Norton Neuroscience Institute’s “Neuro Tai Chi” class celebrates 10 years of helping patients with movement disorders

Ten years in, Norton Neuroscience Institute’s “Neuro Tai Chi” class helps people with neurological conditions get moving — and create lifelong bonds.

The gong sounds at 10:30 a.m. It’s the signal to sit down and listen.

At the front of the room, Lloyd Kelly greets his class of about 20 with a fist-to-palm salute. He bows his head and says, “ni hao,” greeting them in Chinese. The class repeats it back to him.

From there, he leads them in a 1½-hour tai chi course. The Chinese art form is known for its slow, intentional movements as a form of gentle exercise and meditation.

For this group, though, tai chi is much more than just a 90-minute class, two times a week. Almost all the class participants have been diagnosed with a neurological condition, and the slow movements are a way to improve balance, stability and movement — all things the neurological conditions have robbed from them over the years.

It’s also a chance to connect with people and form a bond with those who’ve shared similar life experiences.

This class, made possible by Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Centers and the Norton Healthcare Foundation, is celebrating 10 years in existence.

‘My passion is to help people’

Lloyd Kelly found tai chi at 10 years old.

His father was a pilot in the Air Force. His commanding officer had a passion for martial arts and would practice them on base. The officer loved it so much, he even offered classes for the pilots and their families at the base gym.

Lloyd tried tai chi and was instantly hooked.

“I saw that going on, and I said, ‘I don’t know what that is, but that’s cool,’” Lloyd said.

Lloyd practiced it ever since, and eventually went from student to teacher, quickly earning his certifications and teaching tai chi across the state of Kentucky. Ten years ago, Norton Neuroscience Institute called and asked Lloyd to lead a class for patients with neurological conditions. He agreed.

The first class in 2014 on the Norton Brownsboro Hospital campus had fewer than 10 participants. Ten years later, the class has grown to roughly two dozen people; many haven’t missed a class in years.

“My passion is to help people, so I’m really into the medical aspect of tai chi,” Lloyd said. “It’s been gratifying and life-changing for me, and I have a lot of gratitude to Norton Healthcare, because they had the foresight [to offer this program]. A lot of people see tai chi and they think, ‘Oh, it’s woo woo. It might be alternative medicine.’ This is not alternative medicine. It’s complementary. It’s to complement other medications and therapy. So it’s not to compete. It’s to add on.”

‘Neuro Tai Chi’

Tai chi is a practice of slow, intentional movements that integrate mind and body to improve muscular strength, flexibility and fitness, relieve pain, and protect joints.

To register for a class for patients with neurological conditions, call (502) 559-3230 or email

‘It just feels comfortable’

Susan Small was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1985.

Her diagnosis came with a flurry of emotions, but mostly fear of the unknown and the future. Susan was a pharmacist, and scoured libraries to find information about her condition. While she dug for knowledge, she bounced from doctor to doctor, looking for someone who could help her.

At the same time, she began to lose her balance. She fell several times, needing multiple surgeries as a result of her injuries.

In the beginning, it was scary.

“There were no [disease-modifying] drugs, no internet, no place for me to go for information,” Susan said. “By the time you get in to see a neurologist, they couldn’t even give you a diagnosis. But at the time, they couldn’t do anything about it anyway. So by then, I just got on with my life and stopped drowning in my condition. I decided, ‘you know what, I’m not going to let this possess me.’”

Determined not to allow her diagnosis to define her, Susan stayed active and eventually came across information about the “Neuro Tai Chi” class. She decided to give it a try and showed up for the first day of class back in 2014.

“I remember the first day of class,” Susan said. “It was so early in the morning. I remember I had to set my alarm, roll out of bed — and my husband made me a huge thermos full of tea. And I was sitting in the chair so tired.”

Despite the early wake-up calls, Susan quickly noticed something was changing. The more she attended class, the more her balance and stability improved. More than that, she felt like her memory was beginning to improve. It was exhilarating. She didn’t miss a class for 18 months.

“This class has helped me in so many ways,” Susan said. “It was like I was eating it up. I couldn’t not come, because I could tell it was helping me. I had to come, even if it was at 8:30 every morning. It was like this drive in me, and I could sense it in my body. It wasn’t just weight distribution and balance. It was my brain. There was something I was sensing that my brain was making the new connections. I can’t even really explain it, but I could do things [that I couldn’t before]. It was like my brain was picking up the signals. Now I know it’s neuroplasticity in the brain, where one side takes over for the damaged cells on the other.”

From there, she began recruiting others to join. Edi Deering was one of them.

Edi, diagnosed with MS in 1986, already had been taking tai chi at a different location. She agreed to try the class at Norton Healthcare. She hasn’t looked back either.

“It just feels comfortable, and it’s very good,” Edi said. “The balance and exercise of it, but the camaraderie of it too: People are very compassionate here, and Lloyd is fantastic about not making us feel bad. He shows us how to do it right and then allows us to do it as right as we can. Because everybody has their own limitations and body mechanics that either work or don’t work.”

‘That is the promise we made’

Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center was officially established in 2013, as a place to provide help with the day-to-day challenges of living with a neurological condition. It’s part of Norton Neuroscience Institute’s goal to care for the whole person, not just the condition.

The goal is to offer ways to improve access to care, provide information on disease management and address quality of life issues. The support is offered at no cost patients and their families, thanks to the support of donations through the Norton Healthcare Foundation.

“That is the promise we made our community, to give them the support they need free of charge,” said Yvette Cabrera-Rojas, director, Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Centers. “Without the Norton Healthcare Foundation, we would not be able to offer these incredible classes to our community. It’s plain and simple — without the Foundation, we would not have a Resource Center.”

At Norton Neuroscience Resource Centers, licensed clinical social workers help individuals who are in crisis and work with patients to determine short- and long-term plans. Four nurse navigators are tasked with educating patients and families about their conditions and available treatments, while ensuring there are no barriers between patients and treatment plans. Coordinators are also on staff to create and develop programming for each condition.

“We focus on what [patients] can do and what they cannot do,” Yvette said. “We also give them a platform so they can make friendships with people who share the same life experiences as them. It’s all because they have things in common. These groups truly understand each other. They know.”

Norton Neuroscience Institute Resource Center programming is offered both virtually and in person. Offerings include exercise classes, therapeutic classes, educational programs and support groups. In 2023, attendance reached nearly 10,000 across the platforms. Also in 2023, the Norton Healthcare Foundation committed a minimum $100,000 to general programming and support and $64,000 to Parkinson’s disease programming.

’It’s an awesome bond, it really is’

Ten years in, Edi and Susan are still here, practicing tai chi with Lloyd and their tai chi family.

“For me personally, it’s been a wonderful experience,” Lloyd said. “It’s so gratifying to see people doing well, feeling better, be able to have a better quality of life. That’s life-changing to be able to provide that.”

Edi just celebrated her 80th birthday, while Susan is now a certified tai chi instructor. They’re just two of many who’ve benefited over the years, thanks to Lloyd’s instruction and love of tai chi.

“It’s an awesome bond; it really is,” Susan said. “Because you get to a point where you think, ‘This is the group, and we protect the group.’”

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