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Great Escape: Tai Chi in the Park

Start your day with some slow controlled movements to improve your balance, flexibility and memory

Each Wednesday, the Great Escape is about offering one great idea to give yourself a well-deserved break to help you feel refreshed and centered. The concept is to prevent burnout by creating a sense of renewal within yourself so that you can bring that renewal back to your family life.

Last week’s humdinger of an escape involved both energetic dance and healing waters at the . This week’s Great Escape is closer to home and also easier on the wallet — in fact, it’s FREE — but still manages to be both energetic and healing.

Every day of the week except Sundays, a small group of individuals meet at near the San Miguel Way entrance from 8:15 to 9:30 a.m. to practice the healing arts of tai chi (often called “meditation in motion”) and qi gong (mindfully cultivating your life energy) with John Pell, an instructor with 40 years of experience. Anyone interested can participate. You can stay for the whole time or come and go as you need.

In John’s words, “We emphasize the classical principles of relaxation of the muscles, relying on the tendons and ligaments to maintain the skeletal structure. This allows for the circulation of blood and energy through the body.. .. It is an excellent complement to other exercise practices. A basic premise is the mind controls the body. The individual sets his own goals and the knowledge he wishes to attain. Each will take what he needs from the class. ...Slow deliberate movement allows the body to work through restrictive sticking points as well as resolve mental blocks. ... Tai chi movement comes from the core of the body as in yoga or Pilates." 

Janice Keating, a youthful early sixty-something, began studying in the park with John about a year ago after she learned about it through word of mouth. “My balance has improved and my flexibility. The slow, controlled movements work all the different little muscles around my hips, feet and knees. The mental, memory improvement has been great, too — learning something while you’re moving — it works."

Ignatius Chan is a devoted tai chi student who’s been joining John in the park two or three times a week for the past three years. Now in his late 50s, the trim retired research scientist had a stress-related heart attack seven years ago. He was in pretty good shape then, he tells me, but stressed out. He enjoys John's classes because they “get me out in the morning, refresh me and connect me with my culture and heritage.” (Chan was born in Hong Kong but has lived in the U.S. since the early 1970s). “I tried to learn (tai chi) as a teenager,” he tells me, “but I didn’t have the patience."

See how powerful slow and easy can be and give it a try one of these mornings. Tell John that Patch says hi!

Side note: If you are interested in alternative tai chi opportunities in Novato, check out the new class at the Marin MOCA. The first tai chi class with Gloria Matuszewski started this morning (8:30 a.m. March 16), but following are five more weekly Wednesday classes at 8:30 a.m. for $55 for MOCA members and $65 for non-members. The registration deadline is March 17. Contact the Marin MOCA office for more information at 506-0137.

Christine Koenig March 17, 2011 at 01:09 AM
John is a great instructor! I started last Sept but had to stop with work and other commitments. Thx for this article and a great reminder for me. I hope I can find an a.m to return to Miwok!
GraceAnn Walden March 17, 2011 at 03:51 PM
What is MOCA?
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) March 17, 2011 at 04:52 PM
MOCA stands for Museum of Contemporary Art. If you haven't seen Marin MOCA at 500 S. Palm Drive in "downtown" Hamilton, you should stop in. The place adds a lot of culture and beauty to our city.
Ignatius Chan March 19, 2011 at 07:20 PM
John is a great instructor. The instructions are low key and informative. Taichi practice is a wonderful way to start the day, in addition to its health benefits.
S.Y.S. March 23, 2011 at 03:10 PM
Agree with Ignatius, John is great instructor. I learn so much in just two morning with him. Now, I just need to practice :-) I hope there will be more people can join him in the morning.
Walter Olson February 16, 2012 at 07:00 AM
Just a note that John and his group continue Monday thru Saturday, 8:15 to 9:30 am. He provides great support to beginners. I fully agree with comments above. John says: "... learn under the trees. Come and see how you can benefit. All ages welcomed; learn for health, improved balance and movement, self defense skills"
Sarah Sally February 27, 2012 at 10:08 PM
Are you still meeting at Miwok Park for tai chi?
S.Y.S. February 27, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Yes, John will be in the park, Mon. - Sat. 8:15 - 9:30am or so, except rainy day. Please come to join us.

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