Jesmond Community Leisure increases tai chi classes
Jesmond Community Leisure have increased their tai chi classes to three times a week, offering an early bird session on Mondays beginning at 7:30am.
With the success of the two existing classes, the pool and leisure centre found an additional class would be beneficial to its existing members, the community, and a way to recruit more members interested in doing a different type of exercise.
Originally developed as a martial arts practice, tai chi is an ancient Chinese tradition involving slow movements now practiced as an exercise to help promote relaxation and deep breathing.
“It’s very good for balance and posture and good for mental focus,” said Paul Nathan, tai chi instructor at Jesmond Community Leisure.
“It’s suitable for all ages, 18 up to retirement age and beyond.”
According to Nathan, the slow moving positions make tai chi a low risk form of exercise and it has been recognised by its participants as a good way of relieving stress, tension, and anxiety.
The National Health Service (NHS) website suggests “tai chi is for everyone. It is ideal for inactive older people wanting to raise their activity levels gently and gradually. Also, many of the tai chi movements can be adapted to people with a disability, including wheelchair users.”
Nathan has been practicing tai chi for over 25 years. He started off doing other martial arts such as kung fu and kick boxing but recognised the benefits of tai chi and stuck to it. He suggests the breathing aspect of it is just as important as the movements.
“It’s very good for the lungs, to extend the lungs to give you more energy and make the body feel more youthful,” he told JesmondLocal.
He also found that these breathing techniques are transferable to everyday life and he uses them in practice to “keep calm” in stressful situations that may arise in personal life.
The NHS website has reported that tai chi’s benefits include: “help[ing] people aged 65 and over to reduce stress, improv[ing] balance and general mobility, and increas[ing] muscle strength in the legs.
“There is some evidence that tai chi can improve mobility in the ankle, hip and knee in people with rheumatoid arthritis (RH),” the website also states.
However, the NHS also writes that more research is needed into these areas and other conditions. But Nathan is aware that not all medical reports agree with his teachings despite tai chi’s growing popularity.
“In the newspapers as well people are advertising about hospitals in certain countries doing experiments with tai chi exercises to see what the benefits are,” he said.
“There’s more literature and more information on the television.”
Nathan thinks that having an open mind and being receptive to something new can have a great impact on what a participant can get out of tai chi. He stressed that it will help one relax.
“A lot of people just don’t know what tai chi is. They’ll come into a class, some react well to it, some don’t. It’s the same with everything in life.
“The more patient you are, the more you’ll absorb and the more relaxed you’ll become and this is the whole idea: the relaxation, the breathing exercises, and just learning to quiet your mind.”
Nathan believes people are quick to shut the door on something they find unfamiliar, especially if they expect a quick fix to something. According to the teachings of tai chi, it takes practice and patience.
He encourages people to attend a class to judge for themselves if it is something they would like to participate in or not.
The NHS website suggests to talk to your general practitioner before starting any new form of physical exercise.