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Moving meditations

A look at Tuesday morning Tai Chi at the Cinnaminson Library

Instructor Stephen Steinhoff leads a beginner’s course in Qigong and Tai Chi Tuesdays at the Cinnaminson Library. Tai Chi and Qigong are slow, gentle forms of exercise that help increase energy, flexibility and balance.

Stephen Finn

The Sun

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If you come to the Cinnaminson Library on a Tuesday morning, follow the calming sounds of new age music and gentle instruction to its source and you’ll find Riverton resident Steve Steinhoff leading a sizeable group of locals in an ancient meditative practice made up of very slow but deliberate movements.

Steinhoff holds his regular introductory Tai Chi and Qigong class downstairs in the library meeting room most Tuesday mornings.

According to the American Tai Chi and Qigong Association, Tai Chi is a mind and body practice that originated in China as a martial art in the 12th century. A person practicing Tai Chi moves his or her body slowly and gently while breathing deeply and meditating.Tai Chi is sometimes called “moving meditation.”

Through his love of dance, Steinhoff eventually found his way to Tai Chi. Ballroom dancing began as a hobby for him 30 years ago and grew until he worked his way up to dancing competitively. One day, one of his teachers suggested he take Tai Chi as a good exercise to improve his abilities as a dancer.

“Once I got into it, I sort of got away from dance and got more and more into Tai Chi,” said Steinhoff. “I’ve always liked movement. There’s a meditative quality, a calming effect.”

According to Steinhoff, there are certain paradoxes inherent in the art of movement, like what he calls “stillness in movement.”

“The internal part of this is you can get in touch with a stillness within you, and even the movement feels like you’re standing still. It’s a way of drawing from the stress, the fast-paced life that we’re living today,” said Steinhoff.

Tai Chi is especially popular with seniors as a low-impact form of exercise that can improve balance, coordination and flexibility. According to Steinhoff, research has tied the practice of Tai Chi to reduced risk of falling and a significant improvement to quality of life.

“This is a form of exercise that doesn’t put stress on the joints or muscles so I think it’s ideal for seniors. It both energizes and relieves stress,” said Steinhoff.

Comparing Tai Chi to the more commonly known practice of yoga, Steinhoff says yoga is similar but focuses more on stationary postures and stretching.

“You’re also opening up the joints but by means of stretching and that can cause problems as you get older, you can overstretch,” said Steinhoff.

Karen Gilbert, a new addition to Steinhoff’s class, is a recent retiree who is devoting some of her extra time to practices like yoga and Tai Chi. Through these movement exercises, Gilbert has found benefits, such as loosening of the joints and improved balance.

Palmyra resident Annamarie May is another newcomer to the practice of Tai Chi. Aside from some initial soreness after her first class, she is optimistic about what Steinhoff’s class can offer her.

“I expect to get better balance from it and less aches and pains,” said May.

Steinhoff’s free class is offered on Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m. in the downstairs meeting room of the Cinnaminson Library. The next classes are scheduled for Jan. 29, Feb. 5 and Feb. 26. For more information, contact the library at (856) 829–9340.


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