PENINSULA PROFILE: Tai chi instructor helps others find balance in body, mind, heart

By Diane Urbani de la Paz
Peninsula Daily News

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Step onto a fresh path

FOR DETAILS ABOUT tai chi and Zumba classes with Teresa Schmid at the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center, phone SARC at 360-683-3344 or visit the facility at 610 N. Fifth Ave.

For information about various yoga classes, including gentle and therapeutic practice at Lapis Sky Yoga, stop by the studio at 803 Carlsborg Road in the business park near the post office.

Yoga instructor Cheryl Bell can be reached at 360-461-1709 and (with “yoga” in the subject line).

To find out more about the April trip to study tai chi and qigong in China with Professor Huixian Chen, contact Schmid via SARC or visit Chen’s website,

Peninsula Daily News
It’s a new year — and for you personally, it could be a brand-new way of living life.

That’s the message, and the challenge, from Teresa Schmid.

She’s taught at a health facility for 13 years, so she’s acquainted with the January influx of people in search of better bodies.

But what Schmid offers isn’t just physical fitness.

She teaches about energy: the essence of life. Then she stands back and allows people to have their own epiphanies.

Schmid had one of those in 1974, upon walking in to a tai chi class. This was in Los Angeles’ Chinatown, and Schmid was Teresa Wong back then. The sixth of nine children, she was an Air Force brat, as she puts it. Her family moved and moved again, living in the Midwest, then in Japan, then Minot, N.D., and, right after her high school graduation, to California.

That day nearly four decades ago, when Schmid discovered classical tai chi chuan, put her on the path she continues to walk today.

There were, of course, bends and detours and hills. When it came time for college, Schmid earned a degree in accounting at the University of Southern California. She spent years working in financial analysis at Paramount Pictures.

So Schmid developed her right-brain capabilities, you could say.

But all along, Schmid loved the meditative movements of tai chi. Their beauty and grace kept her coming back, kept her centered.

She became a student of Professor Huixian Chen, a Chinese teacher of qigong, another form of Chinese movement and meditation.

Schmid also became a teacher of tai chi, starting out in Torrance, Calif. Then, in 1995, she moved with her husband Tom, a self-employed carpenter, to the North Olympic Peninsula.

“We said, ‘Let’s get out of that crazy city’” of Los Angeles, Schmid recalls.

They found a new, simpler life in Port Angeles, seated beneath the Olympic Mountains and near the Pacific Ocean.

“The connection to nature up here,” she says, “is wonderful. The energy here is very special.”

For well over a decade now, Schmid has been teaching people about the flow of energy — through the world, through the body — at the Sequim Aquatic Recreation Center. She’s led countless tai chi classes at SARC and, in recent years, Schmid has also taught Zumba, a cardiovascular workout set to Latin and pop music that’s as rambunctious as tai chi is serene.

Qigong certificate

In 2008, Schmid added yet another new certification to her repertoire: that of qigong instructor. In various settings — a spring retreat at the Lake Quinault Lodge, a winter solstice gathering at a Sequim yoga studio — she introduces people to the practice.

Qigong, literally translated, means “cultivating life energy.” Ask Schmid the difference between qigong and tai chi, and she says only that there are 3,000 forms of qigong while tai chi is a sequence of flowing movements. You get the feeling that the differences aren’t so important.

Perhaps a better question would be: what is the difference between yin and yang?

Schmid knows the answer well. The 57-year-old not only teaches the slow, gentle tai chi and qigong, but also those high-speed, hip-shaking Zumba classes at SARC.

“That’s the yin-yang. I love them both. They keep me well and happy,” says Schmid.

She’s always loved dance, and cultivated her interest in modern dance while in college. Zumba, she adds, attracted her with the way it embraces diversity of movement and music. And a good shimmy can unblock a lot of tension.

Both energies

We all carry yin and yang energy; they’re complementary, not opposing forces that give us our power, Schmid explains. Yin is the internal, feminine form, while yang is the masculine and external.

Qigong, with its deep breathing and awareness exercises, teaches you to be in the moment, Schmid says. It teaches you about the flow of qi — energy — through your body.

Schmid guided a couple of dozen men and women through a qigong class Dec. 21, the winter solstice, at Lapis Sky Yoga in Sequim. Rather than taking payment, she and Lapis Sky owner Cheryl Bell invited participants to donate to the Sequim Food Bank and to the local Toys for Tots effort.

Then, Schmid led her students through the form called Awakening Light qigong.

Your body is an antenna for qi, she began. So hold it up. To generate qi, Schmid says, “stand in a position of strength.”

Your body is also a blessed gift, she adds, one that is more valuable than anything in this world.

And your body is threefold: the mental body, residing in the brain, the emotional body and the physical frame. All of this vibrates together, and if you want to change your quality of life for the better, you can start by releasing negative thoughts.

But wait, you might say. These thoughts are part of me.

“That thought is not who you are,” Schmid declares, adding that with practice, you can learn to let those negative thoughts go.

One form of qigong calls for 99 days of meditation, with rest on the 100th day. This is what is needed to change a habit from within, Schmid says.

Releasing negative thoughts also means freeing one’s body from floods of cortisol, the stress hormone. It means freeing the mental, emotional and physical body from tension and pain.

‘Takes courage’

Schmid does not, however, try to tell anyone this is easy or quick.

“It takes courage and confidence to change,” she says.

Yet “you can change your life. You are vibratory beings. Your body can connect with infinite qi.”

And on this ordinary winter day, Schmid wasn’t afraid to make another large promise.

“The truth is: you are infinite joy. Infinite love,” she said.

That truth is inside you, waiting to be found if you can only quiet the mind.

The concept of qi resonates too with Cheryl Bell, the yoga instructor who owns Lapis Sky. She hopes to have Schmid back to teach qigong classes in this new year at the studio, which is marking its first anniversary this month.

‘The real deal’

Schmid “is so authentic. She is the real deal,” Bell says. “What impressed me was that she never taught until she was told by her own teachers that she needed to.”

Bell and Schmid got to know each other at SARC, when Bell was a personal trainer and Schmid the tai chi instructor. The two are kindred spirits, Bell says.

Schmid adds that her years of teaching have taught her the meaning of give and take.

“It’s really a sacred exchange,” she says. “I’ve also learned from my teachers, how to share.”

Schmid has another hope for the spring of 2013. She wants to travel again to China, where she and Professor Chen would lead a study group on a 19-day excursion to Beijing, Shanghai and other locales.

Schmid made this trip in 2006, 2007 and 2008, but put her travel on pause since then because of the economic downturn.

“I’m keeping my fingers crossed for this April,” she says. The China trip will include sightseeing, shopping and culinary exploration as well as study of tai chi and qigong.

Schmid also is looking forward to doing some Zumba in the parks in Beijing. It’s a regular thing to engage in group exercise in such public spaces there.

Meantime, Schmid will be teaching tai chi and qigong not only in public venues but also to private students in her home. With her firm, clear voice and her gliding, moves, she is all about encouragement.

“You’re breathing in new qi,” Schmid said during her class at Lapis Sky.

“Out goes the stagnant. You have to be willing to let go of that negative thought. You can change that. You can change the vibration. Your heart will be different.”

Last modified: January 05. 2013 6:17PM
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