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The Qigong routine for the grey brigade

This regime has been a great experience for me and others who have persisted

What makes a senior citizens’ facility different from an apartment complex is the need and desire felt by residents generally to turn it into a community. A motley crew of occupants from disparate backgrounds and cultures are thrown together, united by one common feature — old age and its concomitant needs. Attempts are made to develop a sense of belonging and spirit of mutual caring, the salient aspects of a vibrant community. Many activities are arranged for recreation and socialising.

One such activity in my senior village is Qigong, the ancient Chinese system akin to Taichi, which involves physical postures, breathing techniques and mental focus.

When the director announced to us that he was going to Thailand (of all places!) to learn Qigong (pronounced chi gong) there was much mirth. Knowing looks were exchanged and one octogenarian commented on the fads of the young these days. So when we were invited for a class it was with varying degrees of scepticism, hopeful enthusiasm and just plain curiosity that people assembled in the community room. My husband, ever the optimist, prised his eyes off the computer screen for a second to warn me not to break my leg. Along with the younger and fitter crowd, yours truly also carried her unwieldy presence and took up position somewhere in the rear.

The director, Mr. S., arrived. His handsome but somewhat stern face had now assumed a benign aspect and there was a youthful, Buddha-like smile. So I too pasted a smile on my face. Alas, he looked at me and told me to smile from my heart!

The class started. After some warm-up movements he showed us “floating hands”. Floating hand! Ha-ha. How difficult is it to raise your hands, we sniggered. Then, with an exchange of amused looks, we raised our hands, and oops, instead of floating they flopped like beached fish within minutes.

The teacher pointed out that nobody need to strain for any activity. It was all about letting go and getting in touch with our body: of slow, almost lyrical movements, synchronising with our breathing to energise oneself. Attuning my heavy, wheezy breathing to those graceful movements was not as easy as it had appeared initially.

The teacher moved with infinite grace, his rather big, masculine body moving with the elegance and finesse of a ballet dancer. We mimicked his movement, but I felt like a scarecrow. Anyway, huffing and puffing I have graduated to “separating the cloud”, “joining heaven and earth” and such lyrical movements.

After a month we reached a stage where the movements were good and the breathing was improving. But we were yet to gain “body memory”. We are now urged to get to know our body, love the sensations and treasure the gift that is our own. More easily said than done!

Anyway, this has been a great experience for me and others who have persisted with it. My age-old backache has improved and there is a general sense of well-being. Since it is without any strain, even my aged self is able to cope with it.

rosdavid99@gmail.com

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 4:11:24 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/The-Qigong-routine-for-the-grey-brigade/article14257219.ece

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