Why “of Brocade”?
People who come across for the first time with a set of Qigong exercises known as Eight Pieces of Brocade, in Chinese Ba Duan Jin, often ask why these exercises are “of brocade”. Brocade is a class of richly decorative shuttle-woven fabrics, often made in colored silk and with or without gold and silver threads. Therefore brocade shines beautifully.
Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming in his book about Eight Pieces of Brocade describes the effects that practice of these exercises has on practitioner: “When you practice these exercises regularly and correctly, it is just like you have added a shining and beautiful life force to your body.” A person begins to shine, like brocade.
Encounter with Eight Pieces of Brocade and our three months challenge
Ba Duan Jin was one of the first sets that I and Petar have become familiar with. I remember, that Petar was waiting impatiently the day when he would begin to learn it. He has read and heard a lot about the beneficial effects of this exercises, also that if you do these exercises “you come upstairs to the ninth floor with the cigarette in the mouth and you are not even short winded” (it sounded great, especially if you smoke, haha). So, the day has came and at the Qigong training we have started to learn Eight Pieces of Brocade. At the beginning the exercises didn’t seem nothing special to me. They were even more simple that the previous Qigong set and if I’m sincere, I was a little disappointed. But our teacher, whom I trusted completely, gave us advice to do the full number of exercises every day for at least three months. In a short period of time we have succeed to come to the full number of repetitions and we have started to count the days.
The mind wanders everywhere
My first challenge was not a physical endurance but my dispersed mind. The number of repetitions is high and we have spent every day doing them approximately forty minutes. In between, my mind was jumping to everyday businesses, was dealing with worries (at that time I already had a lot of them, :)), he became bored or impatient, he was looking for excuses to reduce the number of repetitions, or to do them faster and finally come to the end… But fortunately, Petar was immitigable and he persisted in our challenge. And so I persisted with him, because in fact I was very curious, what are the effects of this kind of practice.
When you change something, things begin to change
Days were passing by and we were more and more satisfied. At that time I was still practicing Aikido quite intensely and I was in a pretty good physical form, at least I taught so. But there were discernible changes. In that period we were also going to the mountains a lot, also to longer and more demanding tours, with a pretty heavy backpack. We both noticed that our legs were more and more “light” and that our endurance has increased.
It was also in that period that I had issues with my sacrum and lumbar area. Brocade exercise for strengthening the waist was unbelievable beneficial to me. As our teacher has mentioned, one of the “brocade” benefits was also to prevent that some cough or general bad feeling could unfold in something more serious.
My tendons were becoming obviously stronger and after few months I could feel different, unified strength of my body. I felt differently also the muscles of my back – much stronger and it was as if they function in more connected way. Great feeling! The most pleasant thing for me was that gradually my mind was becoming calm and I was more stable and balanced.
Wise Owl Gazes Backwards
The exercise which was – for my neck and also psychologically – at the beginning for me real torment was Wise Owl Gazes Backward. Few times I had pains in my neck. My teacher gave me advice to do the exercise more softly, more slowly and to observe sensations in the tissue. In other words – to adapt the exercise to the capabilities of my body in that certain moment. In this way the tensions will begin to fade away. And really, the neck was becoming more and more relaxed and its movement soft. Wise Owl Gazes Backwards has become my favorite, the most “meditative” exercise of this set. I have discovered its secret dimensions, feelings, which were going deep to my spinal marrow, into my core.
Perfect to start and to proceed
After all these years of Qigong I’m still eager to teach this set of Qigong exercises. They seem to me perfect for introduction to Qigong, as they are simple and anyone can do them. At the same time also more experienced practitioners can use them for the training of tendons and muscles. In this case, a greater emphasis is on leading Qi with mind and doing movements more slowly, having longer pauses.
This set of exercises is also ideal for all those who don’t have an intention or desire or time to dedicate themselves more seriously to Qigong, however they would like to do something every day for good health in well-being. If they practice Ba Duan Jin regularly, even with smaller number of repetitions, a lot of things will change for the better.
May the Qi be with You!
You can find step by step instructions for Eight Pieces of Brocade in our Video course Qigong for Professional Healer’s Self-care.
Photo: Silk brocade with Coiled Dragons, China, Jin dynasty (1115–1234 a.d.)
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