I have never tried Tai Chi but have often been intrigued when I have seen people doing Tai Chi at various locations in Newcastle.
Quite often I will see someone quietly going about their business early in the morning at Merewether Baths or on the beach.
It always looks so relaxing and I have often thought I would like to give it a go to experience for myself what it is all about.
Hunter residents get the chance to do just that this month when Amanda Heidke, instructor at the Tai Chi Centre, holds a free community session at 10am on April 29 at Market Street Lawn.
The session will be part of World Tai Chi and Qigong Day, which is held in hundreds of cities, spanning 80 nations and involves tens of thousands of people around the world coming together to share a common vision of hope and healing.
I spoke with Amanda about the event last week and the benefits of doing Tai Chi.
My first question was how do you describe Tai Chi to someone who has never experienced it.
It is complex, she told me, but could be explained “as a series of slow and graceful movements, which we call forms”.
“In a nutshell,” Amanda said. “Tai Chi can be described as a complete system for focusing and balancing body, mind and spirit for living a long, healthy and happy life.
“Not everyone is aware that Tai Chi is in fact an ancient Chinese martial art, the health and relaxation aspects are really side effects.
“The flowing movements contained within a Tai Chi form disguise the focus, strength, control and coordination required to first learn and then relax into the movements. One of the biggest obstacles new students face is relearning correct posture and body alignment, which we have forgotten during the course of our busy life.”
I was also interested to know who can in fact do Tai Chi because I see people of varying ages doing it around town.
“It is accessible to almost anyone,” she said. “We have students of all ages and physical capabilities. From people who have been dancers, boxers, football players and external martial artists [judo, karate] who are looking to refocus their energy, to relax and realign their bodies.
“To those who are recovering from surgery, managing heart conditions, arthritis, Parkinson’s disease, chronic pain depression and anxiety.”
The health benefits are many, Amanda told me, the most immediate being “a clearer and more relaxed mind and a greater ability to deal with difficult situations with less stress and anxiety”.
“Several weeks of very simple movements will improve flexibility, strength and balance, with other benefits including improved functioning of internal organs, better breathing and improved sleep,” she said.
People can turn up on the day to Market Street Lawn, which was chosen as a location because Amanda “liked the idea of bringing people into the heart of our beautiful city to connect with each other”.
Renee Valentine is a writer, qualified personal trainer and mother of three. firstname.lastname@example.org.