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Starting a movement: Fighting stress, pain with Tai Chi

July 11, 2013
By MEL TOADVINE ( , Lehigh Acres Citizen

If you're having problems with stress, body aches and maybe sleep problems, among other things, Don Espiritu just have a "fix" for you. He's a Tai Chi instructor who offers classes for members of the Lehigh Acres Senior Center on Plaza, which is sponsored by Lehigh Regional Medical Center.

"Tai Chi is an easy and gentle way to fight stress," Espiritu said. "It involves different physical movements performed in a slow, focused manner that is fun for seniors and when we add music, it makes it that more pleasure to perform," Espiritu said.

He holds his sessions in the auditorium at the Senior Center and sessions at Veterans Park Recreation Center on day a week.

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Don Espiritu

If you're a member of the Senior Center, the hour-long session is free and some of his classes at the senior center auditorium are filled often with as many as 63 people or more. And he also has smaller classes.

"When we hold sessions at Veterans Park, members of the Senior Center are as usual free of charged. But if someone who is not a member of any age, they can still come and participate and pay $2 for the session. The money will go back to the senior center," he said.

Barb Byington, who has been attending sessions at the Senior Center for the past two months said she loves going and she loves the way it makes her feel physically.

"And Instructor Don is just great," she said.

Stella McCaffrey, another participant for at least six weeks now, started the "gentle workout" because she had knee replacement surgery and says it has helped her.

"I've been coming for about four or five weeks now," she said.

Helen Hull, another member of the Senior Center said it is a "fun class."

"I have arthritis and Tai Chi has really helped me to relieve much of the pain," she said.

Not only does instructor Don Espiritu believe the series of movements performed in a slow and focused manner is good for those who attend his sessions, but so does staffers at the Mayo Clinic who say on their website that if you looking for a way to reduce stress, consider Tai Chi (pronounced Tie Chee). Originally developed for self-defense, Tai Chi has evolved into a graceful form of exercise that's now used for stress reduction and a variety of other health conditions. Often described as medication in motion, Tai Chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements.

The exercises used in Tai Chi come from an ancient Chinese tradition that today is practiced as a graceful form of exercise. It involves a series of movements performed in a slow, focused manner and accompanied by deep breathing.

Local instructor Espiritu recommends it as a good activity to promote good health.

"It's a non-aggressive way to improve the way you are feeling. Each movement is a deliberate one and when we add music, it enhances the mood.

Espiritu, who lives in Lehigh, says he continues to take classes for himself in Fort Myers to keep up with learning new movements.

Tai Chi puts minimal stress on muscles and joints and it is safe for all age and fitness levels, Espiritu said.

Medical experts say Tai Chi decreases stress and anxiety, increases aerobic capacity, increases energy and stamina, increases flexibility, balance and agility, increases muscle strength and definition and some evidence indicates that Tai Chi also may help you sleep better, have a more powerful immune system, lowers both cholesterol and blood pressure and improves joint paint.

It is also recognized for improving symptoms of congestive heart failure, improving overall well-being in older adults and reduces risk of falls in older adults.

Tai Chi sessions at the Lehigh Senior Citizen Center are on Mondays from 8:15 to 9:15 a.m. and again from 1 to 2 p.m. On Wednesdays and Fridays, the hours are the same. Senior Center members and others who are not members may take the sessions at Veterans Park Recreational Center on Tuesdays from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

For more information or to join a class, you can just show up or call 239-405-0812 for more information.

Before coming to Lehigh, Espiritu worked in management and the banking profession and also restaurant management.



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