TAMPA – It doesn’t matter how old you are.
Just keep moving.
That’s the idea behind the Tai Chi Qigong classes offered at the Town ‘N Country Senior Center, 7606 Paula Drive. The classes run on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. Nydia Laplante runs the classes two days a week. She says the classes aren’t about martial arts fighting – this form is more about relaxing. To bystanders, it looks like standing yoga mixed with some pretty strenuous exercise.
The classes average about 15 people a day and it’s a happy group that watches Laplante intently.
Laplante, at first, wasn’t a willing participant. In 2006, her parents “dragged” her to the center to become involved. She got into the Tai Chi program and eventually took over. She liked the fact that there wasn’t a lot of impact, just a way to keep moving and get the blood flowing.
“We aren’t there to try to feel physical and hurt anyone,” Laplante said. “It is just a way to exercise in a different way and move. Simply breathing is the most important thing. Anyone of all ages can do it.”
Unlike some martial arts, there is no contact. This is an art about stretching and movement, balance and breathing. Laplante said those factors are very important to the seniors.
It is also about working on muscle tension in a way that is not high impact. Laplante doesn’t push her students hard. With music playing quietly in the background, she leads her group through slow movements. It’s a comfortable scene and there is no shouting and yelling. It’s a serene situation that students say they enjoy.
The students can do the exercises standing or sitting as long as they keep moving. Laplante said she has students that are in their 90s. They come in all shapes and sizes and the regulars are devoted to the program.
“We have some people who drift in and out but we have a lot of people who are here all the time,” Laplante said. “It’s a relaxing slow exercise. It’s a little like Zumba. It’s great for people working on their blood pressure or their heart. It’s also a lot of fun.”
For more on joining the Tai Chi Qigong classes at the Town ‘N Country Senior Center, call (813) 873-6336.