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Tai chi class helps Murphys seniors find balance

Exercise for seniors can be a challenge, but working out can also be a life saver. With this in mind, Arlene Halford, the new activities director at the Murphys Senior Center, created a summer schedule filled with senior-appropriate exercise classes that combine fun and fitness for the mind and body.

Instructors Pat Moline and Louise Carniglia were both recently certified in the fitness technique of tai chi Sun and offer classes Thursdays at 10:30 a.m.

“It is perfect for balance and coordination,” said Moline of Sun-style tai chi. “It creates a connection where the mind and body work together – a meditation in motion.”

Moline’s husband, Ron, suffers from Parkinson’s disease and finds the class enjoyable.

“It helps me relax,” he said. He hopes that he will see an improvement in his coordination with a long-term commitment to tai chi.

Tai chi is an ancient Chinese exercise originally developed for self-defense, but it has morphed into a stress-reducing exercise. It is by nature a low-impact exercise, which is ideal for seniors because it puts little stress on joints and muscles. It is also appealing to the pocketbook, as it requires no special equipment and can be done anywhere, inside, outside, in classes or individually.

Tai chi Sun, developed by Sun Lu-tang, is the youngest of the five forms of tai chi. It emphasizes much less on the martial arts aspect and concentrates more on the qi, or life force (breathing and energy flow) and smooth movements to an even and slow tempo, which is why it’s well suited for seniors.

Moline began to practice Sun-style tai chi when she was a probation officer.

“I needed to get centered,” she said, referring to the need to find balance in her life due to the stressors of her job. “This moving meditation truly helped.”

She turned to tai chi once again after she had back surgery that required the insertion of several pins in her spine and left her with constant pain.

“It has been helpful not only with pain reduction, but also increasing my range of movement.”

Recognizing that the “demographics of the clientele have a whole lot of replacement parts, including myself and Pat,” Carniglia said she makes sure to create comprehensive yet uncomplicated instructions for the various levels of need within the senior group. Armed with years of experience as a teacher of ballet and other forms of dance, Carniglia is undaunted by the challenge and enjoys teaching tai chi Sun.

The Murphys Senior Center also offers strength training, dance fitness, low-impact aerobics and yoga, as well as daily games that range from pinochle to mahjong. Free lunches are served on Tuesdays.

The Murphys Senior Center, 65 Mitchler Lane, Murphys, is open from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays.

For more, call 728-1672.

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