Five Animals Qigong

Qi, the atmosphere and energy, permeates everywhere, and Qi (breathing) also connects us with the environment every moment. Qigong, known as a Chinese form of yoga, is the art of cultivating Qi, and Qi can be understood as vital energy, breath, and strength, which is essential for maintaining wellness. Five Animals Qigong (Wu Qin Xi) is a part of Health Qigong, a traditional exercise that combines physical movement, breathing, and mental conditioning. Unlike yoga, which requires a yoga mat as assistance, Health Qigong is all done standing with soothing motions, and we don’t need extra props to help. It’s so convenient that we can stop while walking or hiking and practice Qigong anytime! 

Evolved from Daoyin, a form of dance like exercise that predates Qigong, the Five Animals Qigong was developed by an outstanding physician named Hua Tuo around 1,800 years ago. It’s a physical exercise in which we imitate the movements of five different animals: tiger, deer, bear, monkey, and crane. Each animal has two plays, which brings a total of ten plays. Five Animals Play is a form of Qigong that uses body motion to balance and improve the circulation of energy, also enhancing the coordination and balance of the body. 

At the beginning of the practice, we coordinate arm movement and breathing to settle down; and at the end of the practice, we bring awareness to the lower Dantian, a storehouse of energy located around 3 finger widths below the navel. Breathing gently and directing the mind to Dantian harmonizes inner and outer energy and leads to tranquility. 

Health Qigong has integrated with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles and, as the name implies, aims for disease prevention, improved health, and longevity. Since correspondence with nature is a big part of the TCM concept, we need to understand our body as well as nature to maintain health. This notion leads us to connect with nature while taking responsibility for our own bodies’ health condition, an approach that helps sustain both us and the environment. May we all adopt nature-friendly healthcare methods and live in harmony with all living beings.

Notes:

  1. Based on Health Qigong Management Centre of General Administration of Sport of China, Health Qigong – Wu Qin Xi [健身氣功 -五禽戲] (Beijing: People’s Sports Publishing House, 2005).
  2. VCD, Health Qigong – Wu Qin Xi [健身氣功 -五禽戲] (Beijing: Beijing Sport University Audio & Video Press).

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