After 20 years of teaching, Meredith Robbins can quickly rattle off the benefits of practicing tai chi.“People can expect better balance, deep breathing, relaxation, the muscles being toned and cultivated in a non-strenuous way, improved internal organ health, improved mood — and that is just in one session. If you do it regularly the benefits multiply,” Robbins said.
Mention tai chi and the image of someone slowly performing a series of rhythmic movements may come to mind. Tai chi chuan, which means
“supreme ultimate boxing,” is an ancient Chinese exercise originally created as a fighting art but practiced today as meditative fitness.
Robbins, 69, teaches T’ai Chi Chih (pronounced tie chee chuh), a series of movements and poses based on tai chi chuan but simplified and removed from the martial arts. The name means, “knowledge of the supreme ultimate.”
While forms of tai chi chuan are centuries old, T’ai Chi Chih was created by the American Justin Stone in 1974 as a way for anyone to achieve the same effects quickly, she said. The main focus is a heightened awareness of the flow of personal energy, also called qi (pronounced chee).
“Most people feel the benefits right away,” said Robbins, a former lawyer who became certified to teach the form in 1987.
There are two sides to tai chi and other intentional forms of movement, like yoga, said Robbins, who practices both. There’s the outer, physical layer and then there’s the internal experience.
“Some people grasp the innerness right away, some don’t,” she said.
Robbins teaches T’ai Chi Chih regularly at the Lewiston Community Center. Some of her students have been coming for years to join the group in performing the gentle, flowing movements with poetic names like Bass Drum, Passing Clouds and Holding Up Heaven.
One way T’ai Chi Chih differs from yoga is that people don’t stretch to their end point, said Robbins, who teaches 10 of the form’s 20 movements in six week sessions. While people are encouraged to pre-register, there is also a drop-in fee for those who are curious to see what the class is like.
Robbins turns 70 in April but moves with the ease of someone decades younger, evidence that she continues to reap the benefits of practice.
If You Go
What: T’ai Chi Chih
When: 11 a.m. to noon Fridays, Jan. 12 through Feb. 16
Where: Lewiston Community Center, 1424 Main St. Cost: $50 single, $45 each for two people signing up together, $10 drop-in fee
Of note: Pre-register through Lewiston Parks and Recreation, (208) 746-2313, or in person at the center. Robbins will also teach sessions in March and April.