We stand beneath the towering elm trees in Central Park’s Strawberry Fields secluded in mind and body from the world around us. In the background there is the faint strumming of guitars playing Beatles music and people singing along. Tourists peer at us from time to time, watching our bodies in motion as we practice a Chinese form of movement known as qigong.  You could almost taste their curiosity as they watched our workout and snapped photographs.

The movements of qigong are gentle, but, however subtle work on energy and physical balance, and stimulation of body organs, such as the heart, lungs, liver, and kidneys. We lightly pound or massage these areas for stimulation and to unleash energy blockages. Other movements involve bending, stretching, and walking in specific sequences to improve  balance. There is a meditative quality to our movements as well.

Who are we? We are a group of urban dwellers who wanted to connect to nature and found no better choice than bringing ourselves outdoors in the naturally beautiful backdrop of Central Park.

There is nothing novel about qigong. It has a history extending back more than four thousand years. It is a practice similar to tai chi, but less complicated in its movements. Living in New York City we all have seen outdoor tai chi practices, which like the tourists watching us, appeared novel, but only for the eyes and not the body.

Qigong is all that it says it is with health benefits, even in fighting depression, and works at its best, I believe, in the outdoors when you connect with your body and nature at the same time.

My first introduction to qigong was in a local senior center, which I reluctantly went to, thinking that I was not senior enough. I think they call that denial. Octogenarians and their younger counterparts were engrossed in the class and from what I learned later many of them were engaged in a qigong practice for years. Their bodies had a flow and bend to them unlike the stiffness that comes with age, especially for the couch-potato crowd.

Qigong appears to be increasing in popularity even though it is centuries old by Chinese traditions. I hope that it will continue to increase in popularity, and draw people to try qigong and make it a lifelong practice.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food.”- Hippocrates

Photo- June Rousso