Eight Pieces Brocade
Ba Duan Jin - Health Qigong
This ancient Qi Gong (also called Chi Gung) set dates back to the Song Dynasty in China. The Eight Pieces of Brocade / Ba Duan Jin consists of eight movements as a basis for Qi Gong practice. We guide the body using the theory of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) through opening and closing movements, to dredge, regulate and circulate Qi and blood flow in the internal body. We combine motion and stillness aiming to preserve health, calm the mind and strengthen the body. This blog post shares details on the movements, the key aspects of each posture within the routine and the corresponding TCM health benefits.
Traditionally there are many teachers and lineages stemming from the original practice, where the routine has been passed down from teacher to student over many hundreds of years. Today in the modern world, the eight pieces of brocade qigong routine was standardised by the Chinese government between 2000-2003, establishing the Chinese Health Qigong Association to bring their system to a global market. The eight key movements have differences and similarities between schools and systems.
The importance is on spine health. Other benefits include a boost to the immune system, strengthen the muscles, massage the internal organs, strengthen the connective tissue, adjust blood circulation, regulate the breathe and increase lung capacity.
Dredge the Triple Warmer, regulate the spleen and stomach, harmonize Qi movement, remove heart fire, balance Yin and Yang, dredge and clear the meridian channels, strength the waist and kidneys. Stimulation of the Du meridian channel along the spine and bladder meridian channel acupuncture points either side of the spine, connecting to all of the meridian channels and organs.
Stages in the learning process
1) Learning and practicing the choreography.
- Try to copy and mimic the general shape of the movements.
- Pay attention to the beginning posture, the key posture and the end posture.
- Focus on lower body stability, an upright spine, hand postures, footwork and steps.
2) Developing and refining the choreography.
- The more familiar with the shape you become, start to refine and add in the details.
- Learn the choreography of the original form and work towards accuracy.
- Learn the basic body mechanics and movement principles.
- Understand the difference between the heavy-yin and expanding-yang stages of each movement.
- Develop ‘fang song’, a dynamic relaxed state with relaxation in the muscles and elasticity in the connective tissue.
- Consider the involvement of the spine.
- Foster a concentrated and relaxed mind.
- Develop coordinated Buddhist breathing. This is the relaxation breath, often called abdominal breathing.
3) Maintaining progress.
- Practice regularly to develop and maintain the form.
- Work on refining the choreography.
- Apply the body mechanics and movement principles.
- Smooth the transitions between movements.
- Develop a complete movement combining posture/alignment, body awareness and the breath.
- Develop coordinated Taoist breathing. This is the reverse breath, often called the energetic breath and includes raising the pelvic floor / perineum.
Opening Standing Posture
- Starting Posture: Wuji posture, hands down by sides, palms facing the legs. Follow the alignment principles of traditional Zhan Zhuang practice.
- Movement: Circle the hands by pushing them backwards and around to in front of the lower abdomen. Sink in and out of a kua squat. Co-ordinate with the breath. Perform three times.
- Spine involvement: Maintain an upright spine.
1. Two Hands Hold up the Heavens
- Health: Lower heart rate, lower blood pressure, relaxes tense & stiff muscles.
- TCM: Regulate Yin Yang of the triple warmer.
- Movement: Interlink and raise both palms to the chest. Rotate the palms out whilst lifting the chin and following the palms raising with the eyes. Tuck the chin in, relax the shoulders and stretch the arms up overhead. Release the arms circling them down whilst sinking into a kuq squat.
- Spine involvement: Maintain an upright spine as you raise up and lower down, with an equal pushing and pulling force in the palms that stabilises the spine. Qi is drawn through the body to the Lao Gong acupuncture points. These are in the centre of the palms, called the Pericardium 8 point, and seen to calm the spirit.
2. Drawing the Bow
- Health: Strengthens knees, legs, waist and back, coordination.
- TCM: Coordinate liver with lungs.
- Movement: Maintain the hips and shoulders facing forwards. Cross the arms in front of the chest. Step into a horse stance. Sink into a kua squat, whilst expanding the arms to the left and right with equal opposing force in the elbow and palm. Turn the head to look at the arrow head. The ‘drawing’ palm posture is grasping the string of the bow. The ‘arrow head’ palm posture with the index finger extended and the other fingers curled down, pressing to one side with the heel of the palm. Pause at the top of the movement. Return to the start of the movement.
- Spine involvement: Maintain an upright spine as you raise up and lower down. Balance the left and right directions of the spine as the arms expand to draw the bow. Stimulates relaxation in the two Jia Ji acupuncture points opposite the chest on either side of the spine. The Jia Ji has 17 points on each side of the spine, the centre is called the middle gate and is located in the middle back either side of the Du meridian.
3. Separate Heaven and Earth
- Health: Opens chest area, helps respiration, relaxes tension in shoulders, back and abdomen.
- TCM: Regulate Yin Yang of the spleen, stomach.
- Movement: Maintain the hips and shoulders facing forwards. Rise out of a kua squat as the hands separate and rotate, one lifting up and pressing a flat palm to the sky above the shoulder, and one lowering down and pushing a flat palm to the ground next to the hip. This action expands the trunk. Lower the palms down whilst sinking into a kua squat.
- Spine involvement: Maintain an upright spine with equal opposing force in the palms that stretches the spine. Qi is drawn through the body to the Lao Gong and the central Jia Jii acupuncture points.
4. Wise Owl Gazes Backwards
- Health: Helps tension in neck and eye muscles, coordination.
- TCM: Eliminate 5 over strains of the organs and 7 injuries of the emotions.
- Movement: Start with the palms at the trouser seam. Open the arms into a diagonal position at the sides of the body. Rotate the arm from the shoulder, spiralling the arms backward, with the thumbs turning upwards. This stretches and expands the chest and the shoulders. Turn the head with the chin tucked in to the side, with your eyes looking behind and down to the ground passed your shoulder. Keep the shoulders facing the front. Pause at the top of the movement.
- Spine involvement: The spine is held upright by both shoulders spiralling out and down with the palms pressing down. Qi is drawn through the body to the Jia ji acupuncture points.
5. Sway the Head and Shake the Tail
- Health: Strengthens knees, legs, waist and back, coordination, lessens stress.
- TCM: Regulate heart fire (stress) by lowering the heart below the kidneys, to pour kidney water onto the fire in the heart.
- Movement: Step out into a horse stance. Fold and tilt the spine around a half circle. Maintain a straight upper body.
- Spine involvement: The spine stays straight as it stretches away from the hips through the crown, rotating and folding and sweeping from left to right, and right to left. The spine is held stable via the opposing pressure through the legs and feet into the ground.
6. Two Hands Hold the Feet
- Health: Strengthens waist, stretches spine.
- TCM: Stimulates the kidneys.
- Movement: Start with the palms raised above the shoulders. Lower the palms down with the fingertips pointing to each other until they reach under the chest. Move the palms under the armpits with the thumbs on the side of the ribs. Push the palms down the back, when the palms reach the lower back / buttocks, forward bend with a straight spine / straight legs (micro bend) whilst the palms rub down the legs to the ankles. Place the palms on top of the shoes. Look forwards and push the arms forwards until they are parallel to the floor. Tilt the pelvis under to give momentum to raise up to standing.
- Spine involvement: The spine stays straight as it stretches away from the hips through the crown, with a forward bend (flexion) towards a relaxed spine at the base of the movement.
7. Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely
- Health: Strengthens knees, legs, waist and back, coordination, helps lessen anger.
- TCM: Stimulates the liver.
- Movement: Step out into a horse stance. Closed fists with the thumb on the inside sit on the hips Push a single fist out by turning the waist. Complete the flowing hand postures whilst glaring at the fist. Withdraw the fist to the hip.
- Spine involvement: The spine is held upright and stable via the opposing pressure between the rotating fists and the force going through the legs and feet into the ground.
8. Bouncing on the Toes
- Health: Strengthens calves and legs, stretches and lengthens Achilles tendons and spine.
- TCM: Stimulates the converging point of 3 Yin and 3 Yang channels on the foot covering multiple organs. Helps to return the body to the original essence.
- Movement: Feet together. Raise the heels whilst stretching and raising up from the crown. Hold the thighs together, withdraw the abdomen at the same time as contracting the buttocks. This assists balance. Lower the feet half way and ten drop the heels to the ground. When dropping maintain a relaxed body.
- Spine involvement: Maintain an upright spine as you raise up and lower down, with a drop of the heels that vibrates the spine.
- Movement: Circle the hands by pushing them backwards and around to in front of the lower abdomen. Sink in and out of a kua squat. Co-ordinate with the breath. Perform three times. Use the palms to massage the face and limbs.
- End posture: Step the feet together. Place the hands one over the other on the lower abdomen. Relax the mind, the breath, the body and the spine.