by Ben Cripps
The entirety of the Pavilion gym is silent. Even the 20 students simultaneously gliding their hands through the air does not make a whisper.
Introduction to Tai Chi, offered twice a day Tuesday and Thursday mornings in Pavilion 101, enables students to find inner-relaxation and peace.
Instructor Paul Mulholland reiterates the focus on finding relaxation. The most important facet of any form of Tai Chi is relaxation, he said. The art-form, based in the Chinese Taoist philosophy, even has a special word for finding a state of relaxation: sung.
Evan Herbison, 20, says if students pay attention, they will reap the benefits of the class, if they are open to it.
“On some level there’s a spiritual experience if that’s what you want it to be,” said Herbison. “There’s something for everyone.”
Caitlin Rogers, 18, is a first year student at Whatcom and was impressed with the health and relaxation aspects to the class. She wanted to get back into P.E. classes and it worked well for her, she said. She added that the structure is nice because students learn step-by-step how to position themselves, and they do it altogether.
However, Mulholland, who teaches eight Tai Chi classes in Bellingham, emphasizes more of the physical practice and philosophical concepts of Tai Chi, not necessarily the spiritual aspect of Taoism.
This fall marks Mulholland’s third year teaching at Whatcom Community College and he has seen consistently full Tai Chi classes. It’s “very unusual for a college to have this in a P.E. department,” he said.
With the whole gym silent, students follow Mulholland’s lead and gracefully move from form to form. Mulholland steps in quietly to correct, reposition, or alter students’ stances.
There is an intensely calm focus in Tai Chi.
With palms downward, knees slightly bent, arms raised high above heads, everyone, in sync, slowly brings their arms back down to resting position.