Meditation in motion: Students say tai chi offers way to relax and heal
One by one, they come forward with their testimonials.
Their pain is gone. Their balance is better. They feel stronger than ever before.
One no longer walks with a limp. Another said it's made her a better dancer.
"I probably wouldn't be here," 76-year-old Ronald Andrash said. "I was on dialysis and it got me off of dialysis."
They’ve come to Green Harbor Park on this sunny Saturday to spend two hours practicing tai chi, often described as meditation in motion, under the guidance of Morris Burch, who's been practicing and teaching the mind-body practice for decades.
To passersby, it may look like they are walking aimlessly in circles, hands in the air, but the slow, choreographed movements can help improve one's overall health both physically and mentally.
Burch is used to skeptics. Some of his students were that way initially because, as he puts it, he's not "a man in a white lab coat."
"It's all very subtle," said 35-year-old Truth Hunter, who began practicing under Burch in January. "It's easy to quit in the beginning. I didn't always make that connection, how your mind is really connected to your body or how your mind can direct your body to heal, to calm down."
Hunter has been a dancer for years, "so the body part is there," but tai chi has helped her become more mindful and to know the difference in her body when she feels stressed versus when she feels relaxed.
"I couldn't tell the difference before and now I can do something about it," she said. "I may need to stop, meditate, breathe."
Burch, who practices martial arts daily, said it's changed his life. He has watched as his friends age and their health decline while his has improved.
"I am 64 years old and I'm stronger and more powerful than I've ever been in my life," he said. "I exhaust kids at 64."
Burch began studying martial arts at the age of 16 in the parks of Brooklyn, N.Y., and instantly took to the discipline involved in the practice. In the mid-1970s, he relocated to New London and eventually opened up his school, Health Healing Martial Arts.
A tall man with a deep voice and positive disposition, Burch knows his students' strengths and gives them individual assignments to work on. He's taught people of all ages, including a longtime program for New London students. Many have connected with him through the city's senior center like 82-year-old Armand Lambert, or the "The Kid," as Birch refers to him.
Lambert has practiced with Burch for four years and said the deep breathing exercises and other skills he's garnered have helped improve his posture and balance.
"I can catch myself," he said. "In the past I would fall. Now I can catch myself. It takes time. You have to do it slow at first."
If you go
Classes are from 10 a.m. to noon Saturdays at Green Harbor Park in New London, and from 5 to 6 p.m. Thursdays at the pavilion next to Green Harbor Beach in New London. Contact Morris Burch at (860) 287-4968 for more information.
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