Stretching Senior Limits

Watch This Video
Windows Media

  The benefits of exercise are widely known. And increasingly churches have come to realize that strong bodies can help with a strong spirit. But where do you find something that gets the blood and the spirit flowing? A United Methodist church in Phoenix, Arizona may have the answer. Allysa Adams reports that at this church, Eastern meditation is melded with Western religion.  
 New Items | Additional Stories | UMTV Brief | Archives


Three times a week, church bells interrupt Tai Chi class at the First United Methodist Church in Phoenix, Ariz.

Instructor: “Remember, this is joy through movement.”

Parish nurse Robin Spencer started going through the motions of Tai Chi Chih with church members last year.

Robin Spencer / Teaches Tai Chi Chih: “I was looking for something that they could do in the way of exercise, in the way of strengthening, in the way of improving balance, in the way of relaxing, meditation, and it fit the bill for that.”

Tai Chi Chih is a simpler form of Tai Chi. There are just 20 movements or poses.

Instructor: “Relax your shoulders.”

It’s a moving meditation that you feel in your muscles.

Bruce Smidt / Takes Tai Chi Chih: “When I first started taking Tai Chi, I wasn’t doing any other exercise and I could really notice the physical aspect of it.”

Each movement requires the constant shifting of weight and balance. So it’s great for seniors who may be shaky on their feet.

Robin Spencer: “It lets their own bodies strengthen and improve on knowing where they are and what their muscles are doing.”

The mind also gets a workout. Tai Chi Chih translates as “knowledge of the supreme ultimate.”

Instructor: “Let your fingertips connect with God.”

Judy Murphy / Takes Tai Chi Chih: “Some of the poses you are feeling God coming to you—when you’re circling with your hands.”

Instructor: “Graceful conclusion. Take a breath.”


Tai Chi Chih can be adapted to fit people of all physical abilities. In fact, you can even do much of it sitting in a chair. One 80-year-old woman who takes the class says she used to fall all the time, but since starting Tai Chi a few months ago she hasn’t fallen once.