“Posture Adjustment” is one of the three important elements of Health Qigong exercise. It means that the trainee regulates and controls the basic body shapes and limb movements so that they meet the requirements of the exercise. It is also known as body-shape alignment which is realized through reasonable relative motions between tendons, membranes, bones, and muscles. The earliest record of the term “Health preserving” appeared in The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Divine Axis: Benshen: “therefore the health-preserving activities of the wise must be in accordance with the four seasons and climate. Through the regulation of Yin and Yang and adjustment of hardness and softness, these health-preserving activities will prolong life.” Health preserving is also known as regimen. It is a preventive treatment of diseases that strengthens the body constitution, prevent diseases, and prolong life through all kinds of approaches. The earliest record about the relationship between Posture Adjustment and health preserving appeared in Lüshi Chunqiu: Chapter of Ancient Music, which recorded the treatment of diseases “where muscles and bones are shrunk” with “dances” having “draining” effects. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine also recorded information about Posture Adjustment and health preserving, such as “Obey the law of Yin-Yang and adopt varies methods for health preserving”. From this we can see that Posture Adjustment has been used to achieve health-preserving goals. This is evident in different name of health preserving, such as guided health preserving and athletic health preserving. The Posture Adjustment of Health Qigong is different from simple limb motions. It is focused on “adjustment”. In other words, special body shapes and limb-regulating methods are used to achieve health-preserving goals.
Using rotating, bending, and stretching motions to regulate viscera and dredge channels
The emphasis on rotating, bending, and stretching motions is one of the outstanding features during the Posture Adjustment of Health Qigong. There are many rotating, bending, and stretching movements especially of the trunk in the four Health Qigong exercises.
The rotating, bending, and stretching motions of the spinal column are emphasized in many postures in Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing. For example, rotating strength is used from the legs to the waist and then to the arms in “Pulling back Tails of Nine Bulls”. Joint-by-joint drawing, bending, and stretching motions are used for the head, neck, chest, waist, and sacral vertebrae in “Bowing Posture”. The movements of the body trunk fully reflect the characteristics of the five animals in Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi. In “Tiger Posture” for example, the knee-bending, abdomen-drawing, chest-drawing, knee-stretching, hip-forwarding, abdomen-arching, and backward-bending movements are completed at one go so that the spinal column has worm-movements from a folded state to an unfolded state. In Deer Wrestling, the waist is bent and rotated sideways with large amplitude. In Deer Running, the back is arched and the abdomen is drawn in. In Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue which lays more emphasis on breathing, the trunk does not move much, but straightening adjustments are also reflected in all character formulas, such as the leftward and rightward rotating movements of the trunk in “Sh” character formula, and the shoulder-squaring, chest-expanding, and head-shrinking movements in “Hiss” character formula. In “Shaking Head and Tail to Dispel Heart Fire” of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jing, the spinal column is bent sideways and rotated to pull the tail bones and the neck. In “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist”, the spinal column is bent forward and stretches backward to create benign stimulation on the trunk.
Regular rotating, bending, and stretching motions of the trunk can regulate viscera and dredge channels. According to theories of the traditional medicine of our country, the trunk is where all channels of the body goes through. These channels connect viscera with the rest of the body. “All ways of the five viscera come from channels” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Suwen: the Channel Theory). “These 12 channels belong to the viscera inside the body and connect the limbs and joints on the outside” (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Divine Axis: the Sea Theory). All of this has clearly pointed out the relationship between viscera and channels. All of the Ren and Du Channels and channels distributed on both sides of the spinal column or running across the spinal column and circulating all over the body are closely related to the spinal column. Therefore once the channels are unblocked, the blood and Qi circulation will be smooth and the viscera functions will be strengthened. According to modern medicine, exercising the spinal column will not only improve blood circulation, strengthen muscles, prevent pathological changes in the surrounding soft tissues, and prevent hyperosteogeny, but also promote the regulation of the viscera because the preganglionic neurons that regulate the autonomic nerves of the viscera are located inside the lateral corners and anterior corners of the spinal cord. The postganglionic neurons are located on both sides or on the frontal surface of the spinal column. Therefore spinal column exercises will have a direct influence on the autonomic nervous system and thus influence the functions of the visceral system. Health Qigong exactly uses all kinds of rotating, turning, stretching, and extending movements of the trunk to regulate viscera, dredge channels, and achieve body-building and health-preserving goals.
Moving the distal ends to coordinate Qi and blood and strengthen muscles and bones
It is another feature of Health Qigong during Posture Adjustment to strengthen the movement of small joints and small muscle clusters at distal ends of the body. There are many regular movements of fingers, toes, wrists, heels, elbows, and knees in Health Qigong
, such as the forced opening of lotus-leaf palms, the powerful wrist-erecting and palm-pushing movement, and the ground-grabbing movement with ten toes of both feet which are completed at one go in “Showing Claws and Wings” of Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing. Another example is the conversions among the natural palms, dragon claws, and clenching in “Blue Dragon Reaching out Claws”. In Health Qigong•Wu Qin Xi, the coordination between the tiger claws and tiger pouncing with fingers as hard as steel hooks, the engagement between flexible Ape Hooking and the heel-lifting movement, and the coordination between the nimble Bird Wings and the balance upon the knee-lifting movement have all reflected the regular motions of the distal ends of upper and lower limbs. In Health Qigong•Liu Zi Jue, the motions of wrists and fingers are also manifested in different ways. For example, the palm-erecting, wrist-rotating, and abducting movements in “Hiss” character formula embody the motions of the distal joints of limbs. Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jing gives more prominence to the exercise of distal ends of limbs. The wrist-bending motion of Bazi Palms, the finger-erecting motion, the palm-opening motion, and the clenching and adduction of the side-drawn hands in “Drawing the Bow with Both Hands like Shooting an Eagle” complement each other. The fully outward rotation of both arms and palms in “Eliminating Five Strains and Seven Impairments” and the coordination of the palm-rotating motion, fist-clenching motion, and ground-grabbing motion with ten toes in “Clenching Fists and Glaring Eyes to Increase Qi and Strength” all reflect the multi-directional and multi-strength motions of the small joints and small muscle clusters at distal ends of limbs.
Moving the distal ends to coordinate Qi and blood and strengthen muscles and bones. According to theories of the traditional medicine of our country, the tips of fingers and toes are starting or ending points of the 12 channels. For example, the Hand Taiyang Channel of the Small Intestine Begins from the tip of the little finger. The Foot Taiyang Channel of the Urinary Bladder ends at the outer side of the little toe. The source points of the 12 channels are located near the wrists and ankles. The theory of the twelve source acupoints (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine: Divine Pivot: Nine Kinds of Needles and Twelve Source Acupoints) applies in the event of diseases with the five viscera. For example, Taiyuan, the source acupoint of the Lung Channel of Hand Taiyin, is located in the dent of the radialis of the transverse grains of the palm (facing upward). Qiuxu, the source acupoint of the Gall Bladder Channel of Foot Shaoyin, is located in the dent in the lower front of the outer ankle. The elbows and knees are where the internal Qi is easily blocked. For example, when there are there are problems with the heart and lungs, internal Qi will be stagnated in the elbows. When there are problems with the kidneys, internal Qi will be stagnated in the back sides of both knees (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine•Divine Axis•Pathogenic Factors). From this we can see that regular movements of distal joints can dredge channels and coordinate Qi and blood. According to theories of modern medicine, movements of distal ends of limbs will improve peripheral blood circulation of distal ends, promote the return flow of venous blood and lymph, boost Qi and blood exchange, and strengthen the ability to control and regulate the peripheral nerve of limbs, muscles, and the coordination between brain nerves and the motions of distal ends of limbs. To sum up, Health Qigong uses all kinds of regular movements of the fingers, toes, wrists, elbows, and knees to coordinate Qi and blood, strengthen muscles and bones, and achieve body-building and health-preserving goals.
Combining relaxation with tightness, adjusting Yin and Yang, and balancing the organism
The combination of relaxation and tightness is also one of the main features during the Posture Adjustment of Health Qigong. Relaxation means that the muscles, joints, central nervous system, and viscera are relaxed during practice. Tightness means appropriate strength is used in a slow manner during practice. The combination of relaxation and tightness is an embodiment of the Yin-Yang theory of traditional medicine in Health Qigong exercises. The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine has made the following comments on the relationship between Yin-Yang and health: “When Yin and Yang are in a relative equilibrium, the spirit will be in good condition” and “when Yin and Yang are well-balanced, the body will be full of vitality”. This means Yin and Yang are in a unity of opposites. A man will be free of diseases only when the Yin-Yang balance is maintained in the human body. Health Qigong adjusts the Yin and Yang inside the human body through its unique exercising mode-combined relaxation and tightness.
Health Qigong realizes posture adjustment with a combination of relaxation and tightness in a gentle and slow state. In “Pulling back Tails of Nine Bulls” of Health Qigong•Yi Jin Jing, both arms are adducted and rotated until they are gradually pulled to the end points. At this point they are in the tight state which belongs to Yang. The arm muscles, muscle clusters on the back and abdomen, and some muscle clusters of lower limbs are doing work in a contracted state. Later, the waist is turned to drive both arms to reach out until the next arm adduction and pulling movement. At this point they are in a relaxed state which belongs to Yin. The muscles at joints of the lower limbs, waist, abdomen, shoulders, elbows, and wrists are relaxed one by one. Another example is “Drawing the Bow with Both Hands like Shooting an Eagle” in Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jing. We should display a state of serene mind, relaxed body and be natural and at ease when starting to take the step. This state belongs to Yin. When drawing the bow to shoot the eagle, we should slowly tension both arms and maintain the drawing posture to create an agitating feeling. This state belongs to Yang. In “Seven Movements of the Back to Eliminate all Diseases”, the toes grab the ground and heels are lifted to keep a short-term balance of the body in a relatively tensioned state of muscles all over the body. Then relax the body and drop the heels to slightly hammer the ground. The posture adjustment with combined relaxation and tightness is implemented throughout the four Health Qigong exercises.
Combination of relaxation and tightness, adjustment of Yin and Yang, and balance of organism reflect the inner requirements on the movement guidance of Health Qigong and follow the basic theories of traditional medicine, such as mutual growth and reduction between Yin and Yang and mutual conversion between Yin and Yang. Remedying defects, rectifying errors, aiding the weak, and restraining the strong are all meant to coordinate the relative equilibrium between Yin and Yang in the human body and thus to strengthen the body. According to theories of modern medicine, the relaxation-tightness exercise with all parts being relatively relaxed benefits the contraction and relaxation of muscles, helps trainees to relax the mind, adjusts the nervous system, improves or balances the physiological functions of the organs of various systems of the human body, and thus achieves the body-building and health-preserving goals. (Ding Liling)
Reference: “Posture Adjustment” and “Health Preserving” in Health Qigong jsqg.sport.org.cn