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Tai Chi for Better Balance
By Annette Langenstein, Staff Writer
Published in the February 12, 2015 edition

Melissa Sperry has been a registered nurse for 17 years and is currently active in community health. Part of her work is as a certified Tai Chi for Better Balance instructor. She and two others started a volunteer program about three years ago and recently they were asked to help the Area on Aging for Coos and Curry counties to expand their practice program in our communities. Starting out with just one class, they’re now up to eight.

Tai Chi for Better Balance classes are held in Lakeside, North Bend, Coos Bay, Coquille, Myrtle Point, Bandon and Gold Beach. Melissa also works at SWOCC as a nursing instructor, at Bay Area Hospital and at Bay Area Hospital Home Health. She just passed her board certification as a nurse coach and is also a certified wellness coach and home health educator. What a busy lady!

“I’m very surprised at how much interest we’ve had in our Tai Chi classes,” said Melissa. “We already have  people on a waiting list for our next classes. Tai Chi has not only been proven to reduce falls in the community, but it’s a very gentle exercise on joints that stresses the mind-body connection to health. As a whole health educator and nurse coach, I look at the whole body, and what each person can do to attain their goals. Tai Chi not only helps older people but it helps younger people focus on their balance and increases strength and endurance.”

Melissa Sperry is a registered nurse who teaches Tai Chi to many students on the South Coast.

Although Tai Chi initially started as a martial art, “The form that we teach is gentle, moving very, very slowly. To watch it in slow motion is like watching a ballet...it’s very beautiful.”
Melissa and her group of ten certified instructors have been teaching this art for about three years now. They teach eight Tai Chi forms that are designed specifically for balance. There are other opportunities in North Bend Coos Bay, and Coquille to continue learning additional forms, of which there are over 100. But Melissa’s teaching focuses on refining eight forms specifically for developing muscle strength and balance.

“We have some students that come to us that are used to using walkers, so we teach them Tai Chi while they’re sitting in a chair,” said Melissa. “We also have chairs for them to hold onto while they’re standing, and then of course they can just do the forms while standing, if they can.”

“We see a lot of women taking these classes, generally aged from 50 to 98,” said Melissa. “We are seeing more men join the class, and I have a couple of male instructors. A few of my women students have brought their husbands to class.”

“There’s one woman in the class who could barely walk when she first began, and now she could probably teach me,” added Melissa.

Stretching is done before and after each class, and instructors conduct balance tests to give them an idea of what the person’s risk for falls is. “We’re seeing about a 55 percent reduction in fall risk after a 12 week class,” Melissa said. “Tai Chi also helps with Parkinson’s disease and other neurological disorders, and with stroke victims. One of our instructors is a physical therapist who actually incorporates this into her own practice.”

“I would love to be able to come into local businesses and do a 10 or 15 minute Tai Chi session with employees...anything that can help the community to move and feel better would be wonderful.”

When I asked Melissa how her Shopper ads were working, she replied, “We’ve been advertising with the Shopper since last September. We’ve reached the whole community...it’s really helped us. I have more people calling me and saying ‘I saw your ad in the Shopper, tell me a little bit more.’”

I asked Melissa what she would like Shopper readers to know about Tai Chi for Better Balance. “To make a change in your life is hard. I would like people to know that there are opportunities out there to not only improve your health but there are people who will support you when you are ready to make a change.”

Interested in taking one of these Tai Chi classes? Give Melissa a call at 850-207-1469 and begin your journey to a more balanced life.

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