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Movement medicine – where to start? A simple tried and tested Qigong practice – Ba Duan Jin

Updated: Jan 10, 2022

This Qigong, or Chigong, practice us called Ba Duan Jin or Silk Brocades. It is a very popular and easy to follow 15 minute practice, using gentle, flowing movement to direct the flow of healing life energy (Qi or Chi) through all of the meridians of the body to promote optimal health and wellbeing.

Meridians are rivers of energy that move through your body (the same meridians as in acupuncture). They relate to each organ, as well as the flow of life in the form of the seasons and the elements – earth, air, wood, metal, water, fire.

Silk is smooth and soft, but very strong. Be like silk!

This is a tense and release practice, so it’s good for lymphatic system and anti-inflammatory aspects.


You may well be surprised how good you feel afterwards, and relaxed too.


I first came across Qigong through yoga friends and, wanting to know more, I did what many of us do – went to the internet and Youtube.

I checked out a few videos and then settled on this one by Mimi Kuo Deemer.

I really enjoy Mimi’s style of guidance and teaching and have since done many workshops and classes with her, in person and online, as well as an 8 week course exploring the intricacies of each of the 8 movements in this practice.

Fascinating stuff. Here are some of my notes.


My Notes:

  • Qi, or Chi, is life energy. In yoga it’s called prana.

  • The movements can be done slow or fast, but should always be flowing Imagine being in water), and movement should be coordinated with breath as much as possible. As a general guide, breathe in as you expand and open the body and breathe out as you contract and close up the body.

  • The breath in should be through the nose but the breath out can be through the mouth or the nose. The quality of the breath in and out should be soft and smooth.

  • Qigong is traditionally done standing, but if standing for this amount of time is challenging, you can do the movements from a seated position, on the edge of a firm chair, like a dining chair. If standing, you can ease out between movements, one foot at a time, lift your heel off the floor, keeping the toes on the floor, and rotate your foot and ankle a few times in between each of the 8 movements. If sitting on chair, lift the heels and toes on inhale and exhale during some of the movement, to engage the whole body.

  • In between each movement, return to a neutral posture (wuji) and check in with your body. Are your feet parallel - about shoulders’ distance apart? Is there a slight bend in your knees? Is your tailbone resting downwards (like sitting on a tall stool) and tummy soft? Is your chest open? Is there space between your shoulders and your ears? Is your face soft and your jaw relaxed? Can you feel the top of your head lifting slightly?

  • When moving, keep palms soft and open, like petting a cat. It’s the elbows that guide the movement, more than the hands. Let your hands be ‘feelers’ (receptive).


The 8 movements briefly described:

1. Triple Heater - “Two hands support the heavens”.

Pericardium (heart protector) and Triple Heater organ meridian network.

Fire and earth element – balanced, holding steady, grounded (balance is the quality of resilience, i.e. returning to balance once you have lost your footing).

Tip: You can take 2 breaths when doing any movement if one breath seems to be a bit too long.


2. Opposing hands – “Raise the hands to condition the spleen and stomach”.

Earth element - late summer, worry, overthinking, over committing, abundance, nourishment.

Tip: Breathe into the tummy – front, side and back - 360 degree breathing. This is called Dantien breathing in Qigong. (The dantien is a reservoir of energy located just below the navel).


3. Archer – “Open the bow to let the arrow fly”.

Stomach, spleen, liver organ meridian networks. True aim, clear vision, focus. Metal and wood elements.

Tip: This movement is done with a wider stance – horsestance, so, instead of having feet shoulder width and parallel, step the feet out wider and parallel, like sitting on a horse (about 3 feet). Relax the tailbone and hips downwards.

“Drawing on the heart’s intention, gathering deep inspiration and using clear vision”.


4. Wise Owl – “Looking backward to eliminate five fatigues and seven illnesses”.

Earth element, also metal and fire.

Tip: Keep the chin level and the shoulders facing forwards. It’s only the head that turns. Also, there can be a slight pulse in the legs, straightening the legs gently as you turn, returning to soft bent knees as your return to face forward.


5. Calm Heart Fire – “Swing the head and tail to eliminate heart fire”, or “Wag the tail to calm heart fire”.

Heart and small intestine meridian network.

Fire element. Connection / overwhelmed.

Tip: this is horsestance again, but with toes turned out slightly. The exhale can be longer than the inhale.


6. Strengthen the Kidneys – “Two hands climb the legs to strengthen the kidneys”.

Kidney/Urinary bladder organ meridian network.

Water element.

Tip: Can touch the body or keep hands slightly off the body. Let the hands be s steady and receptive, open and able to feel.


7. Punching – “Punching with an angry gaze to increase strength”.

Liver.

Wood element.

Tip: Reverse breathing - Inhale to chest, abdomen draws in / exhale from chest, abdomen expands and chest softens. You might let out a sound with the exhale.


8. Shake – “Shake the back to eliminate the 100 illnesses”.

Gall Bladder and Lung/Large intestine organ meridian network.

Metal element, also affects Ren and Du Mai (yin and yang conception and governing vessels).

Standing Meditation

At the end of the practice, you might want to do a traditional Qigong standing meditation. Return to the neutral position described above (wuji) and with hands resting slightly away from the body at hip level, or lifted in a relaxed way in front of the heart, do relaxed dantien / 360 degree breathing and enjoy the moment.



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The role of intention (yi) in Qigong


“Where intention goes, energy flows”

“Yi guides the qi”


Intention play:

1. Move your hands and arms up and then down gently and slowly in front of the body, palms facing down, keeping elbows soft, from about hip height to heart height.

2. Now imagine you are doing same movement but pushing something down and lifting something up.

Does it feel any different?

The only thing that’s changed is the intention.

You can do this with just your hands too, e.g., open and close hands normally, then imagine closing your hand with force and then opening without force, and so on.


Colour

You can also visualize colour as a way of eliminating toxicity from the body. Imagine a colour leaving the body and then a different colour entering (you can choose the colours).



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