|By Lori Szepelak
Reminder Publications submitted photo
SPRINGFIELD While stationed in Japan with the United States Air Force Reserves, Michelle Grassi discovered Tai Chi one day while on a leisure drive during leave.
"I saw some local farmers in their field and noticed their movement," Grassi said during an interview with Reminder Publications. "I stopped to find out what they were doing and started practicing with them."
The family of rice paddy farmers in Misawa had a ritual approximately 40 minutes of Tai Chi at sunset.
"We communicated the best way we could and by the fall harvest season I was helping them with their fields," she said.
Grassi's journey in the art of Tai Chi, Qigong and body work at the age of 22 while on that military tour stayed with her because of the intimate blend of self-awareness and the movement of energy she experienced.
"I became intrigued with the relationship between nature and the body, life force and the ability to use this energy or 'Qi' to aid in mental and physical health and in the process of healing," she said.
Today, Grassi's practice is directed toward using and teaching Tai Chi and Qigong to build health, to exercise, and for rehabilitation purposes.
On April 27, World Tai Chi and Qigong Day will be observed globally, and Grassi, Ritch Ryan, and Heather Duncan, all Tai Chi instructors, will lead a free event from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Warner School on Boston Road. If the weather is optimal, the event will be conducted in the playground area; if it is raining, the event will be conducted in the gym. Water and light refreshments will be available.
On the last Saturday of April each year at 10 a.m., tens of thousands in hundreds of cities, in more than 70 nations, come together ... to breathe together ... to provide a healing vision for the world. The health education event's motto is "One World ... One Breath."
The Chinese call life energy Qi (pronounced chee). The character for Qi is also the character for air or breath. Qigong (pronounced chee kung) means breath work or energy exercise. Tai Chi is a moving form of Qigong.
"Tai Chi is a moving meditation," Grassi said, noting that there is no age limitation to attending, and Tai Chi is especially beneficial for young adults. For individuals attending with young children, it is necessary for the children to be supervised.
"There is no physical restriction when doing Tai Chi," Grassi said. "Participants can sit down, can stand, can lay down or sit in a wheelchair."
Grassi notes that Tai Chi is a centuries old art form and is now one of the most popular exercises in the world.
"Tai Chi is a low-impact exercise, not a strenuous muscle-building program," she said. "Tai Chi is easy to learn and is taught in a relaxing manner."
Grassi emphasized that Tai Chi is an effective way to improve one's overall health, well-being and fitness.
"Tai Chi is beneficial mentally, physically and emotionally," she said. "Tai Chi increases flexibility, reduces stress, improves one's posture and fitness, and helps individuals sleep better."
For individuals seeking a way to "realign themselves," Tai Chi is one strategy to consider, according to Grassi.
"Tai Chi is an exercise system that can be adapted to ever-changing levels of time, health and fitness," she said.
Grassi, owner of The Pillars Massage and Body Work, 2703 Boston Road, Wilbraham, is also a commercial pilot with the Westfield Flight Academy. Her classes on Tai Chi and Qigong are ongoing and private and corporate lessons are available.
Pre-registration is recommended for the event, which is open to the public. For more information, call 636-3205.
For more information on Grassi, visit www.pillarsmassage.com.
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