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Cynthia Quarta began teaching seated tai chi about a dozen years ago when she worked at an assisted living facility.

She taught tai chi and other martial arts for years before that, but when she had students in wheelchairs she had to change her curriculum.

“Any standing was out of the question,” Quarta said.

Quarta designed a routine of tai chi exercises, integrated with qigong exercises, all of which can be done in a seated position.

Quarta got feedback on her seated tai chi routine, revised it and eventually published a book in 2001 called “T’ai Chi in a Chair.”

Quarta currently offers her seated tai chi classes at Paris Gibson Square, along with other tai chi classes.

The seated classes are popular with older students and those with disabilities.

Tai chi, usually done standing, originally was practiced as a combat martial art.

“A lot of people don’t realize that was its origin,” Quarta said.

Modern tai chi usually is practiced for its health benefits.

“Now it’s so often used as a health and wellness system,” she said.

Tai chi uses slow movements that help stretch and strengthen the body.

“It’s so gentle,” Quarta said. “It does work every part of your body.”

Qigong is an ancient Chinese healing practice developed in the sixth century by a Chinese doctor.

Quarta’s seated tai chi class starts with participants focusing on their breathing. Then they do exercises that include stretching their arms out in front of them and then sweeping them back, pushing their hands forward and setting their hands on their head and then raising and lowering them. The class also incorporates acupressure points and self-massage with a cool-down at the end.

Betty Qunell has been attending Quarta’s seated tai chi classes for about a year.

“It’s really good for your breathing,” Qunell said. “It’s just a nice, gentle exercise.”

Because of a past surgery, Qunell likes that the class is all done sitting down.

Quarta offers the seated tai chi classes Thursdays from 10:15 to 11:15 a.m. at Paris Gibson Square. The class is free, but participants are asked to sign in at the front desk.

For more information on seated tai chi or Quarta’s other tai chi classes, call 788-8938.

http://www.greatfallstribune.com/article/20110329/LIFESTYLE/103290306