Amidst COVID-19 regulations, some individuals have sought community in new ways. Kitty Frey is one such person who has cultivated community for Auburn through tai chi classes.
Frey took her first tai chi class in 1980 when she was living on the West Coast, where she practiced for several years, finding it to be “gentle but effective.”
In 1987, however, Frey’s husband got a job at Auburn University. It was not until 1999 she was able to pick up the art again.
Eventually, Frey stumbled upon tai chi for health programs, curated by Australian physician Paul Lamb. After becoming certified in one of his programs, Frey began teaching her own classes in 2004.
At the time, Frey was still working as an occupational therapist and taught tai chi on the side.
By using organizations such as Auburn University’s Continuing Education program, Osher Lifelong Learning Insitutue, the City of Auburn’s Parks and Recreation Department and a local church, Frey cultivated her own small business.
“People get really close in the classes and start caring about each other because they’re showing up time after time,” Frey said.
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In addition, she said the patients feel less stiff and “like they’re able to manage pain a little bit better.” Other patients come simply as a way to better manage their stress.
“I think it would be a really great practice for younger people to get into because of the stress reduction, management of stress, the relaxation [and] the fact that it focuses a whole lot on posture,” Frey said. “It’s very applicable to everyday life — how you move throughout the world.”
Based on ancient Chinese medicine, tai chi manages to blend Chinese philosophy with the martial arts.
“We have a thing where we listen and absorb what’s the incoming force,” Frey said. “We often redirect that force or let it go before we give some type of response. … We have a vital energy within all of us, and we want to keep that energy as strong as possible and keep it flowing.”
Gail Langley is a regular attendee of Frey’s classes.
“It’s for all ages, and it’s a wonderful way to maintain your health,” Langley said.
Langley, 73, heard about Frey’s classes from a friend three years ago.
Langley describes herself as “hyper to the max,” often busying herself with writing, traveling, cooking and more.
“Through the years, I had heard about tai chi, but as an athlete, I liked fast-paced things, so tai chi didn’t really appeal to me,” Langley said. “Now I realize I was foolish not to start earlier.”
Langley said the community Frey creates in the classes that keep her coming back as well.
“Kitty is truly a wonderful person,” Langley said. “I just can’t say enough nice things about her. One time I asked her why she didn’t raise her prices, because she’s so worth it, and she said it’s because she wants it to be available to anybody that needs it.”
Langley goes to all three in-person classes every week.
“I’d go five [days] if it was offered five,” she said.
With the rise of COVID-19 cases, Frey now offers Zoom classes.
For those who prefer in-person classes, the group meets Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday from 8:15–9:15 a.m. on the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Arts patio, masked and properly distanced.
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