The Eight Treasures Qigong(八段錦) is one of the most common and widely practiced forms of Chinese Health Qigong in the world today. Variously translated as the Eight Treasures, Eight Pieces of Brocade, Eight-Section Brocade, Eight Silken Movements or Eight Silk Weaving, the name of the form generally refers to how the eight individual movements characterize and impart a silken quality to the body and its energy.
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This exercise is mentioned in several encyclopedias originating from the Song Dynasty. The Pivot of the Way (Dao Shi, c. 1150) is attributed Chinese folk hero General Yue Fei and describes an archaic form of this qigong. The Ten Compilations on Cultivating Perfection (Xiuzhen shi-shu, c. 1300) features illustrations of all eight movements. The same work assigns the creation of this exercise to two of the Eight Immortals, namely Zhongli Quan and Lü Dongbin.
The exercise was later expanded from eight to twelve movements over the centuries and was described in the boxing manual Illustrated Exposition of Internal Techniques (1882) by Wang Zuyuan, a famed practitioner of the Sinew Changing Classic set.
Nineteenth century sources attribute the style to semi-legendary Chinese folk hero General Yue Fei,and describe it as being created as a form of exercise for his soldiers. The legend states he taught the exercise to his men to help keep their bodies strong and well-prepared for battle. Martial historian Prof. Meir Shahar notes Yue’s mention as a lineage master in the second preface of the Sinew Changing Classic manual (1624) is the reason why he was attributed as the creator of Baduanjin qigong.
The Baduanjin as a whole is broken down into eight separate exercises, each focusing on a different physical area and qi meridian. The Baduanjin traditionally contains both a standing and seated set of eight postures each. In the modern era, the standing version is by far the most widely practiced. The particular order in which the eight pieces are executed sometimes varies, with the following order being the most common.
The purpose of these exercises is to stretch the tendons, loosen the joints and tone the muscles, while promoting good blood circulation and regulation of all the vital functions of the body.
Commencing: Relax and feel. Standing meditation. Open the energy channels of the body. Stand like the tree, feeling the feet firmly on the earth, pushing up the spine, the top of the head reaches up and touches the sky. Tongue on the roof of the mouth. Breathe. Relax. Enjoy.
1. PALMS RAISE TO THE HEAVENS
This first exercise is for the triple heater, which is like a thermostat for the body, and the world around us. It determines the way we interact with ourselves and the world around us. It supports appropriate emotions, responses and actions.
This exercise assists with stiffness in the shoulders and improves blood circulation flow.
2. DRAWING THE BOW
Standing in horse riding stance this exercise helps stimulate the liver (associated with vision), heart (for intention) and lung (inspiration) meridian. It helps clarity of thought and vision.
3. SEPARATING HEAVEN AND EARTH
This third exercise helps to condition the stomach and spleen, allowing us to feel grounded, without over thinking and over analysing. It supports a balanced mind and body.
4. THE WISE OWL TURNS ITS HEAD TO ELIMINATE FATIGUE
The head, known to be the place of abode of the inner gods, turns slowly from side to side. Pathways to the head need to be clear for improved intuition, relieving chronic tension and fatigue in the neck and shoulders.
5. SWING THE HEAD AND TAIL TO CALM HEART FIRE
This exercise helps to calm the heart. It can eliminate the feeling of being overworked or burnt out, or the feeling of being out of control. It encourages soft, warm light and a sense of harmony within and around you. The ‘heart fire’ should be burning with a soft warm glow, developing kindness and harmony within.
6. PUNCH WITH ANGRY EYES
This exercise is for balancing the liver, allowing for appropriate and healthy expressions of anger
7. TWO HANDS HOLD THE FEET
Focussing on the urinary and bladder line, the kidney meridian. We gather from the earth that which feeds and nourishes the body and as the arms reach to the sky, we draw in the energy that support essence and spirit. Healthy kidneys regulate our energy and gives us a sense of inner strength, peace and belonging.
8. BOUNCING ON THE TOES TO ELIMINATE THE HUNDRED ILLNESSES
Settles and smooths the Qi after exercising. Excellent for circulation and for feeling refreshed.