Wanting to strengthen and improve balance, Alissa Goodman went for her first lesson in the ancient Chinese exercise of tai chi at Pollard Park and said it is wonderful, that the training is outdoors.

Another first-timer, Heather Hallett, 46, agreed it was nice to be outside.

As many as 60 people turn out on Saturday mornings for tai chi in the Park. Participants range in age from 20-somethings to some in their 80s, and sometimes families come with children.

Tai chi, which dates back about a thousand years in the Chinese culture, is for all ages and all fitness levels, said Brandon Jones, leader of tai chi in the Park and owner, president and chief instructor for Kung Fu and Fitness.

A new round of free 40-minute Tai Chi in the Park instructional sessions is being conducted at 9 a.m. Saturdays through April and will move to Rose Rudman Park in May.

Jones started Tai Chi in the Park because he thought it would be a good idea to do something in the fall and the spring for the Tyler community. It kicked off last September through October.

“So far, it’s very successful,” Jones said. “Anybody who has even thought they are remotely interested in tai chi, they need to come and check it out.”

Since Lina Hauk lives in the Pollard Park neighborhood, she decided to attend.

“I bought a tape several years ago thinking I would do it at home. I couldn’t teach myself. I need somebody to show me,” she said.

“If you’ve never done tai chi, you are going to have a great time,” the instructor, Jones, told Tai Chi in the Park participants at the start of a session.

Tai chi promotes balance, flexibility, better movement, stress relief, muscle tone and cardio, Jones said.

“It keeps the whole body healthy,” he said. “You will see benefits within just a few weeks of starting doing Tai Chi.”

Jack Brown, who has been doing Tai Chi about 18 years, was drawn to the park.

“It (tai chi) is very relaxing and for meditation. It makes life better for you,” he said.

Martha Orr said her bone density has improved since she started tai chi.

“When you are hiking, especially when you are hiking in rough terrain, you feel safer, much steadier and can go a longer distance,” she added.

Tai chi is “all encompassing,” Jones said, since it exercises the big muscle groups and lubricates the joints, the shoulders, back, knees, ankles and fingertips. It keeps the muscles active and the arms pliable and strong.

Tai chi also teaches participants to breathe deeply to keep them in a relaxed mode as they breathe in through the nose to warm and filter the air and exhale through the mouth while slowly performing exercises. The slow movements teach muscle control, Jones said.

Tai chi works the whole body and is the perfect alternative to jarring and pounding exercises when trying to get your body in shape, Jones said.

Most postures in Tai chi are named after nature or animals in the wilderness. Examples include, “hands through the waterfall,” “wise owl gazes back,” “turning the cloud” and “snake creeps down.”

Beginners start with simple movements, such as standing on their toes or rotating at the waist.

Jones directed participants to stand with their legs about shoulder length apart and let their hands come up slowly as they inhale and down as they exhale. They roll their shoulders back and then move their shoulders like a seesaw, stretching along the ribs, lower back and shoulder.

“You guys are doing fantastic,” Jones said as he encouraged them.

Participants graduate to advanced postures, such as standing on one leg and slowly kicking with the other leg.

Tai chi is a martial art, but Jones teaches the health and exercise aspects of Tai Chi rather than fighting.

If You Go

What: Tai Chi in the Park

When: 9 a.m.

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