Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Seniors Move in Ancient Chinese Discipline; Tai Chi Classes Are Part of the Offerings at the Just-Opened Players Center

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Seniors Move in Ancient Chinese Discipline; Tai Chi Classes Are Part of the Offerings at the Just-Opened Players Center

Article excerpt

Byline: MAGGIE FITZROY

They extended their arms up and across their bodies, as if picking fruit off an imaginary tree.

They slowly twisted their hands in front of them, then pulled back, as if pulling a door open by the knob.

Standing straight, knees slightly bent, they reached down and "lifted the moon."

"Don't worry if it doesn't look or feel beautiful at first; it will," instructor Dennis Sheils told the seven students in his Gentle Tai Chi class at The Players Senior Community Center Thursday.

"You promise?" student Pat Stephens asked.

"I promise," Sheils said.

The hour long class, offered Thursday mornings at 10:30 a.m. for $5, is one of many new classes available to Beaches-area seniors at the community center.

Since the St. Johns County Council on Aging facility's grand opening May 8, seniors have embraced a variety of classes and events offered there on a free or small-fee basis. The center, paid for in part with a contribution from The PGA Tour, opened during the week of this year's Players Championship golf tournament.

Attendance has been steadily growing since the opening, said Julie Wright, program manager for the Council on Aging.

Offerings include a writing class, acrylic and watercolor painting, storytelling, digital photography, line dancing, social bridge and other exercise classes.

Tai Chi, also offered Wednesdays and Saturdays by another instructor, is a slow-moving dance-like exercise that helps improve energy, balance, flexibility and blood flow.

Sheils said the ancient Chinese discipline also helps practitioners "feel good inside."

Since the class is open to seniors with a variety of physical abilities, he adapts it to meet the needs of all who want to take part.

Some students stood behind chairs so they could hold onto the backs for support; others did the exercises while seated.

"You want to think about expanding your muscles as you breathe," Sheils said as he began with "cleansing breaths," breathing in softly, slowly and deeply. …

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