Tai Chi Revolution encourages positivity through movement

Looking to stay active this winter? Tai Chi may be the workout you have been looking for.

The studio is well-lit, and the open space is clearly designed for gymnastics or dance classes, maybe even karate. But this space is now being used for a different type of movement, one much slower and group-oriented. An ensemble of 12 laughs and sips hot tea, chatting about the heavy rain outside.

Eventually, all line up in orderly rows and “commence tai chi.” They follow the leader’s instructions — “Step up, deflect, parry, punch; Right foot kick; Strike tiger at left.” — all while another instructor helps correct individual posture and movement among the rows. Everyone in the room feels a peaceful energy flowing through the studio as they move in synchronized pushes and pulls. This is the revolution.

“Tai chi is another way of tuning into the life force.”
-Katrin Naumann, yoga instructor

The close-knit group of the Tai Chi Revolution of Syracuse has been together in this space at 2817 James St. for just over a year, and is now looking to expand. As the winter approaches and people start looking for ways to exercise indoors, the group has been holding more open houses and beginner lessons. A first class will teach newcomers about the core movements — there are 108 in total — that create the foundation of the ancient martial art.

Raquel Romeo, a member of the group, started practicing tai chi two years ago when she realized she had trouble balancing.

“I did lots of exercise all my life,” Romeo said. “But if you're living in Syracuse, especially in the winter, you don't do anything if you don't ski — and I don't. So I started tai chi, and I really enjoy it. I think my balance has improved.”

Upon hearing that, Ellen Ford, one of the instructors, crouched over.

“Oh, your posture is amazing,” Ford said. “You used to bend over like this. Now you’re up straight. Raquel is a champion.”

Tai chi usually appeals to an older crowd, people aged anywhere from their 50s to their 80s, because “it looks gentle,” Ford said.

“It is gentle. But it is also really intense and over time you gain strength, flexibility and avoid injury. If we all did it when we were younger, we wouldn’t be having joint or back problems.”

For this reason, Ford says that tai chi should be strongly considered by athletes of all ages and anyone who regularly does physical activity.

Tai chi is known as a martial art, based in ancient Chinese philosophy. Many, however, believe in a spiritual aspect, an energy that flows through the body called qi. According to the Harvard Women’s Health Watch, tai chi is believed to encourage the flow of this energy. Tai chi is also said to help maintain the balance of the yin and yang, the two conflicting energies throughout the universe.

Ford, whose nervous system was “high-tuned” prior to joining the tai chi school, said the practice helped her calm down and be less of a perfectionist.

“I can be in the middle of a movement and wing-it or lose my place, and that's fine because we all do it. That's what I love about tai chi — it's a moving meditation that works on the body, mind and spirit.”

Before organizing at this location, various members of the group met in parks and other studios scattered throughout Syracuse. Now that the Revolution has its own space, D.C. Kapilla, the school’s owner, said she’s seen members of the group connect with their bodies in ways they probably haven’t since they were kids.

“Now we're at the point where everybody moves in the same direction at the same time,” she said. “There's a flowing grace to it that's just magnificent.”

There is something magnificent in the way such a small group of individuals from different backgrounds, beliefs and professions can meet — some as often as four times a week — and laugh, move and heal together. Ultimately, the group is having fun, said Marygail Perkins, who after just two years practicing tai chi is now an instructor at Revolution.

There is no competition and no contract, and there are no belts. Members pay $40 a month and can attend as many sessions as they want.

“It’s a very nice, encouraging group of people,” Perkins said. “It’s not a place where people get into serious discussions. We’re all here to relax.”

Katrin Naumann, a yoga instructor, came to Tai Chi Revolution to complement another Chinese exercise she studies called qigong. “The underlying principles of moving energy through the body are all the same,” Naumann said. “Tai chi is another way of tuning into the life force.”

In yoga, this force is called the prana, and the disciplines inform one another, she said.

The Eastwood studio used to belong to the Taoist Tai Chi Society, and before that it was a karate dojo. The studio has a lot of martial arts energy in it, Kapilla says, which helps make it a positive space for the group. While Revolution hopes to grow in membership, it has no plans of moving. The members all agree it is a special place — that every person who has walked through the studio’s doors has experienced some form of healing.

“It could be physical, emotional or healing at any other level,” Kapilla said. “There is space here to do it.”


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