The last thing students want to hear is “exercise.”
Who has time for it anymore? Study breaks are usually made up of
dates with the television, cat napping, or the luxurious option of
doing absolutely nothing.

Laura Wong
Patrons of the temple pray at a meditiation service.
Laura Wong
A statue of the Buddha, complete with flowers lying at its feet, sits at the Zen Buddhist temple on Packard Street. (ALI OLSEN/Daily)
Laura Wong
Instructor Wasentha Young practices Tai Chi at the Peaceful Dragon School. (Ali Olsen/Daily)

Tai Chi, an ancient Chinese martial art, may be a better
alternative for fueling stress into productive energy. This
low-impact, emotionally stimulating workout alternative is just the
thing to get us off the couch, even if it is just for 15
minutes.

Chris Luebbe, an LSA academic advisor and an instructor of Tai
Chi, has experienced the life-altering effects of this ancient form
of relaxation. Though he has practiced Tai Chi for five years,
Luebbe has been a certified instructor at the Peaceful Dragon
School at 1945 Pauline Boulevard for one year. The School offers
classes at the Beginner level, which instructs students with little
or no experience, and at the Intermediate and Advanced levels for
more trained students.

“The primary benefits include stress-reduction,
relaxation, physical balance and body awareness,” Luebbe
said. Although most of his students are adults from their mid-40s
through their mid-60s, the Tai Chi instructor would recommend all
interested students to come and test out the techniques. Luebbe
also cites increased flexibility and a general sense of well-being
as additional advantages of the Tai Chi workout.

Between finding enough sleep and studying for exams, Tai Chi may
be the best substitute for exercise because it doesn’t demand
much time. A simple 15 minutes in the morning or before bed may be
all that’s necessary to finding your center and maintaining a
calm state of mind.

For serious Tai Chi-ers, the Zen Buddhist Temple at 1214 Packard
Street offers a variety of courses and workshops that focus on
meditation and the path to finding inner peace. This calming
Victorian house is the ultimate setting for practicing Tai Chi.
Fenced off from the street, the temple’s surrounded gardens
enhance the serene and inviting atmosphere. Weekly meditation
services are held on Sundays, at 9:30 a.m. and 4 p.m., but the
grounds are always open for those wishing to meditate.

Tai Chi instruction has also been recently added to the
selection of U-Move classes held at the Center Campus Recreational
Building. Taught by instructor Richard Miller, the basic principles
of Chen Style Tai Chi are offered on Tuesdays and Fridays for
one-hour sessions.

Miller, who has been practicing Tai Chi for more than 12 years,
says that this type of exercise, which involves extremely slow
movement of the muscles, is a great workout for increasing back and
leg strength. In addition to toning these muscle groups, Miller
said, “Tai Chi can help people focus and to find their inner
balance.”

Though U-Move Tai Chi has held just three classes, Miller hopes
to get a better response from undergrads, advising that it can ease
tension by obtaining a meditative condition to the mind.

Miller instructs at the beginner level, and encourages anyone to
try out the class. The registration fee ranges from $78 to $84 and
includes 14 weeks of training.

Bethany Cencer, a Music graduate student, signed up for Tai Chi
at the CCRB because she had been interested in the techniques of
the sport.

“I was always curious about Tai Chi when I saw people
practicing outside. The class enhances body awareness and has
revitalizing effects on the soul. It’s my one hour of
enjoyment.”

Hoping to reduce pain in her fingers from tendonitis, Cencer
also hoped this type of workout would help her stay relaxed.

Master Wasentha Young, primary instructor at the Peaceful Dragon
School, says Tai Chi has healing effects for those suffering from
arthritis because it loosens the joints. Studies have shown that
Tai Chi may also help those with high blood pressure because the
movements increase blood circulation. And because Tai Chi relies on
low-impact techniques and are conducted at such a low speed, even
those injured can partake in the workout.

Young, who has been teaching Tai Chi for 30 years, says people
with all abilities can partake in the workout and has taught
students anywhere from the ages of 16 to 78. “It’s a
life journey, something you can do throughout the aging and
maturing process.”

The Peaceful Dragon School offers a complete introduction to the
martial art through a three-course process. After students have
completed those courses, they may elect to join advanced courses
that specialize in Push-Hand Tai Chi, Tai Chi with weapons, and an
Applications course which examines the practice of Tai Chi as a
form of self-defense in everyday life.

Master Young gives Tai Chi demonstrations to the various
elementary schools and high schools in the Ann Arbor area. She said
that Tai Chi will be a required course for students in seventh,
eighth and ninth grade at Rudolph Steiner beginning in January.

Another advantage of this type of workout is that it
doesn’t demand special equipment. You can practice Tai Chi at
home, outdoors, or anywhere else that is essentially quiet to avoid
distraction.

What many people don’t know about Tai Chi is that, though
brought to the U.S. in the early 60s, it has been considered a
martial art for over 300 years. In the last half-century, more and
more people have started to practice these ancient techniques as it
as been given more attention by the media.

The thought of exercising is often associated with
time-consuming, strenuous cardiovascular workouts aimed at losing
weight. But an exercise like Tai Chi can be a more exciting way to
physically and spiritually work out, both relieving stress and
maintaining a healthy equilibrium within the body.

Because let’s face it; we need to make more time for
ourselves. Between making it to lecture and turning in papers, we
rarely consider our physical and mental well-being as even that, we
assume, takes time. But what’s 15 minutes or a half an hour
out of the day?

Whether it be Tai Chi, Yoga, or even a trip to the gym, your
workout of choice should be something you enjoy. The more pleasure
you get, the more inclined you’ll be to continue working out.
So the next time you figure you’ll take a study-break, skip
that Friends rerun, say no to cat-naps, and reward yourself with
the methods of Tai Chi.

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