If holistic lifestyle practitioner April Daly gets her way, Buchmuller Park in Secaucus will soon become host to early morning group Tai Chi classes. Although it’s common to see groups practicing this meditative Chinese martial art in parks throughout New York City, Daly’s class would be a first for Secaucus.
“I think I’m going to call it Sunrise Tai Chi,” said Daly last week, noting that the class will likely begin at 6 a.m. “We have a few people in town who already practice Tai Chi. This would be for a group, where there could be some instruction so that people who are new to it will feel comfortable.”
Since March, Daly has built a loyal following in town by offering workshops at the library and other places. The Tai Chi classes, which Daly hopes to debut on Aug. 21 pending town approval, are among several holistic lifestyle practices the licensed massage therapist has introduced to her fellow Secaucus residents. She also specializes in Eastern practices like yoga, Tai Chi, and breathing exercises known as pranayama.
“People are looking for quiet in their lives.” – April Daly
The breathing exercises, she explained, can calm both the mind and body, and can help ease stress and tension.
Such breathing techniques are often incorporated into yoga or are used to enhance meditation.
Popular with community
“The community has been very receptive to these classes,” Daly said, acknowledging that some people may find the exercises a bit foreign. “But I break it down and use words that are familiar to them to make it less intimidating. The way I teach it, it’s very approachable.”
These breathing classes dovetail with other classes Daly has taught in Secaucus in recent months. She teaches what she calls a “yoga-based” stretch/movement/breath class. This class has also been offered at the local library. She is also a substitute yoga teacher at the Secaucus Recreation Center where she teaches the traditional hatha and vinyasa styles of yoga.
Mind, body, spirit
“What I’ve found is that people are looking for quiet in their lives,” she said when asked why people are attracted to her classes. “There are so many distractions out there, there’s so much frenzy, that people I think really value these tools. Everybody wants to know how to live a more stress-free life…These classes give them the tools they need to do that.”
Born and raised in Orange County, California, Daly was a professional ballet dancer in Europe before she became a licensed massage therapist and developed an interest in Eastern spirituality and lifestyle practices.
She moved to Secaucus in 2001 when her daughter was born. She said she was attracted the town’s school system, close proximity to New York City, and Secaucus’ peaceful atmosphere.
Daly’s background in dance, and her later work as a massage therapist, she said, is what led her to explore the connection between the mind, body, and spirit.
“I know a lot about the [human] body. How it moves. How it functions. It just seemed like a natural progression for me to grow in this direction, to learn more about how all the different parts come together and work as a whole,” Daly said. Such information, she added, can be incorporated into daily living. As an example, she said some of the people who are most interested in her classes are those who are interested in using holistic techniques to manage pain and certain chronic medical conditions.
She has also approached the Secaucus School District about the possibility of teaching a movement and breath class for special needs students.
Wants to open holistic center in town
Although grateful to have access to the library, the Recreation Center, and other spaces in town, Daly hopes to eventually open her own wellness center in Secaucus, possibly near the Hackensack River and Laurel Hill Park.
“My goal is to build a holistic, integrated wellness center in the community,” she said, adding that through her classes at the library, “I’m learning what the community wants.”
She envisions a center where dance, yoga, meditation, and Tai Chi would be taught and where the community could enjoy public speakers. The center would also include a “holistic café,” she said, that would feature a vegetarian menu.
“The Meadowlands is really the perfect place for something like this. It’s so peaceful and gentle near the water…As I meet people and teach, I’m seeing that people here are ready for this.”
E-mail E. Assata Wright at email@example.com.