(V) Bear and Bird by Extension and Order-Reversing
It means the imitation of animals’ extension and movements which are contrary to ordinary habits should be adopted in the exercise. The functions of extension and order-reversing are as follows:
1. Build shapes and body: extension exercise can help bones grow healthy along the right direction, form right body postures and make tendon firm, tenacious, soft and stretched, thus making the body tall, straight, robust and beautiful. Besides, it can pull muscles, ligament and bones so as to speed up local blood circulation, provide sufficient nourishment and make distance between bone joints fully stretched. In this way, bones and cartilage can have favorable growth environment and sufficient growth, and height can be increased, thus helping the growth and development of adolescents.
2. Make up for the weak: the feature of order-reversing is to exercise what’s not exercised in daily life, that is, anti-normal exercise. This happens to compensate for practitioners’ weak links, which is especially important for mid-age and senior people as well as people who are lack of exercise because their Qi and blood are weak and their muscles fall short of nourishment without any force. Therefore, it’s likely to cause muscle strain due to accidents. For instance, they might hurt their waist while carrying heavy things, staggering, making a careless step and even sneezing. If we strengthen order-reversing exercise in daily life, we can strengthen the force of local parts such as waist, ankle and back, thus avoiding injury. At the same time, it can rehabilitate the existing injury.
3. Smooth meridians and blood: according to TCM, “when there’s something wrong with the viscera, the twelve source acupoints should be examined”. In other words, if the viscera contacts diseases, their Yuan acupoints (Yuan is replaced by Shu for Yin meridians) should be treated. Most of Yuan acupoints of human body are scattered around wrists and ankles. Therefore, when we are doing extension exercise, we should work harder on our wrists and ankles so as to directly stimulate Yuan acupoints,unblock meridians and prevent diseases. This often appears in the exercise of health Qigong.
4. Relax mind and body: in daily activities, the torso of most people is straight, internal combined, forward and ahead. Hence, the nerve systems which control these activities are in exciting status. On the contrary, those nerves which control bowing, external extension, backward and back, etc. are usually in restraint status. Long-term imbalance between the exciting and restraint status is bound to cause fatigue of nerve systems and lead to diseases. Studies show that order-reversing movements can make people’s nerve systems fully practices so as to establish new balance. Likewise, such exercise stimulates muscles which have contrary habits with daily habits. According to physiological principle of “the excitement of muscles on one side surely causes restraint of muscles on the other side” so the order-reversing exercise of health Qigong can well relax corresponding limbs. For example, the anti-bow shape of “bird extension” can effectively pull the muscle groups at front neck, chest, belly, front leg and front spine so as to relax the after-hip muscle groups at the rear neck, back and waist, etc. This is extremely effectively for preventing cervical spondylosis, strain of lumbar muscles and other diseases of people who often sit in the office. In addition, sufficient extension exercise can equally relax human body for five reasons: 1. Extension gradually increases force; 2. Extension to the degree of not being able to extend anymore; 3. The movement feature of extension is slowness and duration is from about 20 seconds to 1 minute; 4. People usually feel pleasant and refreshing after extension; 5. People unconsciously feel they want to move their body after extension. It’s because it can effectively improve blood circulation of human body, and meanwhile relax tense and stiff muscles.
5. Comfort liver and benefit gallbladder: according to TCM, “liver controls tendon while the essence lies in fingers”. “Liver belongs to wood and favors catharsis & coordination”. “Liver has evil aspect and its Qi remains under two armpits”. Health Qigong emphasizes the force in pushing, holding and palm supporting of fingers, fully stretch of human body and dramatic shoulder lifting and body bending. For instance, in the section of “Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely” in Ba Duan Jin. After practitioners let two legs squat, their two thumbs face inside and the remaining fingers curve one by one, form a grasp shape and put on both sides of the waists. It can effectively stimulate practitioners’ fingers, armpits, lateral thorax and tendon of joints on sides of human body so as to achieve the purpose of pulling up to soften, letting out liver Qi, comforting liver and benefiting gallbladder.
6. Improve flexibility: Lao Zi said, “vulnerability is better than toughness”. The softer the living things, the more vigorous they are. Just as the old saying goes, “as tendon grows one cun more, the longevity will be prolonged for ten years”. Willpower Building·Chuang-tzu pointed out, “do breath exercise, exhale the old and inhale the new; climb and hang from trees like bears; stretch wings and legs like birds so as to prolong longevity. It’s the hobby of such people as Dao Yin practitioners, health preservers and Peng Zu who lived a long life”. That is to say, through breath exercise and imitation of animals’ extension exercise, people can preserve health and prolong their life. Health Qigong stresses the features of extension and order-reversing which can effectively improve practitioners’ suppleness, prolong life, prevent injury and enhance exercise quality.
(By Hu Xiaofei)