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Seniors feel the energy at Tai Chi classes

ADDISON COUNTY — They stood in silence, focusing on breath. Slowly, their arms rose in a smooth synchronized movement and then drifted back down by their sides. From this starting point, a group of 16 men and women from as far north as Alburgh, as far south as Brandon and Orwell and many towns between, spent two days intensively studying adaptations of the first 12 forms of the Sun practice of Tai Chi.
Their collective goal: to teach elders who suffer with arthritis how to become more mobile, ease some of their symptoms, and gain better balance for prevention of falls.
For many elders, this may be the first form of movement they have experienced in a long time, so participants were taught to break down the movements into smaller, more manageable pieces that protect knees from injury, keep the body upright and aligned and encourage gentle motion in the joints. There are many forms of arthritis, ranging from mild to life-threatening, with osteoarthritis being the most prevalent form. Osteoarthritis is defined as the most common joint disorder, which is due to aging and wear and tear on a joint.
“I have a deep interest in working with our elders to encourage increased mobility, happier and healthier aging, and the deep sense of contentment that one finds in meditative movement,” said Alison Lockwood, who was among those taking the two-day intensive class. “I am really looking forward to teaching this class locally!”
Champlain Valley Agency on Aging (CVAA) sponsored the recent two-day course, and coordinates the locations where Tai Chi for Arthritis is taught. Currently in Addison County, this class is taught in Vergennes (Northland Job Corps); Bristol (Holley Hall); and Middlebury (Middlebury Fitness).
According to the CVAA, studies have shown Tai Chi can reduce falls by 47 percent. Tai Chi can also improve flexibility and balance, muscle strength, improve sleep, lower blood pressure, improve cardiovascular fitness, reduce anxiety and depression, relieve chronic pain, increase energy, and provide an improved overall sense of well-being. Improved flexibility reduces stiffness and pain, keeping joints mobile.
 CVAA promotes two styles of Tai Chi.
Tai Chi for Arthritis, developed by Dr. Paul Lam, was derived from the Sun Style, which is gentler, more of an upright stance making it easier for older people to learn. It incorporates much Qigong, which practitioners say is especially effective for healing and relaxation. Improved flexibility will reduce stiffness, swelling and help keep joints mobile.
Tai Chi for Diabetes is based on the Yang style, which is characterized by gentle, graceful and slow movements that are easy to learn and promote good health. The New England Journal of Medicine in its “Studies of Tai Chi and its Benefits,” reports the Tai Chi lifestyle intervention was more effective than the pharmaceutical intervention in reducing the incidence of type 2 diabetes by 58 percent vs. 31 percent with a particular drug.
Both programs are recognized by the Centers for Disease Control to provide benefits related to chronic diseases and accompanying symptoms. Additional evidence suggests Tai Chi may offer other numerous benefits including, reducing anxiety and depression, lowering blood pressure, improving sleep quality, relieving chronic pain, improving cardiovascular fitness in older adults, increasing energy, endurance and agility.
Tai Chi requires no special equipment or clothing, can be done indoors or out, alone or in a group. CVAA’s programs are offered without charge to anyone age 50 and over. Call Cindy, toll-free, at 1-800-642-5119 for a program near you.
Editor’s note: This article was provided by Alison Lockwood , co-owner of Windance Movement Center in Middlebury.

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