A group of seniors are keeping alive the ancient Chinese art of Tai Chi in their weekly practice at the North Berkeley Senior Center. Under the instruction of Ben Levitan, 83, some 15 senior come together to achieve, what Levitan calls a state of “balance and relaxation”
Levitan has taught Tai Chi for 18 years in Berkeley and El Cerrito. With simple yet powerfully precise instructions, he helps his students learn the basic movements while having an enjoyable time.
With movements called Daughter in the Valley, Push and Pull, Pulling Taffy, Pulling Energy and Passing Cloud, Levitan helps students achieve a relaxed state. One becomes so relaxed that “she comes in and starts to yawn, and she yawns the whole hour,” said Levitan.
During class Levitan asks his students to lead certain movements and always has a keen eye on beginners, whose minor mistakes he corrects.
“You have to keep you hands apart,” Levitan often says. “You lose your energy when you hold your hands.”
“It’s a nice way to gain peace. It’s very relaxing, extremely so, for your mind. At the end of class, I feel at peace,” said Alex Esparza, a member of Levitan’s class for 11 years.
Although there are some very long timers, Levitan wants people to be aware that he has students of all levels and that everyone is welcomed. “These people who are doing Tai Chi, some of them have been doing Tai Chi for years, some are just beginners, “ he said.
Besides having a positive mental effect on the students, there are real physical ones as well. “The tingling feeling in your fingers is the increased blood circulation,” said Esparza. “There isn’t anything better for, us seniors, than to increase blood circulation.”
Levitan Tai Chi classes are every Monday from 1-2 p.m. at the North Berkeley Senior Center, 1901 Hearst, in Workshop “B.” For more information call 644-6107.