Five Animals Qigong
Wudang Five Animals Qigong is an ancient Taoist exercise designed to improve one's health and longevity. As the name implies, the movements of this exercise are based on the movements of five animals; the dragon, the tiger, the leopard, the snake, and the crane. Each animal movement improves the function of a specific internal organ. The dragon improves the kidneys, the tiger improves the lungs, the leopard improves the liver, the snake improves the spleen, and the crane improves the heart. Through dedicated practice, Wudang Five Animals Qigong has the capacity to bring balance back to one's internal organ system. When the internal organs are in balance, the body is able to work at its optimum efficiency, thus improving the overall health and longevity of the practitioner.
In addition to bringing harmony back to the internal organs, Wudang Five Animals Qigong also opens up the joints, lengthens the tendons, and strengthens the muscles. Furthermore, this ancient exercise improves the functions of the respiratory and circulatory systems as well; this not only allows the body to deliver fresh, oxygen-rich blood to all the extremities of the body but it is also assists with the elimination of deadly toxins. The overall function of Wudang Five Animals Qigong is to the body soft and supple, like that of a child. If practiced regularly, this exercise can literally reverse the aging process so that one can enjoy the benefits of strong and healthy body well into their years.
To begin, stand erect with both feet together and the hands resting along the sides. Take a moment in this posture to gather the breath and settle the mind. When ready, step out with the left foot so that the feet are now shoulder width apart. In time with the breath, allow both hands to raise to chest level then let the elbows lead as they fall slowly back down to the waist. Next, leading with the wrists, raise both arms out towards the sides and up above the head. At the extent of this movement, join the arms at the wrists and hold the palms up towards the sky as if holding a bowl; look up and stretch the body while gently holding a full breath for three to nine seconds.
With the left hand, touch the tip of the middle finger to the outside knuckle of the ring finger on the right hand. With the tip of the left thumb, touch the inside knuckle of the ring finger on the right hand. Finally, interlock the two hands by touching the tips of the middle finger and thumb of the right hand. The hands should resemble two rings linked together.
There are three things to take into account during the standing meditation practice: posture, breath, and intention.
The posture should be tall and relaxed. The feet should be parallel and placed shoulder width apart with the weight evenly distributed; keep the knees soft but do not allow them to buckle inwards. Release the tension of the face, head, neck, shoulders, back, rear, thighs, and feet and allow the earth to completely support the body.
The breath should be full and comfortable. Try to keep the breath slow, soft, and even at a rate of four to six breaths per minute. The external flow of breath is a reflection of the internal flow of energy; by regulating the breath, one can regulate the heart rate and chi flow of the body inducing relaxation and ease.
The intention should be focused but gentle. Allow the eyes to lightly gaze on the floor three to six feet ahead. Keep the attention on the breath, concentrating it deep into the naval. Try to still the mind. Avoid distracting thoughts that take the mind off of the present moment of practice.
From the standing meditation posture, open by raising both arms forward to the chest level and then dropping them back down to the waist just as it was done in the opening movements. From here, turn both hands as if "holding a ball" with the right hand above the left at the level of the naval. Step out with the left foot into a "bow stance" while the right palm pushes up towards the sky and the left hand moves out laterally to the left as if throwing a frisbee. Try to turn completely around while
From the standing meditation posture, open in the same manner as in the previous movements and circle the hands to "hold the ball" with the right hand will be on the bottom. Step out with the right foot into a "bow stance" and let the left hand remain stationary as the right hand moves out laterally to the right side as if throwing a frisbee. Once fully extended to the right, sink into a "horse stance" as the right hand pushes back, behind the neck and over to the left side; in time with this movement,
From the standing meditation posture, open again in the same way as the other movements. After the opening, draw the left hand back and the right hand forward as if outlining two circles. While stepping the right foot out into a "bow stance," bring the left hand over to the right side as the right hand drives laterally, palm up, over the left palm. From here, turn the right hand over so that it is now palm down and move the left hand down as the body sinks into a "snake creeps through grass" posture.
Principles for practice
Breath is probably the most important part of the Wudang Five Animal Qigong practice. Qigong can be literally translated as "breath work" or "energy skill," and as mentioned earlier, the external flow of breath is a direct reflection of the internal flow of energy, therefore it is very important to be mindful of the breath. During practice, the breath should remain natural and comfortable; it should never be strained or stressed. In addition, the breath should also be in time with the movements; the inhale and exhale of the breath should act as the push and pull behind each motion. Proper breath is essential for effective qigong practice.
Only a small amount of space is needed to practice the Wudang Five Animal Qigong, but it is advised to find a clean and quiet environment for practice. Areas such as a beach, forest, or mountain side where the air is fresh and clean are ideal. Spaces that are crowded or busy are not recommended for it will be far too easy to be distracted.
Time and Frequency:
The full set takes approximately thirty to forty-five minutes to do correctly. If the time needed to do the whole set is not available, than only do a portion. It is far better to do only a few movements wholeheartedly than to rush through the entire set in a half-hazard manner. Furthermore, a consistent practice is necessary in order to experience real benefit; therfore this exercise should be practiced at least once every day.