By Marjorie Woodfin

Pilot staff writer

Just watching the women in Saun Stone's Tuesday morning Tai Chi class at South Coast Fitness Center is relaxing.

Stone calls it, andquot;gentle exercise for body, mind, and spirit.andquot;

The participants in the group at the fitness center all agree that the gentle choreographed movements learned in the class helps to relax and calm their stressful lives.

andquot;It's the first calming thing I have ever done in my life,andquot; one said. Another chimed in, andquot;I come to get away from my triple A personality.andquot;

Certainly relaxation and reduction of stress is one of the benefits claimed for Tai Chi-Chi Kung that Stone teaches. She explained that Tai Chi is an ancient Chinese form of slow movements combined with deep breathing that cultivates and builds our inner Chi that Stone calls, andquot;the life force energy that keeps us alive.andquot;

She said that it actually helps to enhance the body's natural healing abilities.

As the women moved slowly in the andquot;dragonandquot; movement, Stone instructed, andquot;gaze at the hand right in front of you and feel roots coming out of the bottom of your feet as we sink into the ground beneath our feet.andquot;

During a short break the women, some who have been involved in the exercise form for years and others who are newcomers to the class, all talked about the benefits they have discovered in Tai Chi, adding that friendships formed in the class is an added bonus.

Stone, who has been a certified Tai Chi instructor for 12 years, said she moved north from Santa Cruz about 15 months ago after she fell in love with the area during a short vacation visit.

andquot;It is so beautiful here,andquot; she said, adding, andquot;And the people have been so wonderful and welcoming.andquot;

She has not only found a niche for her Tai Chi, Ananda Yoga, and free style dance classes, she has also found a musical outlet. As one member of the trio, andquot;Taste O' Honey,andquot; she said she is having a glorious time entertaining at Second Saturday Art Walks and other musical events.

In addition to the classes she currently teaches Tuesday and Thursday mornings from 10 to 11.a.m. at the fitness center, beginning June 23 Stone will be teaching classes sponsored by Southwestern Oregon Community College on Monday and Wednesday from 11 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., also at the fitness center.

She also offers private classes. andquot;Anyone can do Tai Chi,andquot; Stone said. andquot;You can even do it sitting in a chair.andquot;

Anyone interested in additional information may phone Stone at (707) 954-9824, South Coast Fitness Center at (541) 469-7118, or SOCC at 469- 5017.