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Tai Chi Class Offers Many Benefits to Woman

March 19, 2019

A few members of one of the Tai Chi classes demonstrate the smooth, continuous movements of the ancient exercise. From left, Brenda McGuire, certified Tai Chi instructor, Jo Ann Brand, Pat Korell Bishop, Sharon Kummer, Myrne Marshall and Kim Riley.

McCook, Nebraska—Pat Korell Bishop has found the Tai Chi class in McCook is offering more benefits than she may have expected.

Pat grew up around Culbertson and graduated from McCook, moving to Colorado where she worked for thirty years. A car accident a few years ago “messed up” her back making it very difficult to get around. Two years ago she decided to retire, returning to McCook due to the high cost of living in Colorado. At first, it was difficult to return to her roots, but she found the Tai Chi class offered by Community Hospital has helped.

Due to her back injury, Pat walks with a walker. The only way she could do household chores and cook was to sit in a chair to do as much as possible. She stayed home most of the time because she didn’t know a lot of people and it was difficult to get out.

About a year ago, things started improving. A neighbor, Jo Ann Brand, invited Pat to the FROG* (Fitness Reaching Older Gens) and Tai Chi classes sponsored by Community Hospital.

Pat has discovered the Tai Chi classes are helping her physically. She has become stronger. Although she performs most of the exercises in a chair, which is completely acceptable for Tai Chi, she has progressed to standing up to do some of them. At home she is now able to stand up and do her vacuuming. Her arms have gotten stronger, and “I’m working on my legs,” she said.

Tai Chi has been good for her balance as well. “My core muscles were pretty much non-existent,” she says. “I have a long way to go, but my balance is improving.”

“Tai Chi (pronounced “tie chee”) is a type of exercise that originated in China,” explains certified Tai Chi instructor, Brenda McGuire. “It is an effective exercise to improve health and wellbeing. Tai Chi exercises the entire body, all the joints, muscles and internal organs and at the same time, strengthens the mind. The movements are slow and gentle. It is sometimes referred to as ‘meditation in motion’ as it promotes tranquility through gentle movements, connecting the mind and body,” she added. “Tai Chi is enjoyable and it makes you feel better about yourself,” she said. “When you feel good about yourself, everything else gets better.”

“Brenda is an awesome leader,” Pat expressed. “She makes it so much fun. She’s an easy person to get acquainted with and makes you feel very welcome.”

Making new friends is another benefit Pat has gained. “It makes me get out more,” she said, explaining she definitely enjoys the new friendships she has made in the class.”

The final benefit Pat mentions is a lifestyle change, saying Tai Chi has made her feel less anxious and more calm and peaceful. “I can get real stressed out,” she says, “but when I get home, I can close my eyes and still hear the music.” She added that the class has helped her with her breathing which makes her more aware of her body.

Now Pat keeps busy with activities. On Thursdays, she and Jo Ann start the morning with a FROG class and then attend a Bible study. They barely have time for lunch before attending another Bible study. The day ends with a Tai Chi class. “It makes time go faster,” she said. “I wish all the days were like that. It makes you feel better about yourself.”

More about Community Hospital’s Tai Chi Classes

In 2017, Community Hospital sent Brenda as a hospital employee to Tai Chi for Health Institute classes in Sioux City to become an instructor. Under instruction from Dr. Paul Lam, family physician, Tai Chi expert and founder of the institute, she became certified in Tai Chi for Arthritis, Tai Chi for Arthritis Part 2, Seated Tai Chi for Arthritis and Tai Chi for Arthritis for Fall Prevention. She since added to he r training and became certified in Tai Chi for Diabetics in July 2018. “As a diabetic myself, I am very serious about helping other diabetics,” Brenda added.

The art of Tai Chi uses six essential principles. Outward movement includes slow, smooth continuous movements as well as gentle resistance. Body structure includes posturing (imagine a Golden Thread holds your head to the sky), and awareness of weight transference. Finally, internal movement includes what is called Song—relaxing and opening up your joints and gently relaxing them from within, as well as Jing—paying attention to your body and the movements you are making; being aware of your surroundings, but focusing on what you are doing.

Tai Chi can help reduce stress and anxiety, and improve energy, stamina, muscle strength, balance, flexibility and agility, Brenda said.

Each movement performed has an interesting name like Single Whip, Embrace the Tiger, Push the Mountain, Brush Knee, Play the Lute and Repulse Monkey. The movements performed together in a specific way during relaxing music are what bring the benefits to those who suffer from arthritis and other health problems.

Tai Chi classes for diabetes and arthritis are held every Monday and Thursday at 6 p.m. at the McCook Evangelical Free Church. There is no charge for the classes but attendees must be a Sterling Connection member, become one, or be recommended for the class by a medical provider or physical therapist. For more information about joining the class, contact Brenda McGuire at 308-345-7081 and leave a message with your name and phone number.

There is no charge to become a Sterling Connection member through Community Hospital. Members are 50 years of age or older. To receive an application, contact Sarah Wolford, Community Hospital Outreach and Wellness Coordinator at skwolford@chmccook.org or 308-344-8550.

*The FROG program was developed by the Southwest Nebraska Public Health Department.

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