The Tao of the Keys - A group of people standing in a room - Dance

Taoist Tai Chi classes build strong bodies, minds

Taoist Tai Chi has many moving parts; it’s part Eastern philosophy and part martial arts. Combined, they have a very wholesome effect.

“The 108 movements are designed to move every bone, every muscle, every tendon and every ligament in the human body,” said Jeff Pinkus, a volunteer Taoist Tai Chi instructor in Marathon. “But the benefits go beyond that.”

On Saturday morning, about 25 practitioners gathered in the parish hall of St. Columba Episcopal Church — each seeking unique and overlapping benefit and result. In the upcoming weeks, the group is having an open house and classes for beginners.

The Weekly had the chance to sit down and interview the Tai Chi practitioners and came away with the following points.

• It’s accessible. Anyone can do this; even being able to stand is not a requirement, as some sit in chairs and follow along due to a permanent or temporary incapacitation. Many of those in the Marathon class have had hip and knee replacements, suffer from rheumatoid arthritis, or have other aggravated conditions. Tai Chi is open to the very young and the very old and everyone in between.

• It’s healthy. “If Harvard University believes in it, I think we can say it’s pretty good for you,” said Pinkus, handing over an overview of the subject published by the university. Among the claims are better upper- and lower-body strength, aerobic conditioning, balance and flexibility. Pinkus said the exercises can also massage and re-align internal organs for better function. The practice can also have a healthy benefit for the spirit and mind. It requires focus and builds mental acuity. And its free-flowing form promotes mental peace.

• It’s affordable. The entire Taoist Tai Chi organization’s goal is to make the practice as widely available as possible. The instructors volunteer their time. And students pay a nominal fee for small administration concerns like insurance.

• It promotes community and cultural exchange. Unlike other forms of exercise, even some martial arts, there is no competition in Tai Chi. Everyone is there to focus on his own progress and to support the progress of others in the class. Because the movements are a “universal language,” they often bridge the language and cultural gap for those traveling to workshops in other geographic regions. The same is true for the classes in the Keys. (There is another studio in Key Largo.) “We don’t discriminate based on economic class, age, or race,” said Pinkus. “The only thing that we ask is that you leave your ego at the door. But make sure to pick it up on the way out!” Beginners also have a chance to learn about Taoist Tai Chi founder Moy Lin-Shin, who emigrated to Canada from Hong Kong, and learn about Taoist principles.


“Tai Chi made my husband more patient and easy to live with (laughing). But there have been other benefits as well. Every year the doctor was telling me that I was losing bone density. After a couple of years that stopped, and last year the doctor told me it was coming back.”


“I’m 95 years old and a ‘loner.’ This gets me out with people.”


“I have issues with my heart and I’m 88 years old. I can’t even walk across the room with becoming short of breath. But, for some reason, I can do two hours of Tai Chi with no problem.”


“I was a gym rat for years until I was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis. I was sitting at home alone until I was invited to this class. This has been the best experience of my life.”


“My husband and I live on a sailboat and we’re not young. We have issues with balance and I had a bad shoulder. It’s been a year since we’ve been coming to class, and we haven’t fallen off the boat yet!”


“I had carpal tunnel surgery on one wrist and was afraid I was going to have to have it on the other as well. But Tai Chi offers great overall conditioning. I don’t have any symptoms because I am constantly working my arms and wrists and hands.”


“I’ve had two hip replacements and I wasn’t very sure of my balance when I started Tai Chi. I used to walk with a cane to keep upright. Now, I can go up ladders with no problem.”


“After a season of Tai Chi in Marathon, I looked for a group near my home in Virginia. I drive 45 minutes to practice Tai Chi in a botanical garden. It’s worth it. I have a whole new community of Tai Chi friends. We are on the same plane when it comes to health and supporting each other.”


“I’ve always been a fit person, but I used to be a ‘no pain, no gain’ type of exerciser. This has really helped my flexibility. One day, I leaned over and I could touch the floor. Progress is slow, but it happens.”


“Since staring Tai Chi, I’ve grown half an inch!”


“Tai Chi grounds me. And it gives my husband a chance to cook dinner!”


• OPEN HOUSE: Wednesday, May 3 @ 6:30 p.m.

• BEGINNER’S CLASSES: Monday, May 8 @ 6:30 p.m. and Wednesday, May 10 @ 6:30 p.m.

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