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Nevada County man finds health during retirement

Homer Nottingham teaches tai chi in Pioneer Park every Saturday at 9 a.m. The class often attracts hundreds of participants to Nevada City.
Submitted photo

If you met Homer Nottingham today, you’d probably consider the 79-year-old Nevada County tai chi instructor a picture of good health.

Nottingham teaches tai chi and qigong, ancient health practices from China, every day of the week at various Nevada County locations, including fitness studios and city parks, and is dedicated to personal fitness.

For his 80th birthday in March, Nottingham plans to run eight miles in 80 minutes, and he’s already training to make that happen.

But Nottingham didn’t always have an affinity for health.

In his 40s, at the height of his career as a division vice president for American Express in Southern California, Nottingham’s doctor told him if he didn’t start exercising, he’d likely die soon.

He was overweight, stressed and mostly sedentary, he said, but he thought he was too busy to do anything about it.

During a business trip to China in the 1980’s, Nottingham spotted a large group of Hong Kong residents practicing Tai Chi in a park. Having never seen the strange-looking practice before, he asked somebody what was going on.

“I thought people were rioting,” he said.

When he learned the locals were practicing tai chi, an ancient martial art, Nottingham decided to join in and give it a try. After practicing for the first time, he felt amazing, he said. And he’s never looked back.

Back in the U.S., it wasn’t so easy to find tai chi classes. Nottingham eventually found instruction at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur and the Omega Institute in New York, where he studied to become a tai chi teacher.

In his 60s, Nottingham retired from his career at American Express and moved to Nevada County, where he shifted his focus to teaching tai chi, qigong and spin classes — another affinity he’d picked up in an effort to combat his sedentary, professional lifestyle.

He now teaches about 500 students per week and continues to work on his own health, setting personal fitness goals and inspiring others to do the same.

“I’m working for longevity, with a high quality of life,” he said.

His slow-paced classes are geared toward seniors, and are open to people of all ages.

“People leave my classes saying, ‘I didn’t seem to work too hard, but I feel so good,’” he said.

Tai chi and qigong, which Nottingham said are very similar practices, help strengthen muscles, release tension, increase awareness of the body and promote overall health.

“I feel healthier and stronger now than I’ve ever been in my entire life,” he said.

Nottingham also created the Vital Energy Arts Center in Nevada City, where he’s trained others in tai chi instruction.

For a schedule of classes, visit homernottingham.com.

To contact Staff Writer Matthew Pera, email mpera@theunion.com or call 530-477-4231.

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