Health-improving eastern gymnastics – Qigong – is very popular among the older generation around the world. Now these eastern gymnastics are available to Muscovites. Participants working with the charity project Longevity provide free Qigong classes for seniors in six Moscow parks. This project is supported by people with initiative, and each of us can contribute something by becoming involved. This is the second year that the NAYADA Company has been working with the Longevity project – we met with its founder Maria Terekhova and asked her about these classes – and why she thought that it was worthwhile for everyone to know about them.
Please tell us about your Longevity project. How did it all start?
The charitable project «Longevity» was established in 2012. This idea was born while I was working in China, often watching local pensioners doing Qigong exercises. Such free classes in parks are very common in that country – and the happy faces of the pensioners performing these exercises inspired me to create this program in Russia. Unfortunately, in our country, few people think about the elderly – after all, 24% of them live alone. Lack of socialization, their advanced age, small pensions, loneliness, and poor living conditions – represent a huge and urgent problem in Russia, which is rarely given due attention. Under these conditions, older people cannot be happy, and especially healthy.
How and where do you study?
Our Qigong for Seniors classes are held in five Moscow parks (Tagansky, Lianozovsky, Babushkinsky, Sokolniki, and Krasnaya Presnya) and in the Ripa Center 3-5 times a week, depending on the location. During the cold season, we do these exercises indoors. I would like to once again emphasize – these lessons are absolutely free! We often get calls from senior citizens, afraid that they may be tricked and money will be required from them. Up to 50 people participate in these exercises. These numbers are greater in parks located far from the city center, while at sites near downtown the groups are smaller). The average age of the participants is 60-75, and our visitor is 92 years old. The classes are taught by professional coaches, including winners of the European Taiji Championships, International Wushu Sports Festivals, a coach with higher medical education, and those teaching Qigong for over 20 years already.
What effect do these classes have on health?
Qigong health-improving eastern gymnastics are used in many rejuvenation programs and as means to prevent the appearance of diseases of the musculoskeletal system. Regular exercise improves the tone of the body, animates the spirit, and optimizes the work of the cardiovascular system. An important factor here is also that many of the exercises can be performed while sitting. All of our participants have lost weight, reduced joint pain, their breathing became easier, and some stopped using walking canes and painkillers. However, the most important thing is that all our athletes have an opportunity to communicate, to recharge their mood, to be active, and strive to achieve something. This is a great opportunity to meet in the mornings, to discuss news, to do something good for one’s body, get some fresh air, and have new experiences. Many of the participants have formed new friendships and now visit each other at home. Among people coming to our Qigong classes are former pilots, people with two higher educations, former doctors, artists. The classes are fun and easy, and everyone can communicate and find new friends.
The older generation appreciates this opportunity to come together and work on maintaining good health. When in 2013 the project was at risk of closing, our visitors almost started a protest movement. We often have problems with premises, as we are given the use of them at no charge. Sometimes these are then converted to commercial projects, and we cannot always find a new place to move to. Our seniors are never idle, they arrange meeting with the heads of councils and districts, write letters, and get their way – in Babushkinsky Park and on Lytvyna Sedogo Street, they secured the premises on their own. Thanks to their efforts, the fact that they did not give up, and that they brought articles and reviews about us during their meetings with authorities, we were able to find these premises.
How can you join this project and help?
We would be pleased with any assistance that can be provided. On the Longevity website, in the “How to Help” section, you will find information about how you can provide material assistance for these activities. However, everyone can help – as we also need organizational support. For example, we periodically distribute flyers to invite people to classes. After all, many people do not know about them, or are afraid, or do not trust. Just taking a few leaflets and giving them to seniors at the entrance to your building – is already great help. You can come to the lessons, treat people to some cake or cookies, congratulate them with a holiday, or just to chat – all help is welcome, and we appreciate it!
If you are a journalist, or have access to any information resource, then let people know that we provide free classes, this will be of great help. We also look forward to working with new Qigong trainers.