Tai Chi Symposium in Harvey Cedars Cultivates ‘Integrative Arts’ Community

Sep 12, 2018
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The second annual HPL Tai Chi Symposium was held this past weekend at Maris Stella Retreat and Conference Center in Harvey Cedars, where registrants enjoyed tai chi/qigong workshops led by renowned experts in the field, as well as meditation, camaraderie and frivolity.

The two hosting organizations were Asklepios, an integrative health research group, and Taijiquan, a society of enthusiasts. Both come under the auspices of HPL (Health Prosperity Leadership) 501(c)(3) Institute, an umbrella entity under which 30 or so programs operate and of which CJ Rhoads is managing director.

Qigong, meaning “energy exercise,” involves movement, deep breathing and focused intention, Rhoads explained. The more specific practice of tai chi is made up of memorized sequences that are self-defense-oriented.

The health benefits of integrative health/arts (yoga, pilates, massage therapy) are increasingly being understood, and these practices are proven effective in treating ailments, such as chronic pain and post-traumatic stress disorder, and enhancing overall quality of life by lowering blood pressure, regulating cholesterol, aiding in breathing and digestion, improving balance and flexibility, and more.

Organizers scaled back the scope of the event this year by about a third, from 60 to about 40 registrants. The weekend included 16 workshops. Due to weather, “we had to mentally envision the sunrises and sunsets,” Rhoads said, but the gray skies did not dampen their spirits. The main goals of the symposium, she said, were to inform people, to maintain the closeness of the tai chi community and to share knowledge, skills and talents. In attendance were Bill Douglas and Angela Wong, the founders of World Tai Chi Day, a massive media event that begins in New Zealand at 10 a.m. on the fourth Saturday of April.

Rhoads has loved LBI since 1983, always renting in Harvey Cedars. While on her walks, she would always admire the Maris Stella grounds. She signed up for a silent retreat there and got on a waiting list to make a reservation. She had to wait two years. Her primary residence is in Yellowhouse, Pa., about a three-hour drive.

Her love of tai chi dates back almost as far as her history on LBI. Compared to when she started practicing tai chi 30 years ago, she said it’s “a whole new world” these days in terms of public awareness, government funding and a general sense of legitimacy.

Rhoads said she initially got interested in the art form for the endorphin rush and the competition aspects, but after a car accident in 2002, she began to understand it as a solution to mild brain injury and back pain.

In addition to teaching information technology and business leadership at Kutztown University, she has written nine books.

Rhoads is passionate about bringing this “esoteric martial art” out of the shadows, she said.

— Victoria Ford


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