By Zhang Wenchun, Bao Xiaolei
Health Qigong is the cultural treasure of Chinese nation, which was rooted in traditional Chinese culture and born out of the then cultural background. Viewing from historical origin, Health Qigong was based on the ancients’ cognition and mastering on human life and the regulation, control and exercise of human life activities on the basis of the ancient human view of life. Therefore, the movement arrangement of Health Qigong methods and practice skills of every gesture and motion follow the law of exercise physiology and reflect the understanding of traditional Chinese medicine on human life. Thus, the presentation of Health Qigong functions and methods and the interpretation of health effects are essentially related to traditional Chinese medicine theory.
The Starting Form is an important preparatory process for Health Qigong • Yi Jin JIng exercise, which enables the practicer to quickly enter the exercise state through “body regulation”, “ breath regulation”, and “mind regulation”.
Posture: stand with both feet together, set arms on the two sides of the body perpendicularly and naturally; slightly withdraw the chin, move up Baihui, close the lips and teeth, look right into the front and gently butt the tongue against the palate naturally. Relax the entire body, keep the whole body in an upright balance, breathe naturally, inward eyesight, and even-minded.
Both feet together can make Kidney Channel and Yinqiao Channel close together, have special effect on nourishing kidney-Qi and the lower limbs together; and set arms on the two sides of the body perpendicularly and naturally enable the Qi activity all over the body easily to form a whole.
Move up Baihui and slightly withdraw the chin enable the head to keep upright; at the same time, due to the lifting of Baihui, the cervical vertebrae is loosened naturally and has the trend of stretching upward, Qi of Du Channel also ascends; slightly withdraw the chin and make Qi of Ren Channel descends naturally. Butt the tongue against the palate is commonly known as “building the magpie bridge”, which is beneficial for the connection of Ren and Du Channels and urging the ascending and descending of Qi activity.
Inward eyesight makes spirit not get distracted but become even-minded, thus achieving “three-in-one” state of “body, Qi and mind”.
The First Routine: “Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle 1”
The first routine begins transiting into dynamic state from static state at the starting form. Stand on open feet naturally to launch the smooth operation of Qi activity. At this time, the limbs are balanced and natural, the Qi and blood circulation are run smoothly without causing stagnation, which is beneficial for Qi of Channels running through the limbs.
Stretch out both arms and take back with bending elbows, relax shoulders, and form a vacant armpit simultaneously can mobilize the circulation of Qi through the three Yang channels and the three Yin channels of hand, thus to make Qi and blood circulation of hand smooth. Dabao Acupoint, the large splenic collateral, is located under armpit. Relax shoulders and form a vacant armpit can effectively relax this acupoint, thus playing a regulatory role in the collaterals of the whole body and facilitating the circulation of meridian Qi.
Both palms are closed in front of the chest and put at the same height of Danzhong Acupoint. It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that Danzhong is one of the eight influential acupoints, which is the Qihui of the human body and has the effect of regulating the flow of Qi and soothing the nerves. Put the palms together in front of the chest can calm Qi and gather the spirit and equalize the right and left Qi activity of the body.
The Second Routine: “Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle 2”
This routine further regulates the three Yin channels and the three Yang channels of hand through the extending of upper limbs and the pushing-outward movement of both arms, as well as smooth Qi of heart and lung, improve respiratory function and strengthen the blood and Qi circulation through chest extending.
It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that, the heart governs blood vessels, the heart controls the blood to be transfused to the vessels, if there is plenty of blood and the blood circulation is normal, a ruddy complexion is shown, the pulse is gentle and powerful, and the chest is comfortable. Therefore, this posture has very good effects on heart and chest diseases, such as blood circulation blocked, precordium depressed mainly caused by stasis of blood and Qi and etc.
The lung governs Qi and manages respiration. As Su Wen: Wu Zang Sheng Cheng said, “lung governs all Qi”. The lung not only breathes the air of nature, but also takes charge of Qi of the entire body, participates in the generation of Zong Qi, and regulates the ascending, descending, incoming and outgoing of Qi inside the body; moreover, all vessels converge in the lung, so the lung has promotion acts on blood circulation and blood compresses. Therefore, stretching, extending and pulling the chest is conducive to the chest and lung exercise, thus enhancing the physiological function of the lung and effectively relieving chest stuffiness and heart palpitation and other symptoms.
As the limbs are the starts or ends of the channels, the pushing-outward movement of both arms in this routine requires applying strength to the fingertips, and the wrist sits and standing palms require gripping the ground with toes, thus to fully mobilize Qi of the twelve regular channels.
The Third Routine: “Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle 3”
This routine regulates Qi of triple energizer through lower limbs heel-lifting and upper limbs raised up. “Triple energizer” is a term of traditional Chinese medicine, which has the following two meanings:
One means the “triple energizer” of six Fu viscera that is distributed in a large organ of the chest and abdomen. As it does not match with five Zang organs, it is also known as “solitary residence”, hollow and with a cavity therein. As Lei Jing • Zang Xiang Lun said, “But among 12 organs, only the triple energizer is the only one which is unparallel, so it is called solitary residence. Namely, outside zang and fu organs and inside the body, triple energizer covers all the organs and serves as the big residence in the body cavity.” Nan Jing • Liu Shi Liu Nan said again, “The vigour of the triple that also, the main traffic: don’t three gas, experience in the derrnatopathy. Triple energizer is the special messenger of vitality; it mainly functions to run three qis and travel in five zang- and six fu-organs.” The triple energizer facilitates the primordial Qi circulation and transfer the water and fluid. The ascending, descending, incoming and outgoing of Qi and the transport and discharge of body fluid are dependent on the smoothness of the triple energizer. The triple energizer comes from kidney system, connects to the lung upward, and between exterior and interior. The rise and fall of all upper and lower organs are controlled by the triple energizer and all exterior and interior Qi enter and exit via the triple energizer. The triple energizer are same as the striae, its operational primordial Qi and body fluid flow outward into the striae, make the skin moistened, and maintain the body air exchange with the outside world.
The other purely means the parts of the body. The upper energizer refers to the parts above diaphragmatic muscles, including the chest, head, upper limbs, heart and lung and so on; the middle energizer refers to the parts below diaphragmatic muscles and above navel, including the upper abdomen, spleen and stomach, liver and gall and so on; the lower energizer refers to the part below navel, including the lower abdomen, kidney, bladder, small intestine, large intestine and so on.
The understanding of the triple energizer herein contains the aforesaid two meanings, the practicer raises up both hands and supports by the tops of the feet to apply strength to the four limbs, which not only can facilitate Qi circulation of triple energizer channel of Shaoyang, but also stretch and pull the cavity of the triple energizer to launch Qi of Shaoyang and promote Qi and blood circulation. At the same time, the massage is applied on its corresponding zang and fu through stretching to stimulate Qi of five Zang organs and enhance the zang and fu functions.
As the three Yang channels and the three Yin channels of hands and feet are distributed in the upper and lower body limbs, the three Yang channels and the three Yin channels of feet are distributed in the front and back of the trunk and Ren and Du Channels are running above the trunk, and the strength is applied to the limbs, so that Qi can be run through the whole body, and thus well regulating the fourteen channels of the human body and the collaterals, tendons and skins associated.
In the movement, imagine that you are gazing the palms through “heavenly gate”, get well-coordinated between spirit and form, and integrate Qi activity into a whole.
The Fourth Routine: “Plucking a Star and Exchanging a Star Cluster”
The routine contains more waist and arm rotation, so that the waist can get plenty of exercise through transition from Yang palm to Yin Palm (palm down) and coordination of waist twisting.
It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that, the waist is the vessel of the kidney and the kidney is congenital foundation, a place for storage of congenital essence and congenital Qi that plays a key role in human growth and reproductive development. Through waist twisting and body Daoyin, as well as using consciousness, concentrating on posture, looking at the center of the palm, concentrating the mind on waist Mingmen and giving consideration to the top and bottom, lowering genuine Qi given off to the waist, kidney and Mingmen, this routine can stimulate and inspire Yang Qi and achieve the effects of strengthening the waist and kidney.
The routine requires twisting with shoulders driven by waist and arms driven by shoulders, applying strength to Mingmen and facilitating genuine Qi. As ancient people said, “the force is originated from the feet, dominated by the waist and formed at the limbs”, the waist relaxing can promote Qi and blood circulation and thus ensuring the functions dominated all activities of the entire body.
The Fifth Routine: “Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails”
The routine drives the movements of shoulder blades while twisting the waist, which fully stimulates the acupuncture points of multiple zang and fu on the bladder meridian of foot Taiyang on the back and Jiaji Acupoint andextra nerve points. Jiaji Acupoint is a 0.5 inch acupoint lateral to the posterior midline at both sides below the first thoracic vertebrae to the fifth thoracic vertebrae spinous process of the human back, there are 17 points on the right and left, totally 34 points. It has extensive therapeutic range: the upper chest point treats cardiopulmonary diseases; the lower chest point treats spleen, stomach, liver and gall diseases; waist point treats waist abdomen and lower limb diseases. This routine exercise can effectively stimulate Jiaji and other acupoints, thus playing a very good regulation for the human zang and fu organs. On the whole, this routine contains larger amplitude of chest exercise, thus effectively stimulating Feishu and Xinshu Acupoints, having better regulation and exercise functions on heart and lung and playing better effects on prevention and control of cardiopulmonary diseases.
In addition, this routine drives the shoulders by waist, drives arms by shoulders, applies strength to the bladders through coordinated activities of the limbs and pulls fascia and meridians by rotating and stretching, thus promoting meridians and collaterals and Qi activities and regulating zang and fu functions.
The Sixth Routine: “Showing Claws and Wings”
Through a series of Daoyin movements such as arm-stretching, palm-pushing, arm-bending, palm-withdrawing, shoulder-spreading, and chest-extending, this routine enhances the lung function by smoothing Qi of chest and lung. It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that, the lung has the physiological function of mastering Qi and managing respiration. Su Wen • Liu Jie Zang Xiang Lun also said, “The lung is the foundation of Qi”. The lung masters Qi of the entire body, the pulmonary respiratory movement can guide the opening, closing, incoming and outgoing of Qi of the entire body. Yunmen and Zhongfu Acupoints are the important acupoints of lung channel, which are located in the chest and adjacent to the lung. This routine repeatedly opens and closes Yunmen and Zhongfu Acupoints to purge the pulmonary Qi through palm-pushing and arm-spreading, thus to promote the intersection and fusion of natural air and genuine Qi inside human body and guide the opening, closing, incoming and outgoing of Qi of the entire body. In addition, Zhongfu Acupoint is where the middle-energizer Qi gather and also the front-Mu point of the lung, the gather place of Qi, Qi of the lung, and spleen and stomach are integrated in this acupoint. Thus, the exercise of this routine enables the interior and exterior Qi to well communicate.
The mental activities for the movements of palm-pushing and palm-withdrawing in this routine, the palm-pushing is required to be firstly gentle as pushing the window and then provided with overwhelming force; the palm-withdrawing is required to be as the ebb tide of seawater, for the sake of realizing coordinated form and spirit through mental Daoyin and guiding the opening, closing, incoming and outgoing of Qi of the entire body. The same goes for exhaling naturally when pushing the palm and inhaling naturally when withdrawing the palm. The lotus leaf palm (straighten and open the five fingers) when pushing the palm and willow leaf palm (straighten and gather together the five fingers) when withdrawing the palm to Yunmen are the effective ways for guiding opening and closing of Qi.
The Seventh Routine: Nine Ghosts Drawing Saber
This routine contains more body twisting and stretching and larger amplitude of back-pulling and withdrawing and twisting, therefore, the exercise positions are more extensive, especially the spinal stretching exercise. Beishu Acupoints of the five zang viscera and the six fu viscera are distributed on the bladder meridian of foot Taiyang on both sides of spinal column of the back. All the Beishu Acupoints are distributed on the first lateral-line of the bladder meridian of foot Taiyang of the back, namely, 1.5 inch lateral to the posterior midline (Du Channel). Beishu Acupoints of zang and fu organs basically correspond to the corresponding zang and fu location, e.g. the locations of the five Beishu Acupoints including Feishu, Xinshu, Pishu, Shenshu is up or down corresponding to the locations of the relevant internal organs. For example, the lung is at the highest position in the five internal organs, thus Feishu Acupoint is at the highest position in Beishu Acupoints of five internal organs; the kidney is at the lowest position, so the Shenshu is at the lowest position accordingly. Beishu Acupoints are the parts for the essence and Qi of the five zang viscera and the six fu viscera to be infused into the body surface and important acupoints for regulating functions of zang and fu organs and inspiring healthful Qi of the human body.
This routine mobilizes Qi activity of zang and fu organs and guides the opening and closing of genuine Qi of the entire body through body twisting and stretching movements especially by dint of Beishu Acupoints, thus to make the functional activities of the five zang viscera and the six fu viscera coordinated and orderly and make the ascending and descending of Qi smooth. The previous routine (“Showing Claws and Wings”) emphasizes on the opening, closing, incoming and outgoing of Qi, while this routine and the next routine (“Three Plates Falling on the Floor”) emphasize on the ascending and descending of Qi.
Through neck twisting and back twisting and stretching, this routine exercise effectively stimulates important acupoints like Yuzhen and Jiaji and contributes to the smooth of Du channel Qi activity.
The Eighth Routine: “Three Plates Falling on the Floor”
This routine contains larger amplitude of lower limb activities and requires upper limb to coordinate accordingly, so as to regulate the internal Qi activity with ascending and descending movements of the body.
It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that, Qi can be divided into four basic modes of motion: ascending, descending, incoming and outgoing. The ascending, descending, incoming and outgoing of Qi are essential for human life. The human body’s congenital Qi, Qi from water and cereals and clear Qi inhaled from the nature must be spread throughout the body by ascending, descending, incoming and outgoing to play their physiological functions. The physiological activities of the human body’s zang and fu organs, channels and collaterals, forms and orifices must be done by depending on the movements of Qi. Su Wen • Liu Wei Zhi Da Lun said, “If incoming and outgoing cease, then the transformation of the shen-spirit dies out; if ascending and descending are no more, then Qi becomes isolated and in danger. Therefore, if there is no incoming and outgoing, then there is nothing that gives birth, grows, becomes strong, grows old, or dies; if there is no ascending and descending, then there is no generation, growth, transformation, collection, or storage.” which shows the importance of Qi activity for human life. This routine appears three ups and three downs and gradually increases the squat strength to harmonize Qi activity of zang and fu organs, ascend and descend accordingly, descend Qi of heart and lung, ascend Qi of liver and kidney, appropriately hinge Qi of spleen and stomach, thus promoting the intersection of heart and kidney, the smoothness of Qi activity of liver and lung, and the steady ascending and descending of spleen and stomach.
This routine regulates internal Qi activity during the process of rise and fall of the movements, exhales turbid Qi and inhales clear Qi from the nature, completes air exchange with the nature, and facilitates the strengthening of physiological activities in the human body.
This routine fully utilizes the strength of the limbs. The palms are just as if bearing heavy loads when squatting and just as if raising a very heavy weight when lifting the body, which has the function of strengthening internal Qi. It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that, the spleen governs the limbs, so the exercise of the limbs can strengthen the spleen function. In addition, the sound “Hai” is pronounced simultaneously when doing squatting position, so as to lower Qi to Dantian through sound guiding Qi.
The Ninth Routine: “Black Dragon Displaying Its Claws”
“Black Dragon” in the name of this routine is one of four direction gods in ancient China, which is located in the east. It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that, the liver is subsumed to wood in the five elements, which fits for the east on the direction and fits for black on the color, thus this routine is mainly designed for the liver.
It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that, the liver governs free coursing and stores blood, is the unyielding viscus and the organ of general that has vigorous nature, aversion to depression and preference for free development and smoothness. This routine is based on the physical characteristics of the liver to facilitate the alternate tightening, relaxing, opening and closing of both flanks through turning-back, right and left claw-displaying and forward-bending movements of the body. From the channels and collaterals of traditional Chinese medicine point of view, the liver meridian is distributed in the flanks, so the exercise of the flanks can have the effect of soothing the liver, regulating the flow of Qi and lighting the emotion.
Viewing from the relationship between the liver and the body, it is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that, the liver is closely connected with the tendons. The right and left claw-displaying of this routine enables the tendons to be fully stretched, which is conducive to the exercise of liver channel and enhance its physiological function. The movement requires the eyesight follows the “claw”, the mind concentrates on the center of the “claw”, thus making spirit concentrate on posture and Qi follow the posture to guide the stretching and circulation of liver Qi.
In this routine, both fists are clenched and thrust alternately affixed to Zhangmen Acupoint, which can play the effects of stretching spleen earth by dint of liver Qi. Zhangmen Acupoint is the acupoint of liver channel, the influential point of viscera of the eight influential points, the front-mu point of spleen, and the gather place of vital essence of the spleen. As “the five zang organs are endowed with the spleen”, the spleen is the postnatal foundation and source for the production and transformation of essence, Qi, blood and body fluid. Thus, this routine withdraws the fist at Zhangmen after turning the body, right and left claw-displaying, converts the spleen earth by dint of free coursing and free development of liver Qi, and strengthens the physiological functions of source for the production and transformation of Qi and blood of spleen and stomach.
The Tenth Routine: “Tiger Springing on Its Prey”
The movement of this routine contains larger activity strength, the limbs, trunk, waist, back and neck are required to have corresponding coordinated movements. This posture imitates the state of tiger springing on its prey, not only imitates its form but also catches its expression. From the perspective of the Channel Theory of traditional Chinese medicine, the movement of bending with contra-arch waist and back has very good stretching exercise effect on Ren Channel of the human body. Ren Channel belongs to one of the eight extra channels. It starts from Baozhong and comes out from perineum, extends the midline of chest and abdomen to throat, passes through the cheek and enters the infraorbital region. Ren Channel is the sea of Yin channels, which commands Qi of Yin channels of the whole body. This routine allows Ren Channel to be stretched and nourished through posture of tiger pouncing, body titled backward, stretching of chest and abdomen, and then further harmonizes channel qi of three Yin channels of hands and feet.
From the perspective of zang and fu organs, this routine contains waist and back arching and chest and abdomen stretching movements, thus having a better massage effect on the five zang and six fu organs and with the features of regulating zang and fu organs functions on the whole. In addition, the movement of “springing on its prey” is required to set on the ground with “tiger claw”, and gradually slump the waist, square the shoulder, raise the head and make the eyes glare to embody the power of the tiger, so as to stimulate the free development of liver Qi and regulate Qi activity through free coursing of liver Qi. This routine contains larger intensity of waist exercise, which can strengthen waist and kidney, improve activity functions of the waist and leg muscles, and strengthen waist and leg.
The Eleventh Routine: “Bowing Down in Salutation”
This routine focuses on forward-bending and backward-stretching movements. In forward-bending, the spinal column from the neck stretches and bends forward like a hook; in backward-stretching, the caudal vertebra stretches upward segment by segment. Therefore, this routine has good exercise effect on the spinal column. It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that, the spinal column is the main running route of Du Channel. Du Channel starts from Baozhong and comes out from perineum, passes through coccygeal and ascents along spinal column, enters into the brain when arrives at Fengchi Acupoint at the back of the neck, passes through the top of the head, forehead, nose along the midline of the head and ends at Yinjiao Acupoint. Du Channel governs Qi of Yang channels of the whole body, has a regulation effect on Qi and blood of Yang channels of the whole body, hence it is also known as the “sea of Yang channels”. This routine has strong pertinence, focusing on exercise of spinal column to achieve the effect of dredging Du Channel. The smoothness of Du Channel of spinal column can mobilize channel Qi of the whole body, full of Yang qi and energy, thus achieving good effect of improving physical fitness.
The movements of waist bending and forward-bending of this routine effectively stretch the bladder meridian of foot Taiyang, which not only facilitates the dredging of channel Qi of the back and the lower limbs, but also has certain prevention and control functions on various kinds of zang-fu and lower limb diseases.
The body-bending movement of this routine has very good compression and massage effects on abdomen and can enhance the spleen and stomach functions and prevent digestive system diseases. This routine reinforces the waist exercise and plays the function of strengthening waist muscles, reinforcing the kidney and consolidating the renal essence. Its “sounding the heavenly drums” movement stimulates neck acupoint behind the head, which has the effects of awaking the brain, improving hearing and eliminating brain fatigue.
The Twelfth Routine: “Swinging the Tail”
This routine stresses on the exercise of waist Mingmen and coccygeal, guides Qi activity of the whole body stretched in the movements of the aforesaid routines back to Dantian. This routine utilizes Mingmen to extrude towards Dantian of lower abdomen by body forward-bending and waist-slumping, thus to guide Qi back to Dantian; as well as regulates Ren and Du channels by head-lifting and swinging the tail towards the right and left; and guides Qi activity of the whole body back to Dantian by looking into the coccygeal and coordination of the head and the tail, and thus playing a role of enriching the primordial Qi and reinforcing the healthful Qi. Qi of the whole body becomes abundant and fluent due to plentiful Qi of Ren and Du channels, thus making the entire body inspired and refreshed after exercise.
The purpose of the closing form is to further regulate Qi activity surged by exercise and guide Qi back to Dantian. The movements of the closing form are leisurely to make Qi go back to Dantian of the lower abdomen through upward closing and downward guiding movement of the upper limbs. After the first and second times of both hands collecting and guiding Qi downward to the abdomen, the mind should be used to continue to guide Qi to descend through Yongquan Acupoint of the centers of feet and downward to the ground, thus to balance Qi activity of the whole body, and the last time of both hands collecting and guiding Qi downward to Dantian of the abdomen, the mind should follow the movements of both hands. Hold mind concentration for a while and make Qi go back to Dantian, so that the whole body can enter serenity and relaxation, clam Qi and keep the spirit serene, the exercise is ended.
Reference: Interpretation of Traditional Chinese Medicine Theory on Health Qigong • Yi Jin Jing jsqg.sport.org.cn
Yi Jin Jing: Tendon – Muscle Strengthening Qigong Exercises Chinese Health Qigong Association
Qigong, the Secret of Youth: Da Mo’s Muscle/tendon and Marrow/brain Washing Classics by Yang Jwing-Ming