By Margaret Gill
Those looking for a more active way to strengthen the mind, as well as the body, should check out tai chi. Every Sunday morning, SOHMA, or the School of Healing Martial Arts, uses Heartwell Park as an instruction space for the ancient meditative practice.
Originating in China thousands of years ago, tai chi is a martial art form designed to bring mind, body, and spirit together. Through a series of movements and poses, its practitioners are able to increase the flow of chi, the life force that moves through every living thing.
“Practicing the forms of tai chi helps your meditative mood, which in turn starts increasing your mobility and makes your movements suppler,” explains Steve Johnson, who’s been teaching tai chi with SOHMA for seven years.
Other martial arts, like most things in life, encourage you to speed up as you become more skilled. What sets tai chi apart is that the goal is to move slower and slower as you advance. Practicing tai chi provides you with the opportunity to stop, slow down, and take time to be aware of your breathing and the intricate movements of your body.
If engaging in an ancient martial art sounds intimidating, never fear! SOHMA’s instructors separate the class into small groups based on experience level and provide step-by-step instructions so you can learn at your own pace.
And if you’re not usually one for exercise, tai chi can be a great way to get moving! “The simple exercises that we teach you can be done almost standing in one spot at home - in your kitchen or your living room,” says Johnson. “Wherever you have a line to follow on the floor, you can go through the forms.”
Tai chi is a great way to build strength slowly without pushing yourself beyond your means. Johnson himself used to need a wheelchair to get around, but after a combination of physical therapy and tai chi, he’s able to not just walk but teach others the art form as well.
You never know - you might just have your own life-changing experience at Heartwell Park. Everything you need to make your mind, body, and heart well might just be found at your neighborhood park!
SOHMA Integrative Health Center: sohma.org
Classes are every Sunday 9:30-10:30am at the Heartwell Park duck pond