It might be hard to imagine students and faculty at the University of Georgia Miller Learning Center practice the ancient Chinese martial art of Tai Chi, but that is exactly what happens every Monday morning at 8 a.m. in the North Tower.
M. Kathleen Kern, director of the MLC, and Susanna Wu-Pong Calvert, the former director of programming at the Office of Faculty Affairs, started the Tai Chi class in fall 2018. They wanted the class to be “open to everyone” so they made it free, Kern said. Calvert provided funding for the instructor out of her budget at the Office of Faculty Affairs.
Kern and Calvert chose Tai Chi as the subject of the class for several reasons; one being they felt inspired by the environment of the North Tower.
“In the mornings, it's a very quiet space with a lot of light and we wanted to have an activity that was a physical and mental activity but wasn't a work out you'd do at Ramsey,” Kern said.
Kern and Calvert also chose Tai Chi because they wanted the activity to raise people’s heart rates but not give them a reason to sweat and need to change their clothes after the class. They also wanted an activity that could help people focus their mind and body to help them with their studies, Kern said.
The class usually consists of two to six students and faculty members. Only a couple people have attended the class for multiple semesters due to students’ changing schedules, Kern said.
Since the class is at 8 a.m., Kern said her and the Office of Faculty Affairs are considering changing the time so more people may feel inspired to attend. Kern and Calvert chose to start the class at 8 a.m. because it would allow people to arrive to class and work on time.
“Perhaps Monday morning is a little too close to the weekend,” Kern said.
Patty Riehm, a certified Tai Chi instructor, knew Calvert before instructing the class. Riehm teaches CPR for Children's Healthcare of Atlanta as her day-job. She began doing Tai Chi in 1995 and studied with her teacher for five years in Lawrenceville, Georgia at the Unitarian Universalist Church. After her teacher said she was ready to teach, she began teaching the class her instructor used to teach for nearly 20 years alongside a couple other people before moving to Athens in 2015.
“Because that meant leaving my Tai Chi community behind, it meant I needed to establish a new Tai Chi community here and the only way I could do that was to start teaching a class,” Riehm said.
Riehm began teaching the class at the MLC since she wanted to find people to practice and train with.
Kern had spent a month in Shanghai and saw people do Tai Chi outside in the mornings but had never participated until starting the program at the MLC. She now enjoys attending the weekly Monday classes because it gives her a break from work by forcing her to concentrate on the movements and “be in that space and learn that focus,” Kern said.
Kern also enjoys the emphasis on improvement rather than perfection. In addition, it allows her to concentrate on her core and balance and teaches her to feel more aware of her body and how it moves.
“I think that's good as well, especially for a person like myself who's a little tense,” Kern said.
The Health Center is hosting a BeWellUGA Pop-Up event on the second floor of the MLC on Monday, Dec. 9 from 10-11 a.m.