Soon after Elizabeth Losa moved to Brooksby Village, the Erickson Senior Living community in Peabody, Mass., she was introduced to the Chinese tradition of tai chi, a serene form of exercise focused on uniting the mind and body through continuous movement.
“Back pain was keeping me from walking any distance at all, so I went to therapy,” says Elizabeth. “When I finished therapy—wonderfully relieved—the therapists told me I needed to keep up [with the exercises], so they suggested tai chi.”
Fortunately, a fitness staff member at Brooksby taught tai chi. After attending a couple classes, Elizabeth quickly discovered the health and wellness benefits of the low-impact, slow-motion exercise.
“Tai chi helps with balance, flexibility, and in my case, easing back pain,” says Elizabeth, who began leading Brooksby’s tai chi class in 2014. “I’m a teacher by profession, so naturally, I wanted to teach tai chi once I learned it.”
The fitness class grew in popularity as other residents recognized the benefits of the mind-body practice.
Change of leadership
By 2019, Elizabeth was ready to step back into the role of student, hopeful that a staff member would take over the class. She mentioned her thoughts to Brooksby’s resident life staff.
Pastoral Ministries Manager Rev. Chad Kidd heard Elizabeth’s request and thought of Rev. Judith Medeiros, the pastoral ministries associate at Brooksby.
“Chad thought tai chi might be of interest to me,” says Medeiros. “I teach meditation and liturgical dance at Brooksby, and I enjoy spiritual practices. Chad found a great program through the Institute of Integral Qigong and Tai Chi and signed me up for a week-long intensive. It was a huge gift to me and the residents.”
The process of learning tai chi gave Medeiros invaluable insight as she brought her acquired skills back to Brooksby Village residents. “When you learn something new, you have to be patient with yourself,” says Medeiros. “Like most people, I tend to think that I have to do something perfectly right away. I had to work on that—learning to relax and taking in what I could, little by little.”
“Now, when I teach it, I tell people, ‘This isn’t about being perfect; it’s about being in the movement and listening to your body.’ The attention to your mind, breathing, and movements releases tension and, overall, communicates to your body that you’re safe, you’re well, and energy is moving in your body,” says Medeiros.
Medeiros’ easygoing attitude allowed her to appreciate the beauty and life-nurturing qualities of tai chi. “Tai chi gives you a way to handle the stress of everyday living—through a calming and centering approach—that’s not hard to do,” says Medeiros.
Returning from her week-long intensive, Medeiros’s first two tai chi classes took place during a one-day “Revitalize Your Life” retreat at Brooksby Village, organized by the resident life staff in February 2020.
“I empathized with people who were trying tai chi for the first time, because I was still new to the practice myself,” says Medeiros. “I realized just how much learning can take place when you’re open to new things.”
During the pandemic, Medeiros led beginner-level tai chi classes outdoors to maintain safe social distancing, ensuring residents were given the opportunity to engage in the gentle, stress-relieving exercise during such uncertain times.
“When you become a teacher, tai chi has to become your practice,” says Medeiros. “It has to become part of you. The benefits of tai chi were fully revealed during the last challenging year. Having that practice has been a real gift to me—I feel focused, a sense of calmness, and more centered.”
Tai chi legacy continues
Lilian Roberts, a long-time attendee of tai chi classes at Brooksby Village, moved to the community in December 2011 from Cambridge, Mass.
“If I had to name a passion of mine, I would say it’s tai chi,” says Lilian. “I learned tai chi through Youville Hospital [now Spaulding Hospital Cambridge], which offered wellness classes. Tai chi helps me to refocus my thoughts. I can come into a class worried about something, and 15 minutes later, I’m relaxed and not thinking about it.”
Lilian took classes under Elizabeth, and she continues to practice tai chi, attending Tai Chi Easy classes regularly with Medeiros.
“Rev. Judith has done a remarkable job,” says Lilian. “I was appreciative of Elizabeth’s work in keeping tai chi alive at Brooksby, and now I’m grateful for Rev. Judith’s efforts. The Tai Chi Easy class allows you to release stress and anxiety through movement and meditation.”
“It’s a wonderful story,” says Kidd. “Our residents had a desire and need for the tai chi class. When Elizabeth wanted to take the class rather than teach it, Rev. Judith stepped up and shared her gifts to benefit a community that celebrates the harmony of life. She’s building on the practices of tai chi that already existed here.”
Staff and residents alike take pride in the Brooksby Village community and always look forward to welcoming a new neighbor. Request a brochure today to learn more about the lifestyle and amenities at Brooksby Village!