Creating Joyous Practice with the Five Animal Frolics

Qigong is a unique & ancient Chinese exercise and healing system that allows you to enhance health & prevent illness by aligning the mind & body with Qi (“Chi”/Vital Energy).  Qi is the vital energy that we are born with, the energy that we receive into our body by the food we consume and through nature (e.g. the air we breathe). 

THE FIVE ANIMAL FROLICS

The 5 Animal Frolics (五禽戲, Wu Qin Xi) is a complete qigong system, and the most ancient qigong system still practiced today.  According to Kenneth Cohen, author of The Way of Qigong,”As story has it (Daoist Legend) Hua Tuo [110-207 AD/CE] received this text as well as instruction in Five Animals from two recluses living in a cave on Mount Gong Yi.”  The “more recent” teachers whom are credited with spreading qigong (and Five Animal Qigong, in particular) are Madame Guo Lin (1906-1984) and Feng Zhiqiang (who learned this from his teacher, Hu Yao-zhen)*.  The series of exercises that comprise the Five Animal Frolics not only help to keep the body sprightly and strong, but it engages both the mind and spirit as well.  The Five Animal Frolics helps to create depth to your practice by allowing your body to communicate in different ways.

“When you practice the animals, do not imitate the animals, become them!”

(Kenneth Cohen)

TIGER – Strong and ferocious, the tiger is skilled at pouncing and quick at snatching prey.  When practicing the tiger form, it is necessary to keep eyes alert and “paws” flexible at times and sometimes with great power at the fingertips.  [Organs: yin/Liver, yang/Gall Bladder]

DEER – Practicing deer play helps to develop grace and relaxation through stretching the legs and spine. [Organs: yin/Kidneys, yang/Bladder]

MONKEY – Practice the monkey form to develop suppleness and agility.  It is encouraged to not only do the large movements, but to squint and purse your face as a monkey would. [Organs: yin/Heart, yang/Sm. Intestines]

BEAR – Practice the movements of the bear to develop strength/power.  It fortifies the bones and develops energy in the kidneys, your fundamental source of vitality. [Organs: yin/Spleen, yang/Stomach]

CRANE – Light, agile and balance are qualities of the crane.  Becoming the crane, you stretch the ligaments and helps to release tension/compression in the spine. [Organs: yin/Lungs, yang/Lg. Intestines]

“Feeling is a language.  This language allows your body and mind to communicate.  But if you don’t pick up this feeling, the effectiveness of exercise becomes shallow.”

(Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming)

We encourage everyone to find the various movements/exercises of each animal that work for you.  Adding this to your training will keep you feeling young, invigorated, and well-balanced.  For more information on the Five Animal Frolics you can check out any of these suggested titles:  The Way of Qigong (K. Cohen), Five Animal Sport Qigong DVD (Dr. Yang), Five Animal Frolics Qigong (F. Fick) or Wu Qin Xi (Chinese Health Qigong Association).

Check out Master Jesse Tsao’s video for an introduction to Bear Play

*According to Kenneth Cohen, The Way of Qigong.

Informational sources:

Five Animal Sport Qigong (dvd), Master Jesse Tsao (Youtube Channel Videos), Wikipedia.org, The Way of Qigong (Cohen), Animal Frolics (Garofolo, Michael P.), Life Balance (Zhuang)

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