It's a chilly Tuesday morning in south Sacramento and wispy clouds suggest that rain may come. Fresh air rustles through the trees as a dozen people gather for a Quigong class at Reichmuth Park. Gene Yee, 84, leads the group with rhythmic sets of 24 exercises, each having a name such as White Crane Spreads wings or Grasp Bird's Tail. "Woooon, twoooo, threeeee..." he sings out until he reaches 10, then leads them to the next movement. "It circulates the blood," says Charlotte Holder. "every part of the body is represented."
Anyone can join the group, which meets at 8 a.m. Monday through Saturday, weather permitting. Membership, which includes two communal meals, is $20 a year.
"All the time, get stronger," Yee says. "Makes you younger too." He laughs heartily. "Keeps the doctor away. Happy all the time."
This exercise group was originally founded by the late, Toy Wong, in the 1980s in her garage. The class outgrew her garage and moved into the park and at one point reached about 100 people. While numbers have now dwindled the enthusiasm for the benefits of this outdoor exercise has not. Participant Roy Yee credits the class for keeping him healthy. "If you sit too long you'll be in a wheelchair," he said. Most participants are in their 70s, 80s and 90s.
Gene Yee transforms from a serious focused figure into a laughing jovial man after class. During exercises people stand far from one another as if existing within their own little bubbles, but they socialize afterwards and come for the companionship just as much as the exercise. No experience is necessary to join. One must only follow the leader and can customize the exercise to their own ability.
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