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Our bodies regularly consume materials from the world around us, and convert nutrients into energy. This energy is what makes us function – it circulates through the body and affects both our physical health and our mood.
However, since our bodies were made to move and be active to a greater or lesser extent throughout the whole day, a sedentary lifestyle causes our muscles to atrophy, bones and connective tissue to weaken and the energy to stop circulating effectively. All this can lead to a reduced quality of life, a large number of health issues, mental fatigue and feeling depressed.
The ancient wisdom in the modern age
This is why people have been developing exercises that promote physical health and energy circulation since ancient times. Qigong exercises were once taught in secret to a select group of students deemed worthy, but have now spread across the world and are available to anyone.
The eight pieces of brocade is an excellent set of basic qigong exercises that beginners can easily get into. They don’t take a lot of time to complete and can be learned fairly quickly, but the benefits they offer are numerous – strengthening muscles and tendons, improving mobility, helping prevent or heal various diseases and improving mood and energy levels.
How to perform the eight pieces of brocade
Each of the eight exercises deals with a particular energy meridian in the body and offers different health and fitness benefits, so when done as a whole, they offer a good well-rounded base for a healthy body and mind. The eight pieces of brocade go as follows:
1. Two Hands Hold up the Heavens
The hands start in front of the body, fingers interlocked, and move above the head, pushing upwards.
2. Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Hawk
As the body sinks down into a wide horse stance, one arm is held with a clenched fist near the chest and the other is extended outwards to the side, as if drawing a bow.
3. Separate Heaven and Earth
Hands, palms facing upwards, start at stomach and chest level respectively, then one palm is turned downwards and the arm pushes down, while the other hand is twisted round until it faces upwards again and then again, and the arm pushes up. They then alternate.
4. Wise Owl Gazes Backwards or Look Back
Standing on your toes with arms at the side, palms facing outwards, the head turns slowly to look left then right to look over the shoulder.
5. Sway the Head and Shake the Tail
As you drop into a deep and wide horse stance, the hands are placed on the thighs with elbows flared out and the body twists backwards with the head looking over the left then the right shoulder.
6. Two Hands Hold the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist
The body is stretched slightly backwards, then you bend forwards reaching to touch the toes with the hands.
7. Clench the Fists and Glare Angrily
As you squat into a deep and wide horse stance, arms are held at the hip with fists clenched, and then one after the other the arms punch out and return after twisting upwards first, the eyes glaring as if you were angry.
8. Bouncing on the Toes
The body is erect, with arms close to the body at the sides, you raise up on the balls of your feet, dropping down to the heels and rocking back lightly.