Tai Chi is becoming more popular as an easy and effective route to better health. Included is a listing of classes in New York City.
By Georgetta Lordi Morque
Is Tai Chi the next wellness evolution? This ancient practice seems to be popping up in more and more places as seniors and also the younger generations seek wellbeing through relaxing forms of exercise. NBC News called Tai Chi “the most underrated workout for reducing stress and improving sleep.” Pinterest included Tai Chi as one of the top 100 trends of 2018.
No one really knows exactly when Tai Chi began or who was the founder. Legend and Chinese historians tell us that it developed some 2,000 years ago in China as a self-defense form of martial arts and later evolved into a health-promoting practice of slow and gentle low-impact movements combined with deep breathing. Tai Chi is sometimes referred to as a “moving meditation.”
The many benefits of Tai Chi include improved balance, flexibility, circulation and focus, renewed energy and a calmer mind. This past fall, the New York Times Personal Health columnist Jane Brody reported on several studies that showed Tai Chi beneficial for building strength, preventing falls, improving posture and bone health and countering anxiety and depression. She also noted that Tai Chi is easy for people of all ages and states of health to learn.
Carolyn Campora is a Master Tai Chi instructor with over 45 years of experience in martial arts. She teaches Tai Chi and Kung Fu at Nabi Su Tai Chi, Kung Fu & Energy on Canal Street. Carolyn, who enjoys teaching the beginner Tai Chi classes, says you don’t need to know anything about martial arts to learn Tai Chi. “The best way to learn Tai Chi is any way you will actually do it,” she says. Carolyn, who meticulously teaches a bit at a time, provides her first-time students with a takeaway video of the basic warm-up and the section they’ve learned to practice at home.
Carolyn Campora demonstrating Tai Chi movements, Double Fists and Eagle Cooling Wing. . . . . . . . . . . . .
The movements are simple. Those who frequent Bryant Park in the warmer months have probably noticed Tai Chi classes in the park with practitioners performing slow, flowing, graceful movements in unison. There are 108 movements in Tai Chi, which is why Carolyn teaches one step at a time. “You don’t have to learn the whole form and it doesn’t have to be perfect,” she explained. “It’s more important for students to feel grounded and feel energy connecting as they perform movements.”
“Five minutes of practice a day is remarkably beneficial and enough to put you in the mode of being centered and relaxed,” says Carolyn. “There’s no Tai Chi police,” she adds. “Every day for a few minutes is great. When your body relaxes, your brain and emotions relax. If people are calmer and relaxed, they’re nicer to others. It’s a ripple effect.” Over the years, she has seen students reap all types of benefits—from de-stressing from work to recovering from injury. Because the practice requires a strong focus on movement, Carolyn believes there’s no more direct path to mindfulness than through Tai Chi.
Carolyn developed an early passion for Tai Chi, growing from her martial arts training. She arrived in New York City in the 1970s, aiming to become an artist, and met up with a small spiritual group in the East Village that practiced Zen and other forms of Eastern exercises, including Tai Chi, which was coming into its own at the time. Because she wanted to travel and didn’t feel safe traveling as a woman alone, she enrolled in a self-defense program. As soon as she took her first class, she loved it, went on to earn a black belt in Kung Fu and became an instructor. In her forties Carolyn took a detour and, stricken with a midlife crisis, enrolled in Cornell University’s MBA program to help her find work that would help her pay bills. After graduating she worked two and a half rather unsatisfying years at a bank—this was around the time of the stock market crash and she was asked to take over at the Nabi Su Center on Canal Street. She’s been there ever since.
Carolyn is pleased to see Tai Chi slowly gaining attention and credits her longtime practice as the reason for her good health. “I move just about as well as I did at any given time and my posture is better than it’s ever been.” She encourages those new to Tai Chi to give it a try and be open to change so they can feel better. Nabi Su offers a complimentary class for beginners on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
Tai Chi class at Nabi Su Tai Chi Kung Fu & Energy in New York City.
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WHERE TO LEARN TAI CHI IN NEW YORK CITY
Nabi Su Tai Chi, Kung Fu & Energy New York, 365 Canal Street, 3B (between Wooster Street and West Broadway), 212-925-5536
Intimate studio with personal attention and precise instruction by Carolyn Campora. Beginners always welcome. Free trial lesson available. Prices range from $75 for 3 beginner classes to 10 classes anytime for $200. $150 for private lesson. Other packages available.
CK Chu Tai Chi, 156 West 44th Street, 212-221-6110
Meditative Tai Chi practice derived from the philosophy of Taoism. Free summer classes in Bryant Park since 2004. Trial class for beginners: $25. Various prices and packages available. Four afternoon and evening classes for one month: $90. Morning class (7:30–8:30 a.m.): $12; monthly unlimited classes: $95.
Taoist Tai Chi Society of the USA, 245 West 29th Street, 6th floor, 646-869-1100.
A non profit all-volunteer society with a membership structure. Classes free to members. Newcomers welcome to try a beginner class before joining. Seniors can opt for the New Participant’s Package, which includes 4 months of access to classes: $155.
Marlene Meyerson JCC Manhattan, 334 Amsterdam Avenue at 76th Street, 646-505-4444
Beginner, intermediate and advanced classes for seniors. New session of 9 classes start in March. Member price: $225; non-member: $261.
92nd Street Y, 1359 Lexington Avenue, 212-415-5500
Introductory class of Qigong and Tai Chi. Check their website for classes that will start in June 2019: Priced from $494.
Body and Brain Yoga Tai Chi, 860 Sixth Avenue (29th Street), 3rd floor, 212-691-7799. Locations in the Bronx, Brooklyn, Westchester, and Long Island.
One of 100 centers nationwide offering mind-body practices based on ancient Korean training techniques. Beginner Tai Chi classes available. Newcomers booking between February 1st and 23rd may try a Tai Chi class for $10 in February and are eligible for a 10% off special for 3-month, 6-month and yearly memberships for booking between February 1st and 23rd.