Students practice the ancient art of Tai Chi at the Fonthill United Church on Thursday, Jan. 4. NATE SMELLE PHOTO
Approach based on 1970 interpretation of ancient practice by Taoist monk Moy Lin-Shin
BY NATE SMELLE
As the Taoist sage Lao Tzu once wrote, “Do the difficult things while they are easy and do the great things while they are small. A journey of a thousand miles must begin with a single step.”
On Thursday, Jan. 4, a small group of Pelham residents took their first step towards living a healthier, happier and more harmonious way of life by joining a class of 20 practitioners of the ancient art of Tai Chi. Hosted by the non-profit Taoist Tai Chi Society, a team of three instructors guided the group through a beginner’s class in moving meditation. Based on the teachings of the Fung Loy Kok Institute, each movement is intended to help students attain a sense of spiritual stillness, clarity and wisdom, while cultivating a balanced, relaxed and healthy body. The Institute was founded by Taoist monk Moy Lin-Shin when he began sharing his knowledge of the Taoist arts in 1970, with, according to the Institute, the goal of helping others achieve harmony within themselves and with the world.
Instructor Dave Kelly was one of the instructors leading the class through the series of 108 meditational movements at the Fonthill United Church on this cold winter evening. Speaking from his own personal practice, and drawing insight from his students’ experiences, he said he has seen how Tai Chi helps individuals in their own way. Because each of the movements can be adapted to suit the physical capabilities of any practitioner, the benefits it provides are accessible to everyone.
“I encourage everyone to do the movements at their own speed and according to their own physical limits,” Kelly told the class.
“We all had a different path to get here, and we all have our own path going forward.”
Since Sharon West began practicing Tai Chi four years ago, she has noticed that her balance, flexibility and overall health have improved substantially. Diagnosed with osteoporosis in 2013, West signed up for a Tai Chi class in hopes of gaining strength and preventing herself from breaking any bones if she fell. Acknowledging the current state of her health, West says the healing affects she has experienced through Tai Chi have been remarkable.
“My bone density has improved without taking any medications since I started taking Tai Chi,” said West.
“My energy levels have also got a lot better and my blood pressure has dropped. The more I think about it the more I realize how it has improved my health on so many levels.”
Continuing Level instructor Cathy Young has also experienced the healing potential of Tai Chi firsthand. Five months ago, Young was on the operating table going through quadruple bypass heart surgery. On this snowy night in Fonthill she was one of the three instructors assisting new students during the moving meditation. She first discovered the benefits of Tai Chi after her husband began having trouble with his knees 15 years ago. Not wanting to endure the painful limitations of mobility her husband was experiencing, she decided to sign up and add a dose of preventative medicinal movements to her weekly schedule. Young’s doctor recently told her this decision helped her to delay the heart surgery she had last July by at least 10 years.
Young said Tai Chi focuses on far more than just one’s own health. There is a social aspect to it as well, she explained because it is also a way to improve the health and quality of life of others.
“Taoism is all about compassion,” she said.
“We get people from all over the world who come out to our classes when they are in town, and it is always a very friendly atmosphere. All of our instructors are volunteers and we do it because we like it, and because we have seen how it benefits people and we want to help others.”
The Fung Loy Kok Institute/ Taoist Tai Chi Society currently claims some 45,000 members in 26 countries around the world. Every Thursday evening the group returns to the Fonthill United Church to host a class from 7:30PM until 9PM. Kelly encourages anyone interested in experiencing the benefits of Tai Chi to drop in and give it a try. Classes are also held each week in St. Catharines and at various locations throughout Niagara.