Exercise typically is one of the top three New Year's resolutions each year, and ancient China can help with that.
Tai chi, a Chinese meditative exercise, offers a way to improve balance, flexibility and concentration while reducing stress, stiffness and pain.
"Tai chi is very different from Western exercise in that it is smoother and focuses on coordination and balance," tai chi instructor Gurney Bolster said. "It was originally a martial art, so the emphasis is on moving efficiently with the least exertion of effort.
"The strength of it comes from knowing how to move with ease instead of brute force."
Ms. Bolster, 63, of Mt. Lebanon is a certified instructor through the Tai Chi for Health Institute and the Arthritis Foundation. She teaches tai chi in the integrated medicine program of West Penn Allegheny Health System and also is a registered dance therapist.
Tai chi is slow-moving yet challenging, she said, and can be rewarding for all ages and fitness levels. It is recognized for helping to prevent falls, lowering blood pressure, balancing blood sugar, strengthening the immune system and elevating mood.
"Tai chi is a very relaxing, calming form of exercise that builds strength, flexibility and endurance," Ms. Bolster said.
The mind-body exercise is characterized by slow, fluid movements that continuously change shape and direction.
Traditionally done standing, tai chi relies on core strength and spatial awareness to maintain upright posture.
"It is similar to yoga in its mindful aspect, but different in that we don't lie on the floor, or hold static postures, or bend or twist," Ms. Bolster said.
Advantages to tai chi are that it requires no equipment and little space and can be done alone at home or in a group class.
Ms. Bolster said her "movement journey" began when she was a child climbing trees and rolling down hills, followed by gymnastics and diving and encouraging her peers to get out on the dance floor at the teen dances.
She began studying a form of tai chi as a young adult while embracing contemporary dance. She earned a master's degree in dance therapy, which uses movement to enhance emotional, cognitive, physical and social well-being.
"Tai chi embodies a vast wealth of knowledge about functional exercise, mindfulness and wellness such that the curious-minded person will never finish learning and benefiting from its practice," she said.
Ms. Bolster will instruct a beginning course in tai chi from 10 to 11 a.m. Mondays, Jan. 14 through March 4, at Baldwin Borough Public Library, 41 Macek Drive. Cost: $50. Register by Jan. 11: 412-885-2255 or email@example.com.
She also will teach Tai Chi for Health for beginners and advanced students at various times on Tuesdays and Thursdays, Jan. 8 through March 19, at St. Paul's Episcopal Church, 1066 Washington Road, Mt. Lebanon. Cost: $60 to $100. Registration or information: 412-480-4492 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Margaret Smykla, freelance writer: email@example.com.