot of fun,” he said.
Tai Chi is practiced by young and old, male and female and the weak and strong. To find out more information and class schedules for Tai Chi in Chester visit http://home.comcast.net/~taichz .