VNA’s Aging Well program to offer tai chi event as part of global effort

If you go …

What: "World Tai Chi & Qigong Day: One World… One Breath"

When: 9:30 to 11:30 a.m. Saturday

Where: Haven Community Center, 300 S. Sheldon Lane, Hayden

— The free event, presented by the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association’s Aging Well program, is a celebration of the exercise of tai chi. At 10 a.m., instructors will lead participants in the exercise, followed by presentations by Steamboat Springs doctor Jon Freckleton and Craig resident Mei Jenrich. For more information on the event and available tai chi classes, call Aging Well at 871-7676.

Breathe in, breathe out. Push out with the arms.

Such instructions are prominent in practicing the art of tai chi across the world, and the Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association plans to make the collective energy of the region part of a larger initiative.

The VNA’s Aging Well program will host “World Tai Chi & Qigong Day: One World… One Breath,” part of a worldwide initiative to celebrate good health. The event is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Saturday at the Haven Community Center, 300 S. Sheldon Lane, in Hayden.

Tai chi is a meditative exercise originating from Chinese martial arts which functions as a low-stress health practice, becoming popular in the United States starting in the 1970s.

This is the first year the VNA has taken part in the event, which was founded in 1999 by Bill Douglas and Angela Wong-Douglas and is celebrated at the end of April in more than 60 countries.

Johanna Hall, VNA administrative assistant, said the Aging Well program has seen a surge of popularity in tai chi and related exercises in Moffat and Routt counties.

“It’s totally cool how embedded in the community it is,” she said.

The tai chi classes offered through Aging Well are aimed at ages “50 and better,” but participants of all ages are welcome.

“Because of the popularity of tai chi, we had a younger group and we were able to integrate the age groups,” Hall said.

The same policy applies Saturday. The event is free, as are most classes offered by the VNA.

“A lot of the people we cater to are on a fixed income,” Hall said. “There are a million wonderful health reasons to come because if you’re moving and active, you can stay healthy for a long time.”

On a global level, the exercises start at 10 a.m. in New Zealand, with participants across the world passing along the energy from time zone to time zone.

For Northwest Colorado, the event will include a presentation of fan style tai chi by Craig resident Mei Jenrich and a speech by Steamboat Springs doctor Jon Freckleton about the benefits of qigong, the use of specialized breathing during exercise.

The idea of qigong, a component of many elements of traditional Chinese medicine, is what first interested Hayden resident Annette Zuber in tai chi.

Zuber, one of the instructors who will oversee the event, learned about qigong at a health demonstration while visiting her daughter in Arizona three years ago, and discovered tai chi when she returned home.

She became certified as a tai chi instructor through Dr. Paul Lam’s Tai for Health Institute about a year ago.

“I just fell in love with it,” she said. “I like practicing it, but I love teaching it and seeing the benefits.”

Zuber said she enjoys working with the members of the Aging Well program and seeing their progress.

“We’ve got people in chairs, people in walkers, and they all get into it,” she said.

Zuber is certified to teach tai chi for use in combating diabetes and arthritis.

Ron Wray, of Hayden, also received his certification about a year ago. He first took up tai chi two years ago as a form of exercise after retiring from his job as an industrial electrician.

“It stresses balance, coordination, strength and the mind-body-spirit connection,” he said.

Wray said senior citizens benefit from tai chi because it’s a practice that promotes “overall wellness.”

“I’ve seen people who have improved in their attitude because of it, and they’re generally happier,” he said.

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