Aging Well: Tai chi programs changing minds, bodies and lives

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New Tai chi classes

■ Hayden

AF Tai Chi I for Health

When: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Jan. 18 to March 8

Where: Haven Community Center

Cost: $3 suggested donation per class.

No registration is required.

AF Tai Chi II for Health

When: 9:30 to 10:30 a.m. Wednesdays starting Wednesday

Where: Haven Community Center

Cost: $3 suggested donation per class. No registration is required.

■ Craig

AF Tai Chi for Health I & II

When: 5 to 6 p.m. Tuesdays, Jan. 11 to April 19

Where: Trappers Health Club

Cost: Class fees may apply.

Call: Colorado Northwestern Com­mun­ity College to register at 970-824-1135

■ Oak Creek

AF Tai Chi I for Health

When: 5:30 to 6:30 p.m. Tuesdays, Feb. 1 to March 8

Where: Ananda Yoga Studio

Cost: $35

Call: Aging Well to register: 970-871-7676

— Twenty years ago, Ron Wray may not have thought that eventually, he would trade his job as an industrial electrician to study, practice and teach tai chi.

That trade-off wasn’t exactly willing. In 2009, after working for Tri-State in Craig for 25 years, he found himself on disability after suffering retina detachment and losing sight in his left eye.

This unexpected life change left Wray, 64, with time on his hands and a desire to act on advice his doctor had been giving him for years: Exercise more.

The prospect of exercise had been frustrating for Wray since his early 50s, when he realized his old pursuits — bicycling, basketball and volleyball — were no longer realistic options for his health and lifestyle.

Wray, a Hayden resident for 36 years, enjoyed walking, but that was difficult and unsafe in winter and wasn’t meeting all his fitness needs. He had no interest in working out in a gym.

That’s when Wray came across information about Arth­ritis Foundation Tai Chi for Health offered by the Aging Well program of the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Asso­ciation.

Intrigued, he gave the program a shot, and soon he was hooked.

“It was what I was looking for,” he said. “It provided the movement and stress relief I needed.”

During the past year, Wray has established a regular routine of three classes a week — he attends classes in Steamboat Springs and Hayden — in addition to practicing at home.

An introvert by nature, Wray also has found tai chi has helped bring him out of his shell. Taking classes, seeing other participants and helping with Aging Well outreach efforts has gotten him out of the house and into the community.

“It’s made a significant difference in my life,” he said.

Wray soon will be certified to teach the class himself and will lead his first Arthritis Foundation Tai Chi for Health class Tuesday evenings beginning Jan. 18 at the Haven Com­m­unity Center in Hayden.

“I hope to pass on the enjoyment I feel and the enrichment that I think is possible for everyone,” he said.

Tai chi is unlike any exercise most Americans have experienced. An ancient Chinese martial art, tai chi combines deep breathing and mental concentration with slow, fluid movements.

There are many different styles of tai chi with various goals achieved by encouraging energy flow throughout the body and creating a powerful mind-body connection.

Tai chi is low impact and uses many muscles while achieving better range of motion, making it particularly useful for improving flexibility, muscle strength and balance in older adults.

Arthritis Foundation Tai Chi for Health integrates the physical and mentally grounding components of tai chi into a safe and comfortable fitness program for older adults with a wide range of capabilities.

Although the program has been shown to reduce pain, stiffness and fatigue in people with various forms of arthritis, the program is beneficial to anyone hoping to maintain or improve their overall well-being.

“I find it very calming and relaxing,” Wray said.

Arthritis Foundation Tai Chi for Health is offered in Steamboat, Craig, Hayden and Oak Creek. All instructors receive professional training by the Consortium for Older Adult Wellness, a nonprofit program providing support to professionals working to improve the health of older adults in Colorado.

When possible, Arthritis Foundation Tai Chi for Health classes are offered on a suggested donation basis. Occasionally, Aging Well partners with Colo­rado Northwestern Community College and other entities to provide more classes and locations. Fees may apply in these situations.

“The benefits I receive for relatively insignificant cost is another reward,” Wray said.

For more information about Arthritis Foundation Tai Chi for Health classes, call 970-871-7676.

Tamera Manzanares writes for the Aging Well program and can be reached at tmanzanares@nwcovna.org. Aging Well, a division of Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association, is a community-based program of healthy aging for adults 50 and older. For more information, visit www.agingwelltoday.com or call 970-871-7676.

Comments

Neil O'Keeffe 3 years, 3 months ago

This is a wonderful introduction to tai chi especially for seniors. Remember there are also regular tai chi classes at CMC for those that want to see greater benefits and learn from very qualified teachers that have been practicing and teaching for year''s. It's difficult to compete with free however, you generally get what you pay for.

I strongly encourage those that have tried the Arthritis Foundation Classes and are yearning for a deeper understanding and benefit of tai chi to seriously consider a class with John or Pam at the college. Tai chi is the type of art/practice that has so much to offer on so many different levels (mental,emotional, physical and spiritual) for all ages and abilities. Enjoy!

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Jeff Kibler 3 years, 3 months ago

My younger sister has Parkinson's. Tai Chi has actually improved her movement and balance.

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