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Mind-body meld: Free tai chi/Ki Gong classes help seniors

The tai chi/Ki Gong classes at Atria Sunlake, 3250 S. Fort Apache Road, may be popular with the residents at the senior living facility, but now the general public is also welcomed.

Olga Loi, activity director at Atria Sunlake, said the senior living facility began offering tai chi to residents in the summer and that it proved quite popular. Back then, it was available only once or twice a month. The instructor is Mitch Menik.

“Mitch came to me and said the USSD (United Studios of Self Defense) wanted to sponsor him here once a week, and I thought it was a great idea,” Loi said. “The residents really enjoy experiencing different kinds of exercises.”

The weekly classes began at the end of January and are slated for 10 a.m. Tuesdays. Loi said tai chi and yoga classes are especially popular with baby boomers at Atria Sunlake.

Why open up the free classes to the public? “Because we wanted to do something for the community as well,” she said. “We’re very appreciative of the school of self-defense to offer it to us, so for us, to give back is a good idea.”

Joseph Moll has been a student of Menik’s for almost a year and said he likes that Menik changes things up with each class. He said he couldn’t say enough good things about him.

“When you reach our age, you’re just treading water,” Moll said. “Mitch comes in, and we all start swimming.”

Vicky Isenbletter of Spring Valley has been taking classes with Menik for about three years and said she likes his technique.

“It’s very rewarding, and I get vibrations and colors and things at meditation time,” Isenbletter said. “I’d follow him anywhere.”

Her husband, Hugh, said he found it stimulating and invigorating. He said if something kept him from being at class, he’d feel like he was “missing something.”

Menik works with people’s health issues, showing them how to do the exercises the best way for them. Another woman, Lena Dorsey, has had two surgeries, one of which installed a metal plate in her back. One longtime class member had a stroke that paralyzed his left side.

“So, we’re working on that,” Menik said. “What he can’t do, he’s visualizing. When you visualize, you reconnect the neurons so that, eventually, you can do that. He’s coming along pretty good. His sister is coming out the end of May, and his goal is to give her a great, big bear hug with both arms.”

Class began with the soulful sound of a Native American flute, which set the mood in the facility’s multipurpose room. As people entered, they embraced in hellos. Some arrived pushing walkers. One woman had a power chair.

Twenty people filled the room, and the class began with attendees shaking out their hands and feet. Those who could stand did, but many residents remained seated. That progressed to tapping on the top of the head and around the face, a way to release tension. Next came tensing up major muscle groups, then releasing them.

The next 25 minutes were tai chi forms adapted for those who could not stand. With each one, Menik used visual prompts –– “Imagine the space two inches below your belly button”; “Spread your feet apart like you’re horse riding”; “Wring yourself out like a wet towel”; and “Keep your spine perfectly straight.”

Helping participants “see” what they were doing affected the body, he said. He said the mind doesn’t differentiate between visualizing an activity and actually doing it. So, by doing either, the muscles benefit.

Along with visualization, Menik is a strong supporter of oxygen healing the body. He read a quick excerpt from “The One-Minute Cure” by Madison Cavanaugh, which promotes the same concept. Intaking oxygen is not the total key to the ability to heal oneself, he told the class; it benefits the body only if the cells are open to receive it. Tai chi forms, Menik said, allow a person to relax, and then one’s cells can better receive and make use of the oxygen.

“When you take a breath into your body, oxygen comes into your cells and restores and heals you, right?” Menik said. “The problem is, a lot of time we’re tense, we’re stressed, the body is on a high state of alert, and the mind is on a high state of alert. So, when you take a breath in, you’re not getting much oxygen into the cells, but if you can relax all the way down to the cellular level, and that’s why you meditate and do these exercises, you can relax. And when you take that breath in … it gives you energy and restores you back to your state of perfect health.”

Loi said if many people show up, the class will move outside to the courtyard.

Participants should wear comfortable clothing and are welcome to bring their own yoga mat.

For more information, call 702-256-6500.

Contact Summerlin/Summerlin South View reporter Jan Hogan at jhogan@viewnews.com or 702-387-2949.

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