Maurice Crenshaw, 65, has been practicing Tai Chi since 1961. Tai Chi gained popularity when it began to be introduced as an Earth Day activity.
Tai Chi means “grand ultimate” and is one of the oldest of the Chinese martial arts, dating back 2,500 years.
Tai Chi is recognized worldwide on World Tai Chi Day. Every April 30 at 10 a.m. communities across the world celebrate Tai Chi with demonstrations and other festivities.
Crenshaw, who has been involved in martial arts since he was 15, was attracted to “the balance, the rhythm, the timing (and) the focus” of Tai Chi, he said.
Though there are many different forms of Tai Chi, Crenshaw says there are more similarities than differences between them. He teaches the Standard 24 Form and Tai Chi Linking Fist at the YMCA. There is also a form approved by the Arthritis Foundation.
The benefits of Tai Chi include stress relief, increased balance and flexibility, improved muscle strength and definition and an increased overall well-being. Tai Chi is beneficial for all age groups.
According to the Mayo Clinic’s Web site, Tai Chi can also reduce anxiety and depression, improve sleep quality, lower blood pressure, slow bone loss in women after menopause and relieve chronic pain.
The Workout: The hour-long class begins with a warm up. Then a pattern of moves is repeated three times — once for warm-up, twice for practice and the third time for balance. At the end, a few of the movements from the exercise are concentrated on. All movements are slow and one flows into the next.
Sweat Factor: I didn’t break a sweat. The slow, fluid movements don’t raise the heart rate much, but you never stop moving.
Difficulty Level: A familiarity with the choreography would take most of the difficulty from the class. I didn’t find that the moves themselves were hard, but it’s not always possible to face the instructor.
“The most difficult part is getting people to practice on their own between classes,” said Crenshaw. He strives to teach the benefits of daily practice in the hopes of inspiring his students to practice.
Average Calories Burned: Tai Chi does not focus on burning calories, but rather on stress reduction, peace and harmony.
Commitment: Must have a membership at the YMCA to participate, but members can bring guests.
Perks: Membership to the YMCA allows access to all group fitness classes, cardio machines, weight machines, a pool, locker facilities and child care.
Other group fitness classes include SilverSneakers®, BodyPump, yoga, step, Zumba, pilates, Turbo Kick and Aqua Fit.
The Afterglow: Not knowing the moves, I probably didn’t release as much stress as many of my fellow classmates. However, I was in a pretty good mood the rest of the day. Even without knowing the moves well, the calming music and the fluid movements helped calm my nerves and mind. I focused on myself that entire hour, nothing else.