Nurturing a stressed mind

Photos courtesy of Susette Jenkins. Lao Shi Susette Jenkins says she has been teaching tai chi for more than seven years.
Photos courtesy of Susette Jenkins. Lao Shi Susette Jenkins says she has been teaching tai chi for more than seven years.

For students seeking to nurture their over-processed brains, there are easily accessible places in town to “escape from it all” in a healthy manner — at least for an hour.

The Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture and Massage Therapy/Oriental Healing Arts Center offers free community tai chi and meditation classes Saturdays and Sundays from 9-10 a.m.

Susette Jenkins, a “lao shi” (“teacher” in Mandarin Chinese) at the center, said tai chi is a Chinese form of s low, meditative physical exercise designed for balance and health.

Jenkins, who has been teaching for seven years, said tai chi helps correct posture and strengthens the body by optimally using its energy.

She said by learning proper breathing techniques, one’s overall social and mental health could improve. By breathing through the chest, the lungs are not fully used and the breathing is more like hypoventilating, which constricts blood vessels and decreases overall oxygen delivery to cells in body.

Jenkins said rather than being tense and clamming up during times of stress, breathing properly through the abdomen helps one learn how to be open, relaxed and communicate better socially. Oxygen also flows properly to the brain, which decreased stress levels. The way you walk and carry yourself improves as well.

“I used to be very rigid and stomp. Now I’m more soft and graceful. Tai chi has had a significant impact on my life,” Jenkins said.

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The center offers a myriad of classes, such as free juicing seminars and in-depth tai chi lessons. They also offer healing services, such as acupuncture.

Visit http://www.akinstitute.com for more information.

Students who would prefer another form of meditation with less movement can check out Meditate in Alaska.The group meets Mondays 7-8:30 p.m. at the Namaste Yoga Studio.

Rick Zelinsky, UAA saxophone instructor and Yamaha performing artist, teaches there. He says though they accept $8 donations per class, they will not turn away those who cannot pay.

Zelinsky said the group is a branch of the Kadampa Mediation Center in Seattle. He said the meditation they teach is New Kadampa, a special presentation of Buddhist teachings that originated in India more than 2,500 years ago.

Buddhism is often mistaken for a major religion. Zelinsky said the benefits from Buddhist teachings are something universal that anyone can embrace through meditation.

“Some people may think meditation is a selfish act, but it’s all about learning to control your mind and increasing our capacity to help others,” Zelinsky said.

Meditation produces balance, harmony and a clear mind, among other effects.

Zelinsky said he teaches people to look past short-term gratification, like alcohol or junk food, and strive toward happier lives.

For more information about Meditate in Alaska, visit http://meditateinalaska.org.

Photos courtesy of Susette Jenkins. Locals practicing Wu-style tai chi in Beijing Park, China, where Susette Jenkins studied. Jenkins brings her experience from China to student in Alaska.
Photos courtesy of Susette Jenkins. Locals practicing Wu-style tai chi in Beijing Park, China, where Susette Jenkins studied. Jenkins brings her experience from China to student in Alaska.