Ba Duan Jin is a qigong form for health and well-being. By stimulating all major meridians, it helps bring balance and qi to the body and organs.
Ba Duan Jin (“The Eight Silken Movements”) is commonly used as medical qigong but it also has links to the internal martial arts as well. Some claim that it was originally taught by Bodhidharma (the first patriarch of Zen/Chan) to the Shaolin monks in China.
Each of the 8 movements is repeated 8 times. Together, these movements stimulate the 12 meridians, or energy pathways, bringing life force and balance to the body and its organs.
- The breath is the foundation. The slow breathing relaxes the muscles and quiets the mind. Do your best to remain mindful of the breath and let the movements follow the inflow and outflow of air. I will guide in a particular pace, but you are encouraged to find a rhythm that works for you.
- Listen to your body. It is important to keep in mind that we are not trying to exert ourselves or go as deep as possible. Listen to your body and stay at 70-80% of your maximum capacity.
- Time the movements. See if you can time the movements so that all moving parts finish simultaneously. Everything moves at the same time, and then everything comes to stillness at the same time.
- Start by finding stability in the standing posture.
- Find a light bent in the knees.
- Relax the belly, shoulder and the facial muscles.
- Connect with the earth underneath and find a natural sense of dignity in the spine. Feel the lower part of the body being grounded. Your root chakra, hui yin, sinking into the earth. At the same time, feel the upper part of the body gently being pulled upward. Your head and crown chakra, bai hui, is lifting toward the sky.
- Step out with the feet to hip-width
1. Two Hands Supporting the Sky
Breath in as you press the arms up, reaching the palms toward the sky. Follow with the gaze. You can stay in the stretch as long as you’d like, keeping the air in the lungs. When you are ready, breathe out and relax. Let the hands be soft as you lower them, palms facing outward.
This move is said to stimulate the “Triple Warmer” meridian (Sanjiao), which stretches from above the diaphragm to the lower belly. The tripple warmer is linked with breathing, digestion and excretion. The stretching and relaxing increases the flow of qi through the meridians in this area, which brings life force to the organs linked with these meridians.
2. Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Hawk
Breath in as you widen the stance and cross both hands in front of the chest, left under right. Breath out and turn left palm out, forming an arrow, pointing the index finger. Breathe in as you lower yourself into a horse stance and stretch the bow out to the left. Look over the left hand and feel the stretch. Hold breathe as long as you like. Breath out and straighten the legs as you cross the arms, right under left. Do the same on the other side.
This movement strengthens the legs and helps center the body. The lowering and turning improves qi flow in the kidneys and meridians in the waist area. It also helps to open Lao Gong, the major acupuncture point in your palm, connected with the heart master channel.
3. Separate Heaven and Earth
Breath in as you separate the hands. Left hand palm reaching up toward the sky while the right presses down toward the earth. Breath out and lift the gaze. Breath in and push the palm away from each other, separating heaven and earth. Breath out as you move the palms toward each other. Pay attention to the timing of the hands so that they meet in front of the solar plexus. Shift the hands, lifting the right and lowering the left. Imagine that you are holding a plate in the lifting hand and try not to “drop” it.
This way of pressing the hands apart stretches the tendons, muscles and ligaments in the arms, hands and entire upper body, stimulating the stomach, spleen and liver meridians.
4. Wise Owl Gazes Backwards or Look Back
Breath out and lower both hands toward the lower dan tian, palms facing down. Then start the next movement by lifting both palms as you turn the head toward the left, looking out over the shoulder. Keep the eyes open, feeling the stretch in the neck and throat. Then turn the palms down and let the hands sink down toward the lower dan tian as the neck comes back to neutral. Breath in, palms facing up, looking out over the right shoulder. Stay for as long as you’d like before relaxing back on the exhale.
This movement helps to loosen the musculature i the neck and throat region. The simultaneous gazing to the side is said to release excessive emotions like anger and depression, which are associated with the liver.
5. Sway the Head and Shake the Tail
Breath in as you widen the stance and place the hands on your thighs, thumbs facing forward, gently opening the chest. Breath out and shift the weight to the left leg, turning and looking at the right foot while keeping the back straight. Breath in as you turn the upper body to the left and rotate in a half circle, shifting the weight over the the right. Breath out as you turn and look at the left foot. Breath in, extend the back toward the right and the rotate back to the left side. Go only as deep as what allows you to keep the back straight.
In the rotation, the lungs can absorb excessive qi and heat from the heart center and solar plexus, which is then released on the outbreath. This helps counteract imbalances caused by improper diet, pollution and lack of sleep, which gets stored as heat of fire in the heart.
6. Two Hands Hold the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist
Coming back to hip-width on an inbreathe, placing the hands on the kidneys. Breath out. Breath in as you gently lean backward without bending the back. Then breathe out and roll down, letting the hands follow the legs without touching them. Breath in and straighten the back and look forward. Breath out, relax and let the upper body hang in space. Breath in and roll back up, hands following the inside of the legs without touching them. Breath out and let the hands come back to the kidneys.
This forward and backward bent increases the energy flow to the kidneys and waist, restoring balance and unlocking stuck energy.
7. Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely (or Angrily)
Breath in and widen the stance slightly as you place the fists close to your arm pits. Breath out and punch with the left arm as you lower the stance. Stay for a moment, with a fierce gaze. Breath in as you open the hand and strongly turn the fingers as if to grab and pull the energy back in as you straighten the legs. Breath out and do the other side. Try to time the movements so that the movements of the arms and legs are finished simultaneously. Keep the back straight. If it tilts forward, you have probably gone too deep in the posture. Relax the parts of the body that don’t need to be tense.
The benefits are similar to the second movement, drawing the bow. In addition, this movement is said to promote the spiritual energy, shen, by forming a strong intention in the punch. This intention is strengthened by fiercely gazing out over the hand. It also helps to lead out and release excessive qi that may have gathered in the body.
8. Bouncing on the Toes
Breath in and come back to hip width stance. Breath out, release the fists and the the palms face the earth. Breath in as you press the palms down and come up on your toes. Breath out as you relax and gently come back down while lifting the hands. Firmly press the palms down and stay at the top for as long as you feel comfortable.
Similar to the first movement, this one stimulates the tripple warmer region and evens out the qi in the body, from head to toe.
Coming to stillness
Place the hands on the lower dantian and find stillness for three breaths.
Shou Gong (optional)
Breath in and lift the hands to the side, palms out. Then bend the elbows, folding the upper arms in and lowering the palms along the front central channel toward the lower dan tian on an outbreath. Do this three times.
This part is called Shou Gong and can be added as a way to close any qigong form. It helps to gather and collect the qi in the body, and placing it back in the lower dantian, the major energy center located below the navel in front of the spine.
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