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Taking the Tai Chi challenge

REDFERN: Yvonne Mayer has for many years enjoyed regular Tai Chi exercises. At 11am each Wednesday during school terms she meets with fellow practitioners, mostly middle-aged men and women, for an hour-long session in Redfern Park. The free classes are led by Master Alex Galvan. Experienced practitioners and beginners are welcome.

“In 2014 my knee gave out and I made the decision to stop dancing,” Ms Myer explained. “I was already doing Tai Chi – the movements are calmer and smoother than dance moves – so it made sense to focus on that.”

Ms Mayer said: “My interest in Tai Chi and Qi Gong [traditional Chinese exercises designed to improve the function of specific organs and to treat illness] goes back a long way, to India and to yoga actually, learning to be more mindful, looking and being aware of myself and the space around me. I have always been interested in Eastern philosophies and self-reflection.”

The Wednesday classes take place in the sun, close to the fountain in the park. If it’s raining the group meets under cover behind the Park Cafe. Participants are advised to wear comfortable clothing and flat shoes (bare feet is fine).

Alex Galvan has been training in martial arts, hard and soft, for over 30 years. He has been teaching for more than 20 years. With connections to the Sydney Vision Health & Harmony Centre, the Tai Chi Australia Association, as well as SHARE (Learn for Life), he is passionate about Tai Chi as an exercise that increases personal energy, improves health, and allows individuals to control both their mental and physical responses to stressful situations. “My satisfaction is in being able to share this experience with others,” he said.

In 1997 Mr Galvan was instrumental in organising the inaugural Global Energy Field Tai Chi Festival, now an annual event in Sydney attracting thousands of people. The festival is held concurrently with the Global Energy Field Seminar and is supported by the City of Sydney, the Royal Botanical Gardens and The National Association for Gentle Exercise.

For the past six years Mr Galvan has been a judge of the Peaceful Challenge Program, established to promote Tai Chi in Australia and to raise funds for the Australian Cancer Research Foundation. In November 2016 he completed an intensive course of study at the World Nam Wah Pai Federation in Singapore. His instructor there was the renowned Master Sim Poh Huat, himself steeped in the teachings of Grand Master Wu Tu Nam (1881-1989).

Mr Galvan was recognised as Master of the Year and included in the Martial Arts Hall of Fame 2013 in Torino, Italy.

“After an hour or so of Tai Chi, I feel – I’m getting older now – really glad to have made the effort,” Ms Mayer laughed. “I feel encouraged to keep caring about my body, to appreciate my body and to honour it – not to disregard it. I feel relaxed and healthy. I feel embodied.”

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