Fight Stress With El Centro's Free Tai Chi.
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Fast facts on Tai Chi with El Centro College.
• Degree of Difficulty Scale For Beginners: 2 out of 10.
• Calories Burned in an Hour: 200.
• Muscle Soreness After The Fact: 2 out of 10.
• Location: Klyde Warren Park, 2012 Woodall Rodgers Freeway, Dallas, TX 75201.
• Classes Offered: 8 a.m. every Saturday.
For those of you unsure about what Tai Chi is, don't worry: You're not getting up at sunrise to go engage in some crazy martial arts fighting above the highway on a Saturday morning. Tai Chi is actually the form of Chinese martial arts that allows your body to relax and rejuvenate before or after performing Kung Fu. And, yes, young grasshopper: It's totally cool to practice Tai Chi even if you don't have designs on training in Chinese combat. Technically speaking, Tai Chi is a form of action meditation, which allows the student to focus on breathing and body movement in order to clear the mind. It also provides many healthful benefits such as stretching joints and muscles, stimulating balance, coordination and mental focus, and promoting general well-being. The fact that it's free and that it takes place in one of the most popular parks in town overlooking the sunrise is just an added bonus.
Klyde Warren Park is known for many things. But being a quiet, serene place to perform a relaxing meditation is not one of them — well, except at 8 a.m., apparently.
During our visit, the park was absolutely empty except for the few who decided to show up for the early morning workout. The silence around the park allows the soft noise of moving traffic beneath you to be heard, which, paired with the sun coming up over in the distance, was pretty nice, really.
As for the class itself? It began with a bow from Michael Braitsch, the Yang-style Tai Chi and self-defense instructor at El Centro College. Braitsch comes from a 12-year background in Kung Fu training from the Academy of Kung Fu & Tai Chi in Ohio.
Yang-style in particular is a slow, repetitive form of Tai Chi, and Braitsch was careful to go over the different movements of the style slowly, making sure the whole class understood the motions and worked at the same pace. As time passed, late arrivers started to show. By the time the class ended, a large crowd of people all moved in unison.
Beyond the workout itself, it made for a hypnotic visual — yet another appealing element of this workout.
“All of my students are so busy and stressed out, and it's easy to want to ramp it up and move faster,” Braitsch says. “But Tai Chi forces you to slow it all down. Since it's so low-impact, people can get into it without falling apart the next day.”
This free class offered every Saturday morning is only a preview of what El Centro College has to offer as Tai Chi goes.
Located at 801 Main Street in Downtown, El Centro College is a great resource for continuing your education, and the school offers many types of physical education classes, too, each of which are open to the public through a partnership with the YMCA. Among some of these options? Yoga, weight lifting, running, personal training, self-defense and swimming.
Each class costs around $50 to $60 per semester, and, as a student, you're allowed full access to the school's gym. These classes are a great resource to get yourself working out again after losing motivation or becoming overwhelmed by other aspects of your life — and much cheaper, we might point out, than joining a more traditional gym.
At any price, though, El Centro's weekly Tai Chi class would make for a great, relaxing way to start off your weekend and a fine place for putting all of those stressful weekday worries away for a while.
That it just so happens to be free is the icing on the cake.
Overall, I'll give El Centro Tai Chi a C.