Functional Principle and Effects of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin

Zhang Bo, Li Junjie

It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that the reason why the Health Qigong has unique disease-preventing, body-building and life-prolonging effects is the comprehensive exercise of three regulations in the body. The Health Qigong exercise contains the specific body movements such as selecting movements along meridians, assuming postures along meridians and selecting acupoints along meridians, as well as coordinates by deep, long, even, gentle respiration and mental activities that enable the brain to get concentrated gradually, thus continuously optimizing life movements in the unity of three regulations between body and mind. Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin, as one of multiple Health Qigong exercises, follows the intrinsic rules of Health Qigong unity of three regulations and also has its own features, the cerebral cortex was continuously advanced to the state of orderliness, the subcortical center was adjusted accordingly and the nervous system and endocrine system were gradually maintained at a balanced and stable state through exercise. Practices showed that people who often participate in Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin exercise can improve their poor mental state, dredge the meridian system, blood and Qi and have the functions of keeping spirit, adjusting breathing and improving health. Essence, Qi and spirit are the three treasures of the human life, which are also the material bases of human immune functions. Owing to the aforesaid many aspects of combined effects, the human nervous system, endocrine system and immune system are interacted and co-restricted and gradually optimized and integrated the homeostatic state of the body, thereby having a positive effect on improving the physical and mental health of the human.

I. Guiding Qi and Body, Regulating Qi and Blood The movements of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin are softer and slower, which can better play the body’s self-regulation functions on the basis of fully relaxing the living organism and facilitate the improvement in comprehensive recovery and functional levels of the organism. The principle of “guiding Qi and body, regulating Qi and blood” of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin is completed through the bending, stretching, stooping, and pitching movements of the limbs and trunk and the ascending, descending, opening, and closing movements of internal Qi activity, so that all tendons and muscles of the body can be stretched and extended and the channels can be unblocked to achieve “straight bones, lithe tendons, and smooth blood and Qi circulation”. The research results showed that sticking to the practices of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin exercise, the blood vessel elasticity of the body was greatly improved, cardiac muscular contraction was more powerful, the excitability of vagus nerve was further increased and the filling degree and rhythmicity of the vein were also strengthened.

II. Combining Laxity and Tightness, Promoting Coordination The combination of laxity and tightness is another significant feature of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin, which requires the practicer to integrate laxity into tightness, relax but no powerless, integrate tightness into laxity, pull and stretch the body softly. “Tightness” is only an instant in the movement and “laxity” is penetrated throughout the movement. The close coordination and orderly transition between laxity and tightness in exercise is conducive to stimulate the coordination ability of Yin and Yang and promote the circulation of meridian Qi, lubrication of joints, blood-activating and stasis-resolving and strengthening of muscles and bones. From the perspective of modern exercise science, this laxity-tightness alternative movement is a kind of low load exercise stress. The “stress” means nonspecific response of the whole body; when the organism was stimulated by various external factors, the body will produce adaptive regulation that expresses as a series of neuroendocrine changes dominated by the excitement of sympathetic nerve and the increase of pituitary adrenal cortex secretion, thus affecting the metabolic state of the human organism. The optimum and gentle continuous stress may mobilize the preparatory potential of various organs and tissues of the entire body and improve the immunity and disease prevention capabilities of the organism. Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin exercise has a two-way regulating effect on blood pressure, heart rate, blood sugar, thyroid functions, which further verified from the modern scientific experiment point of view that the Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin exercise has a positive effect in enhancing the adaptability and disease prevention capabilities of the organism.

III. Strengthening Viscera and Bowels, Dredging the Meridian System Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin has a close relationship with the viscera and bowels theory and meridian and collateral theory in traditional Chinese medicine. For example, the “triple energizer” of “Holding the Hands High with Palms up to Regulate the Internal Organs” is the distribution channel of source Qi and liquid water covering internal organs. By lifting and lowering and pulling both hands in opposite directions, this movement is beneficial for up and down distribution of source Qi and liquid water and bringing into play the roles of moisture and regulation. The “both Left- and Right-Handed” movement of “Posing as an Archer Shooting both Left- and Right-Handed” is conducive to dredging chest Qi, eliminating oppression in the chest and promoting the free coursing of liver Qi. The pulling movement of both hands in the right and left and ascending and descending directions of “Holding One Arm Aloft to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and Stomach” is in line with the principle of “spleen governing rise of the clear, stomach Qi governing descending” and plays a very good massage effect on stomach, liver and gallbladder by stretching the abdominal cavity and contributes to the digestion and absorption of the body. In “Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain”, the “five strains” generally refer to the strains of five internal organs including heart, liver, spleen, lungs and kidneys and the “seven impairments” refer to the injuries by seven modes of emotions including happiness, anger, worry, anxiety, grief, fear and terror. The health-preserving theories believed that “diseases arising from overuse”, so the five strains and seven impairments are similar to the so-called sub-health nowadays. This movement can adjust the regulation capabilities of the brain and internal organs, enhance the immunity and promote the benign adjustment of the body, and help alleviate and eliminate sub-health state by turning the head and arms. The “heart fire” of “Swinging the Head and Lowering the Body to Relieve Stress” is caused by excessive worry and exuberant endogenous fire, which were embodied in the human body that often appear vexation, aphtha, insomnia and dreaminess, constipation and deep-colored urine and other symptoms. The descending of heart fire must resort to kidney water, only the heart-kidney interaction can make heart and kidney balanced. This movement ascends the kidney water and descends the heart fire by tilting forward the upper body and shaking the coccygeal end. “Moving the Hands down the Back and Legs and Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys” enables the Du Channel and bladder meridian of the body to be fully stretched as well as has positive stimulus effect on reproductive system, urinary system and muscles of waist and back through movements of forward-bending and backward-stretching of the body and massage of waist and back and lower limbs with hands. “Thrusting the Fists and Making the Eyes Glare to Enhance Strength” stimulates the liver channel, replenishes liver blood, promotes free coursing of liver Qi and strengthens muscles and bones through the movements of the horse stance and thrust fist and the eyes glare. The movements of lifting the heel and jolting the feet, lifting the anus and pulling back the abdomen of “Raising and Lowering the Heels to Cure Diseases” can massage the internal organs inside and relieve the muscles and bones outside. As the saying goes, “shaking the body is better than walking a hundred steps”. Although it does not mean that these movements can eliminate all diseases, the feet-jolting really contributes to the smoothing of internal organs, meridians and collateral channels, Qi and blood in the whole body and the balance of Yin and Yang and is a good relaxation and cooling-down movement for the complete set of exercises. Thus it can be seen that, the principles of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin exercise were similar with the fundamental theory of traditional Chinese medicine, which were in line with the principles of human physiology.

IV. Getting Relaxed and Natural, Regulating Mental States Although Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin focuses on the stretching, opening and closing movements of the external form, limbs, joints and trunk, it is different from general gymnastics. Gymnastics movements are often relatively robust and powerful, straight, and the movement rhythms are relatively simple and not particular about coordination between breathing and ideation; while Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin requires well-coordination between spirit and form, and well-combination with Qi in exercise, gentle and slow movements, couple hardness and softness, with particular emphasis on the coordination movements of stretching limbs and trunk in serenity and natural state, expelling the old breath and taking in new and concentrated mind. Therefore, Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin exercise is an integration of body and mind and particularly highlights the regulation of emotions. Good emotions should be tranquil and quiet, peaceful and joyful, which are good foundations for the human to maintain a healthy body and mind. Huang Di Nei Jing said, “Remain detached and empty-mind, the genuine Qi flows easily; keeping essence-spirits within, no illness could arise”. Wang Bing, a medical scientist in Tang Dynasty, also pointed out that, “Daoyin massage is the right way for persons with middle level of life nurturing to nourish spirit and regulate Qi.”

V. Unity between Heaven and Man, Harmony between Body and Mind “Jin” of Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin not only means elegant and delicate silk fabrics but also means the complete set of exercise is as soft, continuous and silky smooth as the silk. Therefore, Ba Duan Jin mentioned in “Zun Sheng Ba Jian” is to “keep this cycle and make use of the eight diagrams”. The ancients also mentioned that, the exercise must “practice all parts of the body, in sequence, indispensable and no mess up”, “practice frequently without interruption”, only by doing so can we achieve the effect of “harmony between body and mind”. The classical life-nurturing thoughts of the integration of heaven, earth and human were run through Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin exercise, which can be seen from the arrangement of orderly sequence of the complete set of exercise. The first routine of the exercise is “holding the hands high with palms up” and then regulates the heart-lung, spleen-stomach, liver-gallbladder, kidney and urinary system successively from top to bottom, and finally ends with “raising and lowering the heels”. The arrangement of orderly sequence of these movements not only regulated the muscles and bones and organs of the human body comprehensively, but also became a vivid portrayal of the whole concept of integration of heaven, earth and human, which embodied the wisdom of traditional Chinese culture, conformed to the concept of modern science of health-preserving, and was undoubtedly one of the important reasons that Health Qigong • Ba Duan Jin was deeply loved by the public.