Health-Preserving Characteristics of Ba Duan Jin

 by Mr Zhao Yi Gang, Health Qigong Administration Office of Kunming, China

In traditional Chinese medicine, the viscera of the human body and all tissues and organs on the body surfaces are considered an organic entity. At the same time it is believed that the four seasons and environmental factors have various influences on the physiology and pathology of the human body. Emphasis is laid on both the unity in the human body and the unity between the organism and the surrounding environment, forming a unique overall point of view. Traditional Chinese medicine also stresses the decisive effect of the health Qi of the organism on the occurrence of diseases. It is believed that “Qi” is the most fundamental substance that constitutes the human body and maintains the life activities of the organism. Changes in all things in the nature come from the ascending and descending movements of Qi between heaven and earth. The motion of Qi and conversion between form and Qi are used to explain the problems about life, health and disease. The human body is believed to be an organism that constantly has Qi conversion through ascending, descending, incoming, and outgoing movements. The movements of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin are exactly designed according to the theory of the overall outlook and the rules of Qi motion. It is featured by combined relaxation and tightness, alternating motion and stillness, coordinated spirit and form, and residing Qi. The traditional Chinese theories and health-preserving ideas run through the movements of the entire exercise.

  The Triple Warmer is one of the six Fu viscera in traditional Chinese medicine. It is divided into the Upper Warmer, Middle Warmer, and Lower Warmer. The Triple Warmer relates to the entire process of Qi conversion which covers the intake of water and food, the digestion and absorption, and the transportation and excretion. It is the “general master of all viscera” (Lei Jing Fu Yi: Qiu Zheng Lu). By practicing “Both Hands Heaving Heavenly Triple Warmer” to enhance the stretching movements of the limbs and the trunk, we can influence the redistribution of blood flows in the chest and abdomen, facilitate the expansion of the lungs, deepen respiration, inhale more oxygen, and promote gas exchange and enhance the circulation of vigor. Ba Duan Jin exactly starts with this movement. Through the stretching motion of the entire body accompanied by the deep respiration and the regulated ascending and descending of Qi, the fatigue will be eliminated, all muscles and internal organs will be mobilized and ready for the next movements, and the Triple Warmer will be properly regulated.

  “Drawing the Bow with Both Hands like Shooting an Eagle” is focused on the chest. According to the rules of the ascending, descending, opening, and closing movements of Qi, this movement can dredge the channels of Qi. The chest expansion and arm stretching will have active effects on the health of the organism: on the one hand, it can strengthen the muscles in the sternocostal part and the shoulders and arms, promote blood circulation, enhance the cardiac and pulmonary functions, and further regulate the Upper Warmer; on the other hand, it can stimulate the Du Channel and Yu Acupoint on the back as well as the three Yin and three Yang channels of hands in order to dredge the Qi channels.

  In “Holding One Arm Aloft to Regulate the Functions of the Spleen and Stomach”, one upper limb is held up and the other is held down. Both arms pull with force to further draw the internal organs and muscles on both flanks of the body. This will massage the liver, gallbladder, spleen, and stomach, stimulate the gastrointestinal motility, enhance the digestive functions, and help the stomach and spleen to convert water and food. As a result Qi in the Middle Warmer will be dredged and the spleen and stomach (liver and gallbladder) and channels of the viscera will be regulated.

  In “Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain”, the head repeatedly rotates leftward and rightward and the eyeballs look backwards to the greatest extent. The movements of the head have significant effects on activating the blood circulation in the head and enhancing the motion of neck muscles. And it also helps eliminate the fatigue and other physiological functional disturbances of the brain and the central nervous system. There are usually two explanations of the Five Strains: One of them refers to strains of the heart, liver, spleen, lungs, and kidneys. The other refers to “Excessive staring impairs blood, excessive sleep impairs Qi, excessive sitting impairs flesh, excessive standing impairs bones, and excessive walking impairs tendons”. Whatever the explanation is, they always refer to the several impairments caused by imbalance between labor and leisure and poorly-regulated motion. The Seven Impairments are exact the injuries by the seven modes of emotions (happiness, anger, worry, anxiety, grief, fear, and terror). The sharp transitions between mental activities and persistent or excessive stillness and depression will cause mental disorder and disturbance and thus impair the blood and Qi in the viscera. The head-rotating movement of “Looking Backwards” will stimulate some Yu acupoints at the neck, benefit the head (central nerves) and cervical vertebrae (general nerve channels to all parts of the body), enhance and improve their functions, regulate blood and Qi in the viscera and functions of various parts of the body, and thus control and prevent the strains and impairments.

  “Shaking Head and Tail to Dispel Heart Fire” is a systemic movement. By stooping on both legs and shaking the coccygeal end, we can stimulate the spinal column and Du Channel. And the Du Channel is the converging point of Yang channels. By shaking the head and tail, we can stimulate the Du Channel and Dazhui Acupoint on the spinal column (purging method in TCM) and thus dredge channels, purge heat, balance Yin and Yang, and help remove the pathogenic fire from the heart and liver. In the pathology of traditional Chinese medicine, “fire” is a reflection of the sympatheticotonia. Normal activities of the human body will more or less cause sympatheticotonia. Healthy people will eliminate this sympatheticotonia after a rest. And when it cannot be eliminated after a rest, the person must be in pathosis. This pathosis is a pathological embodiment of the excessive heart fire in TCM. Therefore removing heart fire is a method for eliminating abnormal sympatheticotonia.

  “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist” contains both stooping and forward-stretching movements which can fully extend the muscles in the waist and back. At the same time, both arms are stretched downwards as much as possible to enhance the functions of the waist and the lower abdomen. The waist is the container of kidneys. The Lower Warmer of the Triple Warmer is located right here. Being a key part of the motor of the entire body, it not only serves as a container for the waist muscles, lumbar vertebra, and important nerves, but also protects the important internal organs. Movements of the waist actually include the movements of body tissues and organs of and contained in the abdomen. The forward-bending and backward-stretching movements can stimulate the spinal column and the Du Channel, and Mingmen Acupoint and massage Yangguan and Weizhong Acupoints to strengthen the kidneys and waist. Persistent practice of “Both Hands Touching the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist” will extend and exercise the waist muscles, enhance the functions of tissues and organs in the waist, and facilitate the regulation of the functions of all viscera in the Lower Warmer.

  In “Thrusting the Fists and Making the Eyes Glare to Enhance Strength”, “thrusting fists and glaring eyes” will stimulate the liver channel, replenish liver blood, purge liver Qi, and thus strengthen tendons and bones. This movement requires that both legs stoop and toes grip the ground with great force. Fists are clenched, wrists are rotated, fingers are gripped segment by segment, the entire body is filled with force, the mind is concentrated, and the eyes glare. These movements can excite the cerebral cortex and autonomic nerves and promote the circulation of blood and Qi. In addition, glaring eyes will also enhance the force of clenched fists and involve the application of strength. Long-term exercise will stimulate the Yu acupoints on the three Yin and three Yin channels of the hands and feet and regulate the meridian Qi of the liver and gallbladder.

  In “Seven Movements of the Back to Eliminate all Diseases”, the five toes grip the ground, both legs are moved closed to each other, the anus is lifted, the abdomen is pulled back, the shoulders are lowered, Baihui Acupoint pushes upward, and the feet are jolted. Relaxation is required for the entire movement. It is quite opposite to “Both Hands Heaving Heavenly Triple Warmer”. “Both Hands Heaving Heavenly Triple Warmer” means to stretch and pull the entire body. And this movement means to return all organs and systems of the body to their original positions through gentle vibration. “Eliminate all Diseases” does not meet these seven movements can eliminate all disease. Instead it means long-term persistent practice of Ba Duan Jin exercise will harmonize Qi movement in the Triple Warmer, calm Yin and Yang, strengthen the viscera, enhance the functions of the entire organism, and fight various diseases. This represents the idea of “preventive treatment of diseases” in traditional Chinese medicine.

  Generally speaking, the effects of Health Qigong•Ba Duan Jin are comprehensive and systemic. By practicing all the eight routine together, we can dredge the Triple Warmer, regulate the spleen and stomach, harmonize Qi movement, remove heart fire, balance Yin and Yang, dredge channels, strength the waist and kidneys, and thus preserve health and strengthen the entire body.