Whether you learn to practice tai chi under the trees or in a dojo, the physical and mental-health benefits are included either way.
Dr. David Orman plays many roles — natural medicine expert, teacher of natural health, marathoner, anti-aging supplement developer and martial artist.
And for the next few Thursday mornings at Oakland Nature Preserve, the Ocoee resident is sharing his 15 years of expertise of tai chi with anyone willing to join him.
“Tai Chi Under the Trees” is one of the newest programs ONP is offering to its members and guests. The current eight-week class takes participants under the preserve’s tree canopy, where Orman spends an hour teaching the art of self development using tai chi. The first class took place May 3.
“David called me, and it was something I had been thinking about, how much I would love to get another type of exercise program available for our visitors to come out and join us,” ONP Marketing Director Jennifer Hunt said. “So when David called me it just was like, ‘Wow!’ It just seemed like a perfect fit for the setting or the kind of feeling we were trying to get out here.”
THE ART OF TAI CHI
Mayo Clinic calls tai chi “a gentle way to fight stress,” and it also has been called “meditation in motion.” The martial art began as a way to develop self defense but over time evolved into a slower-paced form of exercise now used primarily for stress reduction.
“It actually is a combat art, and it started off as a combat art,” Orman said. “It’s the purpose or the intention behind it: You can teach it as a self-defense method or you can teach it as a self-development method, and I prefer the latter.”
The art of tai chi — short for tàijíquán — began in China hundreds of years ago, as early as the 17th century. However, it was first introduced to the United States in 1939. Since then, tai chi classes in America have become popular in hospitals, clinics and senior centers because of the form’s reputation for health and gentle exercise.
Tai chi involves a self-paced system of gentle physical exercise and stretching, during which each posture flows seamlessly into the next. It is low impact and puts minimal stress on muscles and joints, and health benefits include increased flexibility and balance, decreased stress and anxiety and improved aerobic capacity.
Although it involves breathing techniques, much like yoga, it is different in that it requires constant movement.
“I would describe it as a cousin to yoga, so to speak,” Orman said. “I don’t know much about yoga, but the little I do know is they utilize breath and more static postures, while we are more (about) breath and movement. There are more similarities (than not), and I think the end goal is very similar.”
Orman first began practicing martial arts when he was nearly 20 years old, beginning first with the “hard styles” like karate, which involve brute force and energy exertion.
But a few years later Orman found himself in San Diego, California, to learn acupuncture and Oriental medicine. His focus on and passion for natural health have caught on over time as he devotes himself to healing and advising people on natural medicine and overall wellbeing. In fact, he is also known as “Doc Wellness,” a nickname earned from his alternative-medicine blog as well as more than 17,000 Twitter followers and Facebook fans.
San Diego is where Orman first was introduced to tai chi. He trained heavily in California for a time, and after moving to Ocoee, he picked it back up.
“Teaching is my passion,” he said.
Hunt was one of the participants in the first Tai Chi Under the Trees class.
“Before I started it seemed a little intimidating, but once we began, it seemed like a perfect flow,” she said. “So the way David is working it step by step definitely relaxed me in the process, and I feel like this is something I could definitely do. I found it to be very calm. I’m really looking forward to doing this.”