WINTER PARK, Fla. — Yoga has become a popular activity and one that can be done virtually anywhere, but a lesser-known martial arts practice has found its way to one of Central Florida's botanical gardens. Mead Botanical Garden offers an experience that teaches the healing and therapeutic practices of Tai Chi. 

What You Need To Know

  • Tony Garcia runs Tai Chi classes at Mead Garden

  • He came to the martial art as a result of his health needs

  • He says the movements help people heal and increase muscle strength

Finding your center in a lush tropical paradise like Mead Garden, isn't hard to do, especially with help from an instructor like Tony Garcia. 

Garcia is a certified Tai Chi health master and trainer, well-versed in the ancient Chinese martial art that he first learned almost 30 years ago. He found his passion for Tai Chi because of his health. After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and dealing with its effects, partial vision loss and body deterioration, he decided to pursue Tai Chi for its medical benefits. 

“So this exercise is super powerful," Garcia said. "It helps you heal and gives you muscle strength.” 

Now nearly three decades later, Garcia said he owes his current health all to Tai Chi. In fact, he now helps others — teaching classes to many people who suffer from disabilities, a rewarding and life-changing act of kindness. 

And even if you aren't disabled or ill, Tai Chi can still have rewarding benefits. Garcia's classes at Mead Garden are intimate, hourlong events that provide a well-rounded look into Tai Chi's art and history.

Tai Chi, also known as shadow boxing, falls under the major branches of traditional Chinese martial arts. While its origins are somewhat vague, the first written reference appeared in the Book of Changes more than 3,000 years ago during the Zhou Dynasty.

Interesting facts like those make classes with Garcia a well-rounded experience, one steeped in culture and an afternoon dedicated to finding your center. 

Tai Chi in the garden is offered once a month through the summer months but will resume weekly classes in the fall. For a detailed schedule of times, please head to the Mead Garden website.