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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Slow down midweek with Tai Chi at the RFC

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The Department of Recreation, Fitness, and Wellness offers students and employees a midweek chance to slow down and breathe with a Tai Chi class taught by Ron Weatherford. The class is just one of many offered through the group exercise program at the Recreation and Fitness Center.

Weatherford described Tai Chi as practiced in the west as “a moving form of yoga and meditation combined.

“It features a number of so-called forms or 'sets' which consist of a sequence of movements. Many of these were originally derived from the martial arts - and from the natural movements of animals and birds. These movements are slow, soft and graceful, with smooth and even transitions between them.”

The class is offered at noon each Wednesday.

Peggy Harrell, director of Graduate Studies and Sponsored Research, has been attending the class for about three years. “It’s a great workout, and it’s good for stress. It takes a lot of concentration, and you can’t be mindless, you have to focus,” she said.

“It’s a great way to get away because you have to focus on what you’re doing. It’s a good physical workout and it’s something that almost anybody can do. If you have a physical injury or illness, you can still do it.”

In response to disbelief that a form of exercise that is so slow can produce results, she said, “Try to do something really slowly. It’s a lot harder than it looks, and there are prescribed moves you have to remember. It’s a great break in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week.”

Dave Ellert, instructor in engineering, has been with the University since fall 2003, and he started attending the Tai Chi class the following spring. He also attends during summer months when he is not teaching.

“Especially through the school calendar, it’s nice, because the school year can get hairy and it’s an oasis in the middle of the week that says, ‘all right, breathe.’ I tend to actually not breathe during the day.”

Ellert said that Weatherford shows the class that most people take shallow breaths. “He works with us on breathing deeper. You physically remind yourself to do that. You breathe with the movements.

“It’s low impact but it does strengthen you, and it’s good for balance and tones you physically more than you think it would,” Ellert said. “It’s a major cog in the gear of what you can do for good health, both physically and mentally.”

For more information, call Recreation, Fitness, and Wellness at 812/461-5268.

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