Fitness Center offering T'ai Chi through September

  • Published
  • By David Poe
  • 71st FTW Public Affairs
A mandolin gently plays while the sound of a sweet breeze washes over students following the lead of an instructor who reaches for the sky with the fluid grace of a skilled ballerina.

The soft-spoken teacher asks them to breathe deeply and watches as the stresses of their days sail away.

This isn't a scene on a secluded, island beach - it's a lunchtime retreat at Vance Air Force Base. 

In a resurgence of holistic fitness offerings at Bradley Fitness and Sports Center, Team Vance is enjoying lunchtime T'ai Chi Mondays and Fridays from 11:30 a.m. to 12:15 p.m. through September.

Kellie Jensen, Bradley's fitness program coordinator, said bringing T'ai Chi to Vance involved a well-timed dose of good karma.

"I'm part of the IDS (integrated delivery systems) group on base, and we talk a lot about what's impacting people and how we can help them be more resilient," Jensen said. "Stress management, whether it's relationship-based or workplace-based, is always one of the top issues."

Vance's IDS working group represents a cross section of care agencies on the base who share best practices for comprehensive and cohesive service. 

Jensen said she was at lunch with Mary Cameris, and when she learned that she was an accredited T'ai Chi instructor, the stars aligned.

Cameris, who's taught Tai Chi classes for more than 10 years, said she's glad to lead mid-day sessions to help others retreat from workplace grinds.

"It moves the energy in your body (also known as your chi) through the organs of your body," Cameris said, "so you heal from the inside out. It helps with balance and helps bring a great piece of mind.

"Let's say you're having a bad morning, and you can't focus. Come to class, and you will go back to work in a much different place," Cameris said. "If I do my T'ai Chi at least three times a week, I'm a lot calmer and at peace - big things don't shake me up so much."

Bradley offers a variety of T'ai Chi that is called T'ai Chi Ch'uan, modeled for defense training and health benefits, although the practice is not a martial art.

Stephanie Ritter, Vance's base historian, has two weeks of classes under her belt. As a busy professional, she said she would normally have problems finding "me time" in the middle of the day, but Bradley's drop-in, low-impact classes suit her schedule and have benefits that stay with her well into the afternoon.

"This is a great way to get up and moving and away from the desk without throwing the rest of your workday off track," she said. "I keep going back because the movements are graceful, and there is loveliness to them."

Jensen said while T'ai Chi may not be a traditional fitness offering, its benefits can be significant in fostering a healthier Team Vance.

"It's a mind-body-spirit class" Jensen said, "and in the physical pillar of resiliency, which encompasses more than just exercise, it's important."

Cameris agreed and looks forward to seeing more students at Bradley.

"Do the movements - you won't do them perfectly at first," she said, "but if you relax, you will feel different by the end of the class. Just come once."