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Find your calm through tai chi and qigong

Ray Caisse (l) and Dave Crocker

By Jane Keller Gordon, Contributing Writer

Westford/Ayer – Dave Crocker, 71, and Ray Caisse, 77, have a lot in common. Both have had long careers in management, and describe themselves as former workaholics. Both have had life-altering health challenges: Crocker, a stroke, and Caisse, a heart attack. Now both men teach tai chi — moving meditation — in northeastern Massachusetts and southern New Hampshire through their partnership, Cultivating Qi. Their motto is, “You… in Better Balance.”

Crocker teaches qigong (chi kung) as well as tai chi.

“Qigong is a 5,000-year-old healing art developed in China,” he said. “By mimicking animal movements in nature, it cultivates qi—your energy flow, life force, vital energy — and moves it through the meridian system in the body, which helps reduce stress, improve balance and regain lost range of motion.”

The long form of tai chi, also an ancient practice, involves 108 choreographed slow, gentle, meditative movements according to Caisse.

“I teach both standing and sitting tai chi. Anyone can do it, and it’s a great way to calm your mind. I believe that it can slow down the aging process,” he said.

Caisse was first introduced to tai chi 20 years ago when he was working as a plant manager in New Hampshire.

“One of my associates saw that I was living at the plant, and said that I was killing myself. She said you need to get another life, and she invited me to one of her tai chi classes,” he recalled. “I was always more of a football player and I saw tai chi as ballet, so I wasn’t sure about it.”

He went and became hooked.

Tai chi has changed Caisse’s life. Eventually, he earned his teaching certification from the Tai Chi International Headquarters in Toronto. He teaches classes seven days a week, and takes a 3-hour class himself on Saturdays in Somerville at Boston Healing Tao.

In spite of his focus on mindfulness and relaxation, Caisse had a heart attack three years ago, followed by a triple bypass.

“I think that my practice of tai chi helped me know sooner that something was wrong,” he said.

After Crocker experienced a mild stroke nine years ago, his wife suggested that they take a tai chi class. That’s when Crocker met Caisse, and started on his journey and became a certified teacher of both tai chi and qigong. He also teaches meditation.

“I now live in the moment. I spend more time being a human being instead of a human doing… In my class, we can get down to six to eight breaths per minute. The average rate at which Westerners’ breathe is 12 to 18,” Crocker said.

When Crocker retired in 2014, he asked Caisse to partner with him in Cultivating Qi.

“At our age, we have finally learned this is the way we are supposed to live—in the moment—especially since worry about stuff that has already happened is a waste of time,” Caisse said.

Cultivating Qi’s one-and-a-half hour classes are kept small, usually less than 15 people. Most of the participants are older; the youngest was six, and oldest was 103.

Crocker lives in Westford, and Caisse lives in Ayer. They travel to teach. Currently, they offer classes at: Lowell General Hospital, Chelmsford Wellness Center, Dragonfly Wellness Center, The Huntington at Nashua, Littleton Council On Aging, Stonebridge at Burlington, Nashoba Park, Residences at Salem Woods, Avita of Newburyport, Seasons of Danvers, Recreational Adult Resource Association, and Woodbridge Assisted Living.

Crocker and Caisse offer a free one-hour demonstration for five students or more. For more information, visit www.CultivatingQi.org or email Dave.Crocker@CultivatingQi.org.

Cultivating Qi class at the Littleton Council on Aging (Photos/courtesy Cultivating Qi)

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