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Classes help improve mind, body and spirit

This week's What's Up Wednesday looks at the Timmins tai chi group

An Eastern philosophy is having a positive impact on a group of Timmins residents.

The Timmins branch of Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi members gather regularly to exercise their bodies, mind and spirit. While they initially tried tai chi for various reasons, they enjoy the benefits of the non-violent martial art.

“The benefit is that everything relaxes. It’s called a moving mediation,” explained Shirley Calhoun, a co-leader of the Timmins branch. “But it also has stretching, it has repair of different things. It helps your back. It helps your eyes. It helps you to just mellow out.

“There is a meditative aspect to it. It’s a wonderful art.”

Taoist tai chi grew out of the ancient Chinese belief that health comes with the body, mind and spirit working together. According to the organization’s website, tai chi involves “deep stretching with a full range of motion and continuous turning of the spine. They exercise the whole physiology including muscular, skeletal and circulatory systems, as well as tendons, joints, connective tissue and organs.

“The gentle, internal movements are balanced throughout the body and have a calming effect on the mind.”

Taoist tai chi is marking 50 years in Canada.

“In 1970, the fellow who actually started this came from China and his name was Moy Lin Shin,” Cahlhoun said. “He got it started in Montreal first, then he came to Toronto.

“We’ve got over 40,000 people that part of the society and do tai chi. We’re in 25 or 26 countries. If you become a member here in Timmins, and you travel to, say, Costa Rica, you just bring your little card that says you’re part of it all, then you can do tai chi there free.

“Once you’ve become a participant in one place, you’re all over the world.”

A little more than 20 years after coming to Canada, tai chi arrived in Timmins.

“The Timmins branch actually started around 1991-92,” she said. “There was a fellow from around North Bay, his name is Ron Dankovich, he was a continuing instructor and he came up to Timmins, got everybody started and showed what they had to do.”

The Timmins branch began with about 15 members.

“Right now, we have 75 members on the books,” Calhoun said. “It’s hard to get started, you have to have enough population.”

Members come to the branch for a variety of reasons. Some come to get more physically active, in a gentle way. Others seek a venue for meditation. Others want to find pain relief.

Membership is open to all age groups.

“There is no criteria (to join),” she said. “You just come in and we show a demonstration. We usually have an open house, where we show what we do and we answer questions. If they want to sign up, we sign them up and they can come the next time.

“All you need is a pair of loose pants, a pair of shoes that are flat that you wear inside only, we give you a t-shirt and that’s it.”

She said there are also social benefits to joining the group.

“We have a lot of fun,” Calhoun said. “We have games night sometimes. We do have a lot of fun.

“We’re open to all age groups. We’ve even had an eight-year-old come out with his mom.”

The Timmins branch of Fung Loy Kok Taoist Tai Chi has ongoing, beginners and pain relief classes ongoing at the Masonic Hall, 35 Tamarack St.

It can be reached at 705-268-4300, on their website, or on Facebook.