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East County Thursday, Oct. 1, 2015 5 years ago

Tai Chi trains mind and body

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The 300-year-old Chinese exercise form provides activity with little stress to the body.
by: Jessica Salmond Staff Writer

The movements are slow, but focused, the breaths deep but calculated. 

Ian Black and Jim Soda, prominent Realtors in Sarasota and Lakewood Ranch, look cool, calm and collected as their arms and legs swirl around them. 

It’s almost like dancing.

The pair spends two sessions a week practicing the ancient exercise of Tai Chi, under the instruction of Black’s wife, Rosann Argenti. Argenti has been teaching Tai Chi since the 1980s, and even had her own television show about the exercise called “Tai Chi Innerwave,” which aired on PBS for nine years.  

Jim Soda, a residential Realtor with The Soda Group, part of Premier Sotheby’s International Realty office in Lakewood Ranch, jokingly said he became interested in Tai Chi when he noticed Black could hit a golf ball farther on the golf course than he could. 

So, about six months ago, he started doing sessions with Black and Argenti. 

Already, he’s hooked.

Soda said he’d always had a difficult time sticking to a workout routine, whether riding a stationary biking or lifting weights, partly because of lower back problems. 

“Every time I did them, I got hurt,” Soda said. “Tai Chi was the first thing I could do that I didn’t hurt myself.”

The practice combines movements similar to martial arts with the slower pace of yoga for a gentle, yet effective exercise.

Soda said after he learned the rhythm, movements and breathing techniques, he started noticing an almost immediate difference. He was pain-free after the sessions, and he became more energetic and more focused, both in the office and during Tai Chi lessons. 

“It helps you relax, gives you a business focus,” Soda said. “So much is going on. It helps you dial down and get a new attitude. It’s like a breath of fresh air.”

Argenti and Black have been married for eight years, but Black, certified commercial investment member for his commercial realty company, Ian Black Real Estate, began learning the exercise from her after the couple met through a mutual friend 23 years ago. Black had always had a penchant for athletics — he used to play rugby and tennis — but found something different in Tai Chi.

“This became a whole new system. It was a different way of looking at life,” he said. “I became more balanced, more focused.”

Argenti noticed the difference in him, as well. She said after he started practicing, he became mentally and physically stronger and more focused, and opened his life up to more creative hobbies. The mental stability of the exercise also gave him a calm and focused attitude when dealing with his clients.

The couple practices Tai Chi together, even when they travel. Because the exercise requires minimal space and no special equipment, it’s easily portable. Argenti calls it a health care system because it exercises and tones the mind and body.

Argenti develops personalized programs for her clients and gives both private and semi-private Tai Chi lessons to a variety of people, from athletes to seniors who need an exercise form that is easier on their bodies or people who suffer from problems like osteoporosis and fibromyalgia.

“Tai Chi can help anyone in any stage of life develop inner strength, physical stability and mental acuity,” she said.

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