Tai chi provides strength and peace to those with Parkinson's

When you're being robbed at a snail's pace of walking and talking, there's no choice but to push back.

"Another name for Tai chi is 'shadow boxing'. You imagine that the life force is flowing through your body and it's healing your body," said Mary Blanchard as she instructed a weekly class at the Memorial Drive Presbyterian Church.

It is an ancient martial arts tool for a contemporary fight, providing those combating Parkinson's a means to build the body and a genuine method to rejuvenate the mind.

"When you think to do the movement that it re-trains the synapses, the nerves firing in your brain," explains Blanchard to her class of a dozen.

In it's deliberate and often elegant flow there is a collective grace delivered by this age-old discipline. It is a level of control welcomed by men and women, who because of their condition, often struggle to maintain mobility.

"I love the movements. It's helped me a lot with my balance," said Rosemary Keibler, a regular at the class.

"I would rather do Tai chi than anything else," said Albert Frank whose also challenged with Parkinson's.

Mike Strech says the mingling of mind and motion truly makes a difference coping with his condition.

"You got to know where you want to put your body and the position it is going to stop and the position of your hands and that takes brainpower," said Strech.

For Blanchard the gratification runs deep. She's guided the Parkinson's pack for five years and witnessed disability bend to Tai chi and sheer will.

"The power that made the body can heal the body, that's what I teach," said Blanchard.

Tai chi is just one of many lifestyle boosting therapies offered free of charge, city wide by the Houston Area Parkinson Society.

For more information on services: http://www.hapsonline.org/