As of May, I began a new series of qigong classes with an introduction to classical taijiquan at Anahid Sofian's beautiful, spacious studio just a block away from Union Square. This is an extension of classes begun at Inwood Movement uptown this January.
The class is open to all. It is great for improving overall health, balance, suppleness, core strength and relaxation.
An interesting article on fall prevention in the NYTimes sites that Taiji is beneficial for older adults in fall prevention:
"Tai chi, the Chinese martial art, appears to be an effective way to improve balance. It involves very slow, purposeful movements in coordination with breathing and muscle activity.
A study published last year found that among adults over 70 who practiced tai chi twice a week for an hour, the incidence of falls was reduced by 58 percent. Dr. Eckstrom, one of the study’s authors, said the participants in the study did tai chi twice a week for an hour over a six-month period.
'When you fall, your body has not figured out how to stay posturally stable, and tai chi helps with that,' Dr. Eckstrom said. 'With a lot of the classic tai chi moves, you make a fairly large step out, or to the side. Or you lean forward, with your trunk. You’re putting yourself in a position of almost falling.' All of this, she added, trains the body to remain stable when put in an off-kilter position.
The CDC maintains a compendium of recommended exercises that includes tai chi."
Since the summer, I began giving qigong classes at the invitation of Tessa Chandler of Inwood Movement. Tessa is a long time Feldenkrais teacher and recently began her studies of qigong. To my delight, a really wonderful group of people interested in qigong and it's health/healing potential began to collect. Inwood is a lovely, relaxed environment to practice…and there is a park with hiking trails just across the street…in Manhattan!
We are planning classes to begin January 9 on Wednesday and Fridays.
Please visit Inwood's website for more info.
So excited that we will be having our first Qigong Intensive/Training to begin the New Year and herald our new sessions starting in January. It may be sort of an oxymoron considering qigong practice is Taoist (some think of wu wei as being laid back and relaxed), but Taoism is intense…and relaxing…and rejuvenating. The process of cooking can be intense, and qigong is a bit like cooking: there are times to collect ingredients, times to prepare, times to cook, times to simmer, times to rest, and times to ingest.
It is all part of a natural flow of living.
I found myself alone today. I was drawn to sit in McGolrick Park and eat my small breakfast on a park bench. The scene of dappled light coming through the tall trees mottled the sidewalks and lawns. People and animals serenely walked, sat, fed, conversed and simply were. Each appeared to me like a little planet unto themselves and their atmospheres touched my own as they passed by. The perfect temperature aided this idyllic scene, there was an infinitesimal breeze giving just enough circulation to the air. The sounds of birds, bugs, dogs, and people came and went just as the scene before me came and went. There was nothing to hold and nothing to add. The feeling was harmonious, balanced and alive. This kind of state is impossible to write about because there is nothing much to say, no story to tell.
This week I was given a unique opportunity as my schedule had been cleared of most appointments, events, and people, so I found myself being drawn (just like I was today to the Park), but to the sitting cushion. This kind of sitting is not for the idyl, the crazed or the ambitious. It must be approached with a great deal of sobriety, honesty and fearlessness. Sitting practice is not about becoming a better person, but it does reveal something beyond words or images. Poetry and stories abound in the ancient traditions can only hint at what this process illumines. Often they are simple phrases suggesting a kind of paradox or a secret shared between friends.
Over the past months, I've been reading the lectures of the late Chinese Ch'an master, Nan Huai Chin. There are only a few books translated into English from Chinese and I am now on my third. From what I have been told many of the books were complied from his extemporaneous lectures. These are records of remarkable learning and wisdom and J.C. Cleary has done a great service to have translated them into English. I am no authority, but I highly recommend these to anyone interested in the traditions of Chinese cultivation practices: Confucian, Taoist and Buddhist.
What will make us take care of what we have been given?
Qigong is a tool to help us care for the gift given to us by nature. It won’t necessarily make you look like the latest cover model, but it is clinically proven to help us toward better health. Recently I had to change doctors due to a change in health insurance. My new doctor asked me if I exercised and I said I practiced qigong and taiji. She smiled saying, “These are great forms of exercise AND clinically proven to benefit health.” I was surprised by her emphatic response.
The above question appeared after my first class in the park following the long winter. I saw that some students had been practicing and as a result their flexibility, coordination, stamina, and balance had improved tremendously. I was so happy to see them so strong! Others who slacked off during the hiatus were less able and they knew it. Why did they stop? Could they not recognize how qigong was benefiting their physical bodies?
The answer may be more complicated than sheer laziness. For certain the exercises that most people usually engage in (gym workouts, jogging or power yoga), give one an immediate physical sensation associated with the exercise. If one feels the effort, pain/discomfort, or the rush of adrenaline then it must be having a good effect, right? This is not necessarily so and in some cases I might be doing more harm than good. With qigong we don’t always experience tangible effects immediately and in some cases it seems so easy (and feels so good) that we doubt its capacity to have any impact whatsoever. Much like the effects of wind and water, it slowly but surely influences the physical organism.
So, you won’t feel the heart thumping rush of running, the burn of lifting weights, or the searing stretches of power yoga, but qigong can help heal the body if done correctly and it has a verifiable impact on the immune system. We might experience a little of each of these exercises—all gathered together with a Taoist-like balance. I have secretly toyed with the idea of advertising my class as “Exercise for Lazy People” or maybe “Exercise for the Unambitious”. It might appeal to those who hate pain and sweat. But these taglines imply a kind of uncaring attitude. So I am considering “Exercise for the Guardians of Nature's Endowment”. It sounds kind of Chinese, but to the point. Our bodies will not last forever, but the longer we live, and the healthier we are, will allow us more time to cultivate even something more precious… but that might be the subject of another post.
Yeah! Spring is finally here and I am ready to resume group classes in McGolrick Park. I can speak for many students who worked with me last year, that most enjoyed the opportunity to get outside and enjoy the park as well as learn qigong.
Springtime in Chinese medicine is the season of rejuvenation and cleansing. It is the time to eat your greens! (and specifically dandelion greens as their bitter taste relates to the liver organ). The liver is connected to the wood element and therefore it makes perfect sense that it is the organ associated to Spring. Wood flourishes during the Spring and is also the Earth's filtration system. Similarly the liver is our bodies filtration system.
In the Chinese healing tradition Spring is the time for walks. So along side our usual qigong practice, and in honor of the season, we will learn the healing walk of Master Gou lin as taught to me by Sat Hon.
All classes are weather dependent so please sign-up to let me know which class you plan to attend and I will keep you informed of any changes.
As the weather is still cool, please wear appropriate clothing and shoes to move. We will warm up!
Looking forward to seeing you in the park.
April 12 at 11 am
April 19 at 11 am
April 26 at 11 am
In my last blog, I wrote about how a daily qigong practice can keep us in good health. However, regardless of the body's ability to defend against illness, one is still susceptible. No matter how well we eat, live and practice, the polluted environment we inhabit and the daily stresses of modern life still keep us deeply out of balance. These days even the animals, the plants and the weather are out of balance. Often we are under the illusion that we live in a bubble and that if our little world is put in order then we have everything under control and nothing "bad" can happen to us. But if we investigate further, we see that we are connected in ways that we do not yet recognize.
In a recent conversation with a fellow qigong practitioner, we wondered together:
Does qi accumulate?
The conclusion we came to was that it must, as we both felt that with regular correct practice our health improved. Over the summer, due to a hiatus in my own practice, I came down with a cold. It could be that I just got sick (sometimes unavoidable), but I wondered later if there was a correlation. I immediately, went back to my daily routine and my immune system seems to have improved again. My fellow practitioner and sometimes student said that with her regular practice, ailments that were once there have vanished. And another recent student said that on vacation her travel companion became ill, but she did not. The research is still underway and I am my own guinea pig.
I recently saw a short interview with a qigong master who said that his Western students love to learn new things, but they don't want to practice. It was a revealing statement. Practice is not just repetition of what I know—the same old patterns practiced over and over again. It also isn't just following a prescription by rote. Rather, I see it as a refinement of what one has learned, and a whole hearted investigation. Practice should be fun, interesting and full of life. This is Qi!
The summer Qigong sessions at McGolrick Park began to blossom into great Qi. The classes were a lot of fun for everyone (including me!) and for some, they helped to spark a regular qigong practice. As Fall is upon us, we will be heading indoors and the first venue will be Awakenings Spa in Greenpoint. Please join me for my first workshop in this beautiful location on October 4 from 11 am to 1 pm. This is the heart of up and coming Brooklyn. Let me know if you would like to take part and I will give you more details.
Cultivating Ease, Simplicity & Lightness
Qigong is often practiced to cultivate a flow of qi within the body. It works on many of the same principles as acupuncture as it helps to release knots and blockages within the energy pathways thus promoting better health and well-being. In this workshop, we will work with movement, hand gestures, and sounds to bring mind and body into a more harmonious state. The movements are simple, but subtle. Beginners as well as more experienced Qigong practitioners are welcome.
It was a beautiful day for Qigong in the park. In honor of the birds in McGolrick, I am posting some pictographs of various birds found on oracle bones of the Shang period (1600 BC to 1046 BC) from, Nature in Chinese Art drawn by Harry E. Gibson.
The birds seem to really appreciate a certain qigong movement we are doing. So if you want to find out what that is…well come and join us!
These images represent some of the earliest forms of Chinese writing and indeed one can see a visual relationship with the more recent characters (more pictographs below). Qigong's origins are ancient as well, but all the living creatures from which many of the movements are taken are still alive on Earth today.
For many of us it has been a long, cold winter and now that summer is soon to arrive it is time to unfurl our limbs and senses to take in the fresh air, light and energies of the animals, plants, earth and sky. After our first class, people expressed to me that it was such a pleasure to see the great trees of McGolrick Park as they practiced their head rotations! It was a lot of fun and it would be wonderful if you could join us.
Qigong originates from Daoist practices, and for most people it is done to develop and maintain a healthy organism. This introduction is intended for everyone. Qigong is similar to acupuncture in that it balances the body by activating the energy pathways. In this class, we will explore both moving and standing qigong forms as well as the healing sounds.
This introductory group class is designed to give a taste of Qigong. Sessions will take place outside under the shady trees of McGolrick Park in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Both new and experienced Qigong students are welcome to join. Classes are weather dependent, so please check the website in case of cancellation.
(New to Qigong, your first class is FREE!)
Visit the home page to view the schedule and register to receive updates.
has studied qigong and taiji with Sat Chuen Hon, a Taoist and native of China for several years. Mr. Hon has asked her to carry on this Taoist healing tradition to help benefit others. Ms. Fox received her MFA in painting from Yale University in 1997. Her studio practice, writing as well as her study of dance and movement have been woven together over many years into a rich exploration and inner search. She is a published poet and has recently helped prepare and edit Sat Hon's writings on Qigong and Taoist stories for publication.