Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Taoist Tai Chi taught by retired Pinellas principal

DUNEDIN — Pegoty Packman is moving around a class of a dozen students at the Taoist Tai Chi Center, adjusting a foot here, straightening a back there. She focuses on each student's stance, helping that person complete a move — one of 108 such moves that constitute a "set" in Taoist tai chi.

A Pinellas County middle school principal for 22 years, from 1982 to 2004, Packman credits this ancient Chinese art form with having kept her life in balance since 1990. The demands of a career in education created that need.

"The day-to-day pressures of being a committed educator took a lot of energy," she said. "My mind was always going."

In 1990, after reading an ad for tai chi classes taught in St. Petersburg, Packman enrolled in her first class.

"I had an interest in Eastern cultures and spirituality," she said, "and this class sounded like a good fit for me."

That class marked the beginning of what appears to be a lifelong commitment. "I found it restorative," she said of tai chi, "and I've never stopped."

Combining the physical with the spiritual, this slow version of martial arts is sometimes likened to a moving meditation. It involves stretching, bending, twisting and focusing on each move. The entire set, which takes about 20 minutes, is packed with gentle weight resistance exercises, using the resistance of one's own body.

At school, Packman, a Clearwater resident, found herself practicing deep hip bends in the ladies room, or completing a set in the corner of the cafeteria. She drew the interest of dozens of students, first at Oak Grove Middle School and later at Palm Harbor Middle School. Certified to teach the art in 1991, she began an after-school class at Oak Grove, which was attended by students, parents and staff.

In the early 1990s, Packman sustained injuries in a serious car accident. Left in pain and feeling stiff, she used tai chi to regain her flexibility and strength.

Of the many forms of this ancient art, the Taoist version is attributed to a 13th century Taoist monk in China who created the 108 moves. That version was brought to Canada in the mid-'70s by another monk, the late Master Moy Lin-Shin, whose influence on North American practitioners was profound, Packman said. From Canada, it moved into the United States.

"Love of people and helping them is the common thread in Taoist tai chi," she said of the organization, where all instructors are volunteers. "That dedication to helping others felt natural to me."

Packman teaches three classes a week at the center in Dunedin.

Among the students is Norris Varkalhoff, a bus driver for the Pinellas Transit Authority who drives the 4:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. shift. He entered the class, he said, seeking a sense of calm. Sitting long hours at the wheel, unpredictable weather, traffic and sometimes difficult passengers have all contributed to his feelings of stress.

The 42-year-old began tai chi classes with Packman almost a year ago and now does a complete set at home in the wee hours before setting out.

"That recharges me for the whole day," he said of the exercise. "I can feel the difference from a year ago until now."

Packman, who retired from public education in 2004, has long been active in the national and international Taoist tai chi organizations and serves on boards or committees in both. She sees no end in sight to her involvement.

"It's an incredible living legacy," she said of teaching tai chi. "I don't have to wait until I'm dead to leave the legacy of Master Moy."

facts

Taoist Tai Chi Society

The society is at 1370 Main St. in Dunedin. For information, visit dunedin.florida.usa.taoist.org or call (727) 734-0929.

Taoist Tai Chi taught by retired Pinellas principal 08/26/11 [Last modified: Friday, August 26, 2011 7:40pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Video: Rays Souza on that oh-so-bad dive, and reaction from Twins fans

    Blogs

    What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking when he made that oh-so-bad dive for a ball in the seventh inning Friday? Well, we'll let him tell you ...

  2. What was Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. thinking on that comically bad dive?

    Blogs

    What could Rays RF Steven Souza Jr. been thinking in the seventh inning Friday when he dove for a ball and came up yards short?

    Actually, he insisted after all the laughing, teasing and standing ovation from the Twins fans was done, it was a matter of self-preservation.

  3. Judge tosses life sentences for D.C. sniper Lee Boyd Malvo

    Nation

    McLEAN, Va. — A federal judge on Friday tossed out two life sentences for one of Virginia's most notorious criminals, sniper Lee Boyd Malvo, and ordered Virginia courts to hold new sentencing hearings.

    A federal judge has tossed out two life sentences for D.C. sniper shooter Lee Boyd Malvo. [Associated Press, 2004]
  4. Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Carter's national security adviser, dies

    News

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, the hawkish strategic theorist who was national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter in the tumultuous years of the Iran hostage crisis and the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in the late 1970s, died on Friday at a hospital in Virginia. He was 89.

    Zbigniew Brzezinski, former national security adviser to President Jimmy Carter, participates in Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill on March 5, 2009, in Washington, D.C. [Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images]
  5. USF eliminated by UCF in AAC baseball; Florida, FSU, Miami win

    Colleges

    CLEARWATER — Roughly 16 hours after a ninth-inning collapse against East Carolina in the American Athletic Conference's double-elimination baseball tournament, USF returned to Spectrum Field presumably set for a reboot.

    It simply got booted instead.

    ’NOLES win: Tyler Holton gets a hug from Drew Carlton after his strong eight innings help Florida State beat Louisville.