I had seen the advert for Zumba and Tai Chi at Neuadd Dyfi “especially for older active participants”on the Neuadd’s website whilst booking online for an event in October. As I am both older and active, that seemed to hit the spot. Unpacking removals boxes, DIY and gardening only get one so far after a life that was nowhere near as sedentary as the one that I am now leading, so I decided to take the plunge and see what Zumba and Tai Chi are all about. I phoned the number on the advert last week to see what I needed to do to join a class, and was reassured by Sandy, who runs both classes, that all would be well on the day.
Fortunately in one of the packing boxes I found a pair of leggings that I had used when I used to run in my local park in London, and a pair of trainers. I had my £6.00 ready to pay (which covers both the Zumba and the Tai Chi), took a deep breath and headed on in. Sandy had warned me that the front doors would be closed so I duly entered by the side door. The place smelled pleasantly as though it had been recently cleaned, and it has a slightly Tardis quality to it – it seemed substantially bigger on the inside than it did on the outside. Having arrived very early, I was just wandering down the main corridor when a lady in gym gear emerged from an office, and this was Sandy. We walked down to the room where the Zumba was to take place, a bright, light room, with tall ceilings and a real sense of space. A complicated-looking sound system was tucked into a corner. Des George, the Chairman, walked in and I was lucky enough to be given a guided tour. There are three main spaces along the length of the building, including a big stage, a meeting room, a kitchen and even a small garden area. They have a new central heating system and are although they are planning on cosmetic improvements to bits of the interior it looks great. I’ll write much more about the Neuadd Dyfi in the future, but for the time being suffice to say that I was truly impressed and have now signed up to the email newsletter to see what will be on in the future. People began to turn up, and Sandy introduced me as a newbie, and it was super to be so warmly welcomed.
I’m not really a joining classes or group activity type of person, and I’ve never done group exercise before, so I was by no means sure what to expect, but I loved it. There were 10 of us for the half hour Zumba Gold class. Zumba, if you are new to the concept, is a Latin American exercise phenomenon based on dance and Latino music. I had never seen it, never mind tried it, so it was a real voyage of discovery, and such fun. I’m not terribly well co-ordinated but my feet eventually got the message, and I was able to follow along without much difficulty, although my arms seemed to be unwilling to join in. The classes are aimed at an older clientèle (the “gold” in the title of the class), and is low-impact. There were various levels of aptitude and fitness there, but we all threw ourselves into it with gusto, helped on by some great music and Sandy’s clear lead. It was impossible not to have a good time. At the end of the class it was great to chat with the others, a really friendly bunch, and it turns out that most of them only signed up this year, having decided to do it together, all members of the Aberdovey golf club. The classes themselves have been going for the best part of a decade. I hadn’t realized that there is another, hour-long class on Friday, so I’ll be going to that too.
After the bounce and verve of the Zumba, Tai Chi was something completely different. I knew nothing about it, and much of the lesson was about introducing me not merely to the moves, but to the history and the concepts. It’s not easy because it’s a matter of retraining the brain to relax into moves rather than powering into them. Luckily the one other class member, lovely Jane, was happy to demonstrate along with Sandy, and I slowly caught on to the idea that movements flow from one to another, that the upper body follows the hips and legs, and that the discipline lies in learning to move slowly, with control, but to relax the upper limbs completely and allow the lower limbs to relax as soon as they are no longer required for support. It seems contradictory at first, but it really is a matter of learning to take command of one’s body whilst at the same time letting go. I have done yoga, but this is far more about a combination of slow movement and discipline combining to build up a sequence that is completely seamless and all-absorbing. It is going to take me a while to be proficient enough to stop thinking about each individual move, and to quite literally go with the flow, but it is a terrific feeling and will be worth the work. God knows what it would cost to have a nearly one-on-one session with someone of Sandy’s calibre in London, and this is a terrific opportunity.
For full details about the Zumba and Tai Chi classes that Sandy runs see: http://www.neuadddyfi.org/Regular%20activities.htm.
To see more about the Neuadd Dyfi and what they have to offer (which is a lot!) visit their website at http://www.neuadddyfi.org/index.html.