Participant Stories

Life Begins Again for Tai Ji Quan Class Participant


“It takes a village to raise children, but it takes a state to take care of older adults, and I’m in the right state.”

Participants in Tai Ji Quan class by the lake

When Chris walked into the office at Northwoods Partners in Ely, MN, she was timid, shy and hiding behind a mask. “With no family and friends in the Ely area, I had become isolated, and had lost my self-esteem,” Chris recalls. I was a shell of myself, and at one point I was admitted to the hospital. That’s where I found out about Juniper’s Tai Ji Quan class at Northwoods.” Chris had done yoga in the past and saw Tai Ji Quan as a comfortable way to get out of the house and go learn something new. “It felt safe to me.”

“When Chris came to us, we were two weeks into our Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance class,” says Candy Schindele, programs manager at Northwoods Partners. “But when she asked to join it, I knew she had to start right away.”

Candy arranged a ride for Chris to and from class, so she didn’t have to worry about getting there. It was the first of many acts of kindness that Chris would experience at Northwoods Partners. “I couldn’t believe someone cared enough to pick me up for class,” Chris says.

“It gets me out of the house on Tuesdays and Thursdays, and I get fresh air because the classes are outside by the lake when it’s nice out.”

2 participants in Tai Ji Quan class by the lakeChris says Tai Ji Quan has helped strengthen her body and her mind. It has drawn her out of isolation and into a group of supportive people. And with Candy as her instructor, Chris is at ease. “I’ve strengthened my leg muscles, and my balance has increased,” Chris explains. “I no longer see myself as a falls risk, and I’m losing weight from the exercises. And because of the breathing exercises, I’m no longer short of breath.”

Some of the people in Chris’ Tai Ji class are stroke survivors, and she points out that they do the exercises in a seated position. “It’s a non-judgmental environment,” she says. “The idea is to move your body and use your mind. All of this supports your emotions, including going to your happy place while you’re breathing, something Candy encourages us to do.”

After two rounds of Tai Ji Quan beginner classes, Chris is considering moving to an advanced class. She has gained the strength she needs to tackle the house projects that have been on her agenda for a long time. “I’m painting,” she says with a lift in her voice. “I never would have had the stamina to do this before. I’m also getting back to sewing and doing yoga.” The best thing about Chris’ Tai Ji Quan class is that she now has a support system of people who care about her.

“Chris has blossomed,” Candy says with enthusiasm. “She is a highly educated, brilliant and strong woman with thoughts, opinions and stories to share. The Chris I met six months ago would never have done anything like this. She was worried if people in the class would like her, and now the group of like-minded people she’s found have become caring friends.”

“I had to miss a couple of classes due to health concerns, and my classmates were worried because I wasn’t there. Some of them called me,” Chris says in amazement. “I have friends now, and we’re going out to dinner and to the farmer’s market. We’re also going to presentations that are teaching me more about the town I live in. It’s more socializing than I’ve done in 20 years.”

Candy is grateful for the transformation. “Chris is an amazing woman, and the Tai Ji Quan program connected her with friends, including me. She has transformed her life and is improving the lives of older adults through volunteer work.”

Candy proudly reports that Chris plans to train as a registered Tai Ji Quan instructor, with a desire to help seated participants get the full benefit of the class. “She will continue to move forward with confidence, doing things she’s never done before.” Chris agrees, and says with a chuckle, “It takes a village to raise children, but it takes a state to take care of older adults, and I’m in the right state.”


Learn more about how you can benefit from Tai Ji Quan: Moving for Better Balance here.

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