VALPARAISO | Deep breathing could be heard from around the room as about 30 youth workers learned basic breathing and tai chi movements to help curb their stress.
The Indiana Youth Initiative hosted the luncheon as part of their Youth Worker Cafe program. The Indiana Youth Initiative works to support children's development by giving resources to the professionals who work closely with children. The Initiative offers Youth Worker Cafes every three to four months. Wednesday's program taught attendees how to reduce their own stress level so they can better help the people they serve.
"It's summer time now, so if someone who works as a teacher or in an after school program, they might be ready to recharge," Gill said.
Keynote speaker Brian Thompson, founder of B Fit, B New 4 Life, focused on teaching attendees to tap into their qi (pronounced chee), the energy within people's bodies.
"The body has energy channels over 360 meridians," Thompson said during the presentation. "We're going to teach you to open those channels so you can help yourself, your family and ultimately those kids."
Thompson bases his teaching off of qigong, the study, practice and movement of bio-electric energy both within the body and in connection to the environment. Thompson said the Chinese started qigong about 3,000 years ago.
"I'm a big practitioner of energy connection," Thompson said.
The basic, nontraditional tai chi moves Thompson taught at the Youth Worker Cafe are a means to make the energy flow and relax the body. The moves are nontraditional because Thompson detached them from the sets they are part of in traditional tai chi.
"What I've done over the years in streamline the movements and made it more user friendly," Thompson said.
Thompson has been practicing tai chi for more than 20 years. Now, he teaches the ancient art as a relaxation technique.
"I thought it was great," said Charlene Smith, a family social worker. "Just learning how to feel the energy and relax."
Smith said she plans to teach the techniques to her clients and coworkers.