The eight silk brocades are a set of Qi Gong exercises meant to work and warm up muscles groups commonly used throughout the day. Especially the legs, hips, and back. I tend to use them as cool down exercises after a longer Tai Chi workout, see Long Yang, but the movements are also quite nice in the morning to wake up.

Eight Silk Brocades

Perform each exercise eight times breathing slowly. The mouth should be closed and your tongue should lightly press on the roof of your mouth. You should only take the movement to 70-80% of your maximum and you should not overextend or lock out your joints.

A Note on Breathing

Your breath should become a focus only after you commit the exercises to memory and don’t need to focus on the mechanics of your movements. In general, inhaling means the movements are coming back to the center of the body and exhaling means the movement should be moving away from your center. You should also raise up your stance slightly when you inhale and sink down slightly when you exhale.

The hardest part is that your breath should drive the movements and not the other way around. It is easy to think, “I move my hands apart and exhale” when it really should be “When I exhale, I move my hands apart”. Your breath dictates your speed.

1. Two Hands Hold up the Heavens

Stand in a neutral stance. Slowly bring your hands up, joining them together at about eye level, and continue raising them upward until they are interlaced high over your head with palms facing the sky. Slowly release letting your arms drop down to your sides ready to begin again.

2. Separate Heaven and Earth

Slowly bring your hands up but when they are a chest level push one hand down, palm down, and raise the other hand to the sky, palm up. Slowly circle your hands out to the side and around until they have traded positions. Then let the hands drift close, chest level, like you are holding an imaginary ball and do the same on the other side.

3. Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Eagle

Feet out wide, slightly more than shoulder length, with knees bent (a horse stance). Alternate a shooting the bow motion using the waist to twist side-to-side. Make sure your knees remain over the ankles and not twisting inward or over-extending forward. If they are, you need to adjust your stance. One set is considered “shooting” both left and right.

4. Wise Owl Looks Backward

Start in a neutral stance and then look back over the shoulder. As you do so turn your palms to face outward. When you return to look front your palms will return to normal facing to the back. One set is considered looking both left and right.

5. Shake the Back and Wag the Tail

Stand in a horse stance, placing your hands on your thighs. Starting with one corner bend forward, look down at the ground and then move from your waist to the other corner. Like you are trying to find a set of keys lost in the grass. When you reach the opposite corner from where you started bring yourself back up, gazing at the horizon. One set is considered looking both left and right.

6. Pull Down the Sky and Hold the Feet

Start in a neutral stance and let both hands float upward. When they are high overhead turn your palms to face you and bring them back down to settle on your lower back. With your hands trace down the back of your legs, bending at the waist as you do so. Go as far as you can and pause. To come up, bend your knees and pretend to sit back onto a stool while looking up at the sky.

7. Punch Forward with an Angry Gaze

In a horse stance punch forward, alternating sides.

8. Bouncing on the Back to Relieve illness

This begins with a fold with the body and then a rounding up as you bring your hands overhead. Then if you are comfortable take a moment to bend back even further into a slight backbend. Then let your hands drop to your sides and roll up on your toes. Then drop your heels to begin again. You can do a small hop if you are comfortable with it.

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