Visitors of the Fairfield Senior Citizen Center have an opportunity to stay fit thanks to the efforts of volunteer Renée Erickson.
Erickson teaches a free class to seniors that involves stretching and sometimes dancing. It incorporates qigong, also known as chi gung, a Chinese practice involving flowing movements and deep rhythmic breathing designed to work the heart and lungs.
Qigong is related to another Chinese practice, tai chi, though qigong focuses more on health and meditation, whereas tai chi incorporates more martial arts.
The class meets from 11-11:30 a.m. the second and fourth Thursday of the month. That time was chosen because it?s just before lunch is served at the senior center.
Erickson leads the group in seated yoga and seated dance moves. If the group is more nimble, she will incorporate standing versions of those practices as well.
?These movements can have very quick health benefits, such as conditioning the spine, raising the heart rate even while seated, and even balancing like when we shift our weight from our left side to our right,? she said. ?These movements affect how we walk, too.?
She hopes seniors realize they can duplicate the movements while sitting on their bed at home.
?These movements are natural to life,? she said. ?They?re drawn from how infants go from embryonic movements to crawling and eventually to standing.?
She remarked that resident Candida Scharf has improved dramatically since she began attending classes.
?It has helped her with her balance, and given her a lot more confidence,? Erickson said.
The participants in Erickson?s class do the exercises because they want to be happier, she said. They want to build muscle tone, have more confidence in their body and get enjoyment from expressing themselves physically.
?It?s a return to innocence for them, a simpler way of life,? she said.
Erickson got connected to the senior center through John Miller, head of the Retired Senior Volunteer Program (RSVP) in Jefferson County. She met Miller at a booth in 2016, and she began wondering how she might be able to volunteer.
Mary Platt was teaching classes in tai chi at the senior center, but Erickson knew she was about to move back to New York. Miller suggested she could take Platt?s place and teach her own exercise class. Erickson decided to give it a shot.
Erickson was born in New York and grew up in California and Oregon. She lived in Fairfield off and on since 1975, and moved back here two years ago with her husband, Rolf. The couple came from Portland, where they both taught moving-to-heal classes.
?I became interested in tai chi in 2001 because I was seeking to improve my own range of motion,? she said. ?I had some limited mobility in walking at the time because of a car accident, and I thought these classes were a path to find pleasure in moving again.?
Erickson took classes in NIA, which incorporates martial arts, dance and yoga. It stands for Non-Impact Aerobics. The martial arts taught her precision, power and balance with kicks and strikes. Dance allowed her to be creative, and the yoga taught her about stretching and how to find satisfaction in holding poses for long periods of time.
She teaches NIA and yoga at The Raj in Maharishi Vedic City.