Five Animals Qigong: Connect with Nature

Knowing about Qi helps us understand Qigong. Originally, Qi meant cloud mist, and from observing the changes in clouds, weather could be understood and predicted. In ancient times, nature was dominant; people’s lives and health were strongly influenced by nature; in turn, ancient people needed to observe natural phenomena closely. Qi is later referred to as “atmosphere” or “air,” the element that sustains our life. And Daoyin, which means guiding the Qi to achieve harmony and exercising to soften the body, was developed in ancient China to improve health. Danyin is a form of dance-like exercise that predates Qigong. Aiming to prevent disease and prolong life, Health Qigong has evolved from Daoyin. And Qi is further understood as breath, energy, and strength. 

Weather affects every individual’s daily life. In Chinese, weather is called “sky Qi.” Some might think that ancient people were affected a lot by nature, but nowadays with highly developed medical technology, nature doesn’t influence us that much. If you heard the news of the 2022 heat waves and over a thousand people died in Europe due to the high temperatures, you might have a different opinion. We are all influenced by the weather (sky Qi), especially nowadays when extremely severe weather appears more and more because of climate change. Furthermore, studies suggest that weather affects pain, and there is a statistical correlation between atmospheric pressure and suicidal behavior. Health Qigong, the art of cultivating Qi, helps prevent disease by balancing and harmonizing the Qi in our bodies and the Qi outside. 

Health Qigong, integrated with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) principles, is known as a traditional exercise that combines physical movement, breathing, and mental conditioning. Correspondence with nature is a big part of the TCM concept, and Five Animals Play (Wu Qin Xi), a physical exercise that imitates the movements of animals, naturally leads us to connect with nature for well-being. A type of Health Qigong, Five Animals Play was developed by an outstanding physician named Hua Tuo around 1,800 years ago. This exercise imitates the motions 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 invites us to learn from animals and live in harmony with nature to maintain health. 

Qi, the air and energy, permeates everywhere; and Qi, the breath, connects us with the environment every moment. Compared to indoors, a natural environment gives us a different energy. Ideally, we practice Qigong in a place with fresh air, such as in the mountains, in parks, or by a river. Five Animals Play is all done standing with no props needed to assist. It’s so convenient that we can stop while walking or hiking and practice Qigong anytime! When practicing indoors, make sure the place has good air circulation.  

Qi is omnipresent. We exchange energy (Qi) with nature via the atmosphere (Qi) and our breath (Qi). Nature holds energy that is both renewing and healing. Five Animals Play, a nature-friendly healthcare approach, increases bodily coordination and balance as well as the flow of Qi. Let us engage in Five Animals Play, connect with nature, dance with the ever-present Qi, and stay healthy. 


  1. Xinhua Great Dictionary (Beijing:The Commercial Press, 2005).
  2. Health Qigong Management Centre of General Administration of Sport of China, Health Qigong – Wu Qin Xi (Beijing: People’s Sports Publishing House, 2005).
  3. VCD, Health Qigong – Wu Qin Xi (Beijing: Beijing Sport University Audio & Video Press).
  4. Death Toll from Europe’s Heat Wave Tops 1,100 | Democracy Now! 19 July 2022.
  5. “This heatwave is the new normal”, WMO Secretary-General says – World | ReliefWeb.19 July 2022.
  6. Farbu, Erlend Hoftun et al. “To tolerate weather and to tolerate pain: two sides of the same coin? The Tromsø Study 7.” Pain.
  7. Lee, Mihye et al. “Weather and Health Symptoms.” International journal of environmental research and public health.
  8. Hiltunen, Laura et al. “Atmospheric pressure and suicide attempts in Helsinki, Finland.” International journal of biometeorology.

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