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Taoist Tai Chi classes in Skaneateles help with medical issues, physical recovery

Carol Anne Gallagher, front center, leads the Friday morning "healthy recovery" Taoist Tai Chi class at the Skaneateles First Presbyterian Church. The class focuses on assisting physical recovery for those healing after surgery or fighting physical ailments such as Parkinson's Disease or circulation problems.

Carol Anne Gallagher, front center, leads the Friday morning "healthy recovery" Taoist Tai Chi class at the Skaneateles First Presbyterian Church. The class focuses on assisting physical recovery for those healing after surgery or fighting physical ailments such as Parkinson's Disease or circulation problems. Photo by Jason Emerson.

— Every Friday morning a group of local people come together in the community room of the First Presbyterian Church of Skaneateles to help themselves, and each other, move … slowly.

They are people of all ages and genders, but they typically have one thing in common: a need for physical health maintenance, improvement and recovery. There are people with Parkinson’s disease, scoliosis, heart problems or those recovering from hip or knee replacement surgery. And they come together on Fridays to undertake the ancient martial art of Tai Chi.

“We’re here to help people help themselves. Our focus is on health — improving people’s health,” said Carol Anne Gallagher, a certified Tai Chi instructor who started the Taoist Tai Chi Society of Skaneateles in 2000.

“Anyone can do it, that’s what’s so great about it,” said Caroline Widas, a beginning instructor of Tai Chi who has been practicing for about seven years. “You can even do it from a wheelchair.”

Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese martial art typified by slow, deliberate movements and is based on muscular coordination and relaxation. It is believed that focusing the mind solely on the movements helps bring about mental calm and clarity, reduce stress, promote balance and increase flexibility. The Taoist Tai Chi set consists of 108 movements that are described as gentle, continuous and circular.

“It just keeps you healthy. It’s about mind and body as a partnership, that must work together,” said Gallagher, who started practicing Tai Chi in the 1990s and began teaching it in Skaneateles in 2000. “At first people come because of the physical activity, but they immediately find how much it entails their minds.”

The Taoist Tai Chi Society of Skaneateles is a small, community-based group — part of the Taoist Tai Chi Society of Syracuse — that meets four to five times a week in the community rooms of the First Presbyterian Church on East Genesee Street, and, during the summer, they can be seen by the lake in Shotwell Park performing their slow, measured movements.

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