Sonoma Valley Sun


Subtleties in the park

Posted on May 26, 2023 by Sonoma Valley Sun

As summer begins, many people are eager to get outside and enjoy some exercise, especially as COVID-19 restrictions and protocols diminish. If swimming or going to a gym isn’t appealing, then why not try Quigong? There’s a group that meets at Depot Park in Sonoma at least once a week.

Pronounced as “chi gong,” Quigong was developed in China thousands of years ago as part of traditional Chinese medicine. It involves using exercises to optimize energy within the body, mind, and spirit, with the goal of improving and maintaining health and well-being.

Tai Chi is one of many forms of Quigong. The National Quigong Association describes it simply as a mind-body-spirit practice that improves one’s mental and physical health by integrating posture, movement, breathing technique, self-massage, sound, and focused intent.

Quigong is made up of two words Qi (“subtle breath” or “vital energy”) and Gong (“skill cultivated through steady practice”).

“I’ve been doing this for three months now and I’m in much better shape than I had been,” said long-time Sonoma resident Catherine Sevenau. She admits that it took a while for her to get into the routine. “Yet, I had to get back to exercising regularly because during the past three years of COVID-19, I was wary of going to a gym or anything like that.”

Being outside in the open air appealed to Sevenau, and the local instructor/coordinator Robert Young (above) likes to help people ease into the gentle exercises/movements that only last for about an hour.

When Sevenau attended at Depot Park on a recent morning, the weather was overcast and breezy. About 20 people were participating and Young encouraged them to ease their way into each exercise, slowly.  For those with arthritis and other similar conditions, Quigong is easy on the joints. Its movements are not jolting or fast-paced.

The sounds of live music that Thursday morning helped keep focus as Ruti Celli played a slightly amplified Cello to each set of exercises and breathing techniques.

“Maybe the gathering will have Ruti play accompaniment more often now that the weather is warming up,” said Young. He’s been teaching the discipline for 15 years.

With a Bocce Ball court, playground and plenty of lawn space, Depot Park was ideal for Quigong during the onset of the pandemic. For the past three years Quigong has been conducted there. “This class has been well received and continues to grow,” said Young.

With warmer weather ahead in the summer months, Sevenau (above) wants to attend each week. With the aim of preventing disease and to improve, sustain, and maximize overall wellbeing. “What’s there not to like,” wonders Sevenau, who writes a column for The Sun. “Just show up and go at your own pace.”

Session/classes are conducted each week, usually on Thursday at 11am, and are very informal. Depot Park on (First Street West at Arnold Field) offers plenty of free parking. For more information contact  instructor, Robert Young at [email protected]

— Story and photos by Jonathan Farrell

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