World T'ai Chi and QiGong Day event

With music from a CD called "Zen Garden" playing in the background, Earl Mussett leads his T'ai Chi and QiGong pupils in movements designed to relax the body and improve health.

Mussett, a retired engineer who worked for Weber Aircraft for 31 years making life support ejection systems for the Gemini Program, is now 78, but appears younger.

"Look at him, he's so healthy," said Chochain Lee, who has been attending Mussett's class at the Carson Valley United Methodist Church for about six months.

"I hope to be teaching these classes when I'm 90 or 100," said Mussett, with a smile.

Lee, who had practiced T'ai Chi while doing martial arts when he lived in Taiwan 12 years ago, decided to take the ancient Chinese art form up again when he discovered Mussett's class. This time, Lee was more interested in the health benefits than in learning martial arts. He attends the Saturday morning class only when he can take a break from his business, 88 Cups, a coffee house and Internet hot spot in Minden.

"I hurt my back one week ago," said Lee. "I've been practicing a movement I learned in class for 20 minutes at home. I felt better."

"You remember what the benefits are," said Mussett. "You pick that one particular move and you know it will make you feel better."

Mussett has been teaching the Douglas Parks & Recreation class for 12 years, and three years ago helped organize the first World T'ai Chi and QiGong Day at Minden Town Park, which has become an annual event. This year it will be from 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, April 29. The event is free and open to the public.

Mussett's student Myrna Vindum, 64, discovered T'ai Chi and QiGong when she attended the first Minden event.

"At first it knocked me out so badly," said Vindum, a sculptor who works with bronze. "I would go home and sleep for three hours. Now I go bouncing out of here. I never thought that something that looks so simple could have such an overwhelming effect."

Vindum said her renewed energy and strength helps her with her artwork.

"I can now lift a 50-pound box (of art materials)," she said.

Vindum said her once 253 cholesterol level is now down to 209. Three weeks ago she found out her bone density that was rated "average for her age" 10 years ago, had been diagnosed as that of a 24-year-old woman.

"My bone density has improved greatly," she said. "I have also achieved better balance. I'm a much better skier and also have better endurance. It's interesting. I can ride a bicycle again.

"It's partly the T'ai Chi and partly T'ai Chi has improved my activities."

T'ai Chi Chuan originated in China between 600 and 1000 AD as a method of exercising, stretching and clearing the body. QiGong is a method of managing health that has been practiced since ancient times in China, as well.

Mussett, and Web sites on the topic, state that T'ai Chi and QiGong are believed to boost the immune system, slow the aging process, lower high blood pressure, reduce the incidence of anxiety, depression and overall mood disturbance, as well as help with balance and coordination.

"T'ai Chi and QiGong have also been used to treat diabetics, cancer survivors, persons with Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer disease symptoms, and shingles, said Mussett. "A judge in New Mexico has even sentenced persons with aggressive behavior problems to a T'ai Chi program to improve their anger management skills (Prevention magazine, March 2004, page 56)."

He said articles about the benefits of T'ai Chi and QiGong have also appeared in Time magazine and the Wall Street Journal.

Along with teaching up to seven T'ai Chi classes a week locally, Mussett also makes presentations for people with diabetic, pulmonary and cancer recovery problems.

He was introduced to T'ai Chi when he retired and visited a friend in L.A. who took him to a yoga and a T'ai Chi class, and he found he was hooked.

"When I moved up here in 1993, I couldn't find a T'ai Chi class, so I did it myself," said Mussett, who since May 1994 has been teaching for parks & recreation.

He says T'ai Chi's secret to improving health is making the spine more flexible.

"Your body is as young as your spine is flexible," he said.

Mussett has a fellow T'ai Chi teacher in the area, Ginny Cardenas, who has been practicing various forms of T'ai Chi since 1989.

Cardenas said that the slow, focused movements of T'ai Chi have "tremendous benefits." While Mussett tends to focus on the health, Cardenas focuses more on the meditative, spiritual side, but in the end everyone benefits, she said.

"No matter what you go in there for, it will give you much more," she said.

"Earl and I are a good twosome on this because his focus is health and my focus tends to be on the meditative aspect of it, the spiritual aspect of it," said Cardenas. "No matter whether people go to Earl or to me, we all wind up with the same benefits. You get all of that in doing (T'ai Chi and QiGong)."

For information about classes available through Mussett or Cardenas, reach Mussett at or 782-6603, or Cardenas at or 720-3659.

The two instructors will be joined Doug Armstrong, an instructor for 25 years from Reno, at the World T'ai Chi and QiGong Day event in Minden.

The event on Saturday is co-sponsored by the Carson Valley T'ai Chi Club and the Douglas County Parks & Recreation Department, in coordination with the eighth annual World T'ai Chi Day.

"It should be a spectacular visual event," said Mussett. "At least 100 people in Minden will join with T'ai Chi practitioners from Shanghai to Kansas City to Minden to exhibit the beautiful series of T'ai Chi Chuan movements on the picturesque lawn of the Minden Town Park. This will be one of only four observances in the state of Nevada. Nearly 150 attended the inaugural event in 2003 in spite of inclement weather.

"To see a similar event one would have to travel to San Francisco or China. This is a continuation of an annual world event which began in 1999. There are now more than 1,500 events worldwide, including more than 700 in the United States. The celebration begins at 10 a.m. in New Zealand, and continues around the world at 10 a.m. in each time zone, concluding in Kauai."


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