Most Asian cultures base their understanding of the body and its potential on the concept of ki (chi), a vital-life force or energy, which permeates the world and every living thing. Although ki is a metaphysical concept it can be physically quantified, measured, manipulated, and felt in one’s body through various ki practices.
The purpose of these practices is to restore and maintain one’s ki in a state of balance. When it is in a proper state of balance, ki moves freely throughout the space or the body that it inhabits and supports the health of that body rather than fighting against it. Balancing this energy is a crucial part of living a healthy and calm life and ki practices such as the Eight Trigram Exercises, acupuncture or acupressure have been linked to improved health and well-being, increased focus and energy, and reduced levels of stress–related discomfort. From a martial arts perspective, the practice of energy work has tremendous benefits; from strengthening the body to resist blows and strikes to increasing awareness of an opponent’s presence.
This series of posts will focus on the Eight Trigram Exercises that are part of Do Meditation. These exercises as a whole, in addition to balancing ki, will stretch and exercises every major muscle group in the body, with each one focusing on a specific group. This post will cover the “Heaven” exercise which is typically taught first and is an excellent way to stretch the arms and the associated joints: wrists, elbows and shoulders.
“Heaven” Exercise (하늘)
Chinese Name: Ch’ien
Directional Relationship: South
Familial Relationship: Father
Directions for Executing “Heaven”
Keeping arms straight, cross them and bring backs of hands together (right hand closer to body). Pressing hands together start raising them, close to body, toward the sky. Once arms are fully extended, turn them palms up, right hand on top of left hand. Separate hands and slowly drop arms parallel to ground. Circle arms backward, lead by hands, and bring forearms together in front of chest. Push arms toward sky as far as possible without letting them separate.
Bring hands back to chest, palm-to-palm. Turn hands so that fingers point toward body (elbows should rise). Push hands away from body, until arms are fully extended and backs of hands are touching. Pull hands toward chest, keeping them together. Turn hands so that fingers are pointing toward ground. Roll hands toward sky until they are palm-to-palm again. Push hands forward, as if pushing away from something (keeping index fingers and thumbs touching), until fully extended. Keeping wrist angles constant move arms, parallel to ground, out to the side. Turn palms up, thumbs pointing backward. Circle right hand under armpit, always keeping palm facing up (as if carrying a cup of tea). Extend arm out parallel to ground. Repeat with left hand. At this point both arms should be parallel to each other and parallel to the ground (palms should be facing up). Repeat with both arms simultaneously. Drop hands toward ground and roll out away from body until they are facing ground. Lower arms and relax.
Something to think about….