Tai chi, a graceful, gentle exercise with purposeful postures, allows a person to strengthen the muscles, mind and soul."There are 37 positions involving 70 to 100 movements," Charles Reed, Ph.D. said to some new students, as he explained about the Yang style short form that he teaches. "When done together, they look like one smooth line."
Reed is sharing this Chinese form of exercise on Saturdays from noon to 2 p.m. at Boyertown Area Multi-Service Inc., 200 Spring Street, as part of Boyertown's Arts and Activities Alliance winter arts and activities session.
AAA, a committee of Building a Better Boyertown, continues its mission to promote the arts by offering introductory classes for people of all ages. Local artists and instructors teach various arts and crafts, as well as relaxation exercises, massages and meditation Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays from Feb. 2 through March.
Reed, a fourth-degree black belt, is a part-time instructor at Master Kim's Black Belt Academy, Bechtelsville, where he teaches tae kwon do and tai chi classes. He has been involved with martial arts since he was 13 years old.
His wife, Jeannette, shares the passion for martial arts and teaches classes at the Academy.
Reed has a doctorate degree in structural biology and molecular pharmacology. He is currently researching gene therapy for breast cancer treatment at Thomas Jefferson University.
He first became interested in the art of tai chi in 1991 and took a course at Temple University. After practicing tai chi for about eight years, he started teaching private classes.
"The more you do it, the more at home you feel with it," he said. "It is an exercise that you constantly re-evaluate and dissect the movements."
The Yang style short form is a popular style, he said. This version of tai chi takes less floor space, so it is easier for people to practice whether they are at home or in the smaller confines of an office space at work. Practicing the entire form takes approximately three to seven minutes.
Some basic principles, Reed explains, include using just enough strength to complete the form without over extending or contracting.
"You want to maintain a relaxed state," he said.
One of the many benefits of this type of exercise, Reed said, is the relaxation it provides. The rhythmic motion loosens and tones muscles, increases concentration and improves the overall breathing cycle.
"The greatest thing about tai chi is learning to become aware of yourself," Reed said. "You learn to understand and read your body."
Reed said people could utilize this body awareness and the relaxation techniques in various areas of their lives.
He cites, as an example, the situation of being stuck in a traffic jam on the Schuylkill Expressway. As the clock ticks on, a driver may hunch forward and grip the steering wheel. This tension may cause back pain, muscle soreness and headaches.
After learning and practicing tai chi, people are more aware of tension in such situations, he said, and they can start to use techniques, such as deep breathing and relaxing their muscles, to reduce the stress and anxiety.
Learning tai chi is a process since it involves many movements. Reed provides individual attention to his students' posture and abilities.
During one recent Saturday session, he demonstrated the position called, "Grasp Sparrow's Tail." Starting with the positioning of the feet and then the legs and hips, Reed taught the students how to shift weight from one foot to another before gliding it across the floor into position.
"The golden rule is 'how does it feel to you,'" he said, when students moved from position to position. "In time, this will feel less like connect the dots and more like a smooth line."
Reed will continue offering introductory lessons on Saturdays at Boyertown Multi-Service through March 15. For more information or to register, call 267-994-7272 or email email@example.com. A participation fee is required for each class.