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Tai Chi Class Offers Unique Workout
Changing Lives
The Tuesday morning Tai Chi Chuan class shown here participates once a week to enjoy multiple benefits and is taught by experienced instructors at the Community Center in Riverbank. VIRGINIA STILL/THE NEWS

With there being several different options to get a good workout, finding the right fit may be keeping people from starting an exercise routine. Something for all ages with students young and old, T’ai Chi Ch’uan instructor Mary Layton invites everyone to give this slow paced but very health beneficial form of Chinese martial arts a whirl.

As a Riverbank resident, Layton wanted to share her skills and Tai Chi expertise with the community and is now offering a class every Tuesday morning from 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.

There is a small charge, a $5 fee for the class at the Community Center in Riverbank.

“I think what I feel is that sometimes people are scared to try something new and I just want them to know, come to one class and see how you feel,” said Layton. “You don’t have to stay for the entire time even. At least you had a chance to experience something wonderful that otherwise you would completely miss just because you thought I am not good enough or I can’t do this.”

Practicing T’ai Chi for over 30 years, Layton and her partner Naser Ataee are owners and instructors at the Modesto Tai Chi Academy in Modesto that opened in 1995.

T’ai Chi was originally designed for self-defense but it has been cultivated into a series of slow movements that improves memory, mindfulness, digestion, calmness, and strength.

“I think basically I decided this is my exercise for the rest of my life,” stated Layton. “It is not an exercise where you can really hurt yourself which is a good thing.

“It is a Chinese martial art that was originally designed for self-defense and then later people discovered the numerous health benefits.”

There is no music to help with the meditative aspect of the martial art and is a tool for self-awareness along with strengthening the entire body, as it helps tone every muscle, reduces stress and calms the nerves.

“For the most part it is a chance to become quiet without any kind of outside stimulus,” added Layton. “It takes a little patience to learn but if you come every time you will learn faster than you thought.

“At a more advanced level students will learn the self-defense aspect of Tai Chi.”

Interested parties do not have to wait for a session or the beginning of the month to try Tai Chi; if you are a beginner then they will start you from the beginning and slowly teach you the entire routine. Layton explained that every movement has a martial arts application and at times they will show the students so that they will understand that it is not just a dance movement.

People interested in Yoga would find Tai Chi compatible but they do not sit on the ground.

“I think Tai Chi is a total exercise covering all aspects of the human experience,” expressed Layton. “It’s emotionally very strengthening and because you become aware of your own spirit in that sense it also has a spiritual element and the energy that you feel when you step together with everyone at a certain time, it is just really a wonderful experience to be all on the same page and doing these circular beautiful movements; it just gives you a feeling of wellness and happiness.”

A student since March of this year, Vic Calbreath has been attending the class in Riverbank and has also added a few classes at the Modesto academy in the evenings. He explained that he had an injury a few years ago which incapacitated him and he had to build his confidence back up along with his stamina and strength. So he started going to Tai Chi classes at the institute in Modesto run by Layton and Ataee where he began to build his confidence back up, strengthened his legs, which he said now allows him to go hiking with his kids. After circumstances caused him to stop the classes he was very excited to see that Layton came to Riverbank to teach.

“As soon as I found out she was the instructor here I ran,” expressed Calbreath. “I ran down; to get this type of almost one on one instruction for $5 a day is amazing.”

Calbreath said after taking the Tuesday and Thursday night classes at the Modesto site, he has also started focusing on weight loss and has so far, in cooperation with other programs, lost 50 pounds.

“We follow the student and we are very patient instructors,” added Layton. “Everyone learns at a different rate and we very much follow a person’s ability to learn so if they learn faster we teach them a little faster, if they learn slower we follow that speed.”

Being able to enjoy hikes with his kids and being able to walk around Disneyland without any problems has been huge for Calbreath.

“Absolutely come down, don’t wait until the next week or the week after, come down next Tuesday,” stated Calbreath. “We will be here, we will show you, we will talk to you, we will help you, and it will change your life.”