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8 Exercises for Fitness, Healing, and Longevity - Part 4

The Wise Owl Gazes Backward

Forth Movement in the 8 Section Brocade Chi Kung

The Wise Owl Gazes Backward
Snowy Owl
John James Audubon
The Birds of America, 1827

Research by Michael P. Garofalo

According to TCM, practicing this movement helps your lungs, immune system, and large intestines. It enriches the essence and blood, calms the mind, and promotes organ functioning.

It cures energy depletion and consumptive illnesses, as it works the entire spine much like a wringed out cloth, it gets rid of nagging stiff muscles and pinched nerves, this exercise really improves your vitality, focus and energy levels, it also wards off aging and is very beneficial for back pain all along the spine.

Movement Name:  The Wise Owl Looks from Side to Side, the Wise Owl Gazes Backward

To find Part 1, 2 and Part 3 follow the links below

Many  8 Brocades videos exist on YouTube.  
Shaolin style by Master Shi De Yang
My current favorite on You Tube is from Health Qigong Ba Duan Jin, performed by MAster Faye Yip, President of British Health Qigong Association, Founder of Deyin Taijiquan Institute (intenational) and Executive member of the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain.  Eight Treasures
You can also watch  -Qigong: Eight Piece Brocades Chi Kung  by Jesse Tsao  on  It is a simplier version.  You can find it at    You can peruse Jesse Tsao web site at
Another good source for 8 Brocade video is

Starting Position: Wu Ji 


Left and step with left foot and place your feet at a shoulder's width apart.

Look straight ahead and gaze at some distant point.  

Hands at hips with your palms facing down.  Press down with palms.

Stand up straight.  Relax.  Lift your head up, chin tucked in a bit.  Smile.

Hips and butt are tucked in, sealing the pelvic floor.

Don't move your shoulders or back much during the exercise.

Inhale slowly.

Slowly and gently turn your head to the left side.

Look behind you as far as you can; turn your eyes to the far left.

Gaze into the distance behind you at some point on the ground.

Exhale slowly as you look behind you.  

After you have completely exhaled, then begin to slowly inhale, and return your head slowly and gently to the front.

Look straight ahead and gaze at some distant point. 

Slowly and gently turn your head to the right side.

Continue to slowly inhale as you turn your head to the right.

Look behind you as far as you can; turn your eyes to the far right.

Gaze into the distance behind you at some point on the ground.

Exhale slowly as you look behind you.

After you have completely exhaled, then begin to slowly inhale, and return your head slowly and gently to the front.

Look straight ahead and gaze at some distant point.  

Repeat the movement, gazing to the front, left rear, and right rear, from 4 to 8 times.

As you warm up your neck muscles, turn a little farther to side and back.
Be gentle with yourself, move very slowly.

Be sure to gaze as far backward and downward as possible when looking to the back.  

Breath naturally, easily, slowly.  

Inhale slowly as you move your head from side to side.

Exhale slowly as you look backward.  

Imagine yourself as a wise old owl turning his head from side to side.  

Imagine having the powers of distant vision and the kind of night vision of some birds of prey possess.  

Return you left foot back into the Wu Ji position to rest and realign the body-mind.  

Wu Ji signals the end of one movement and the beginning of the next movement. 

Enjoy some cleansing breaths.  Opening/Closing.

Stand up straight and tall.  Lift the head.  Tuck the chin inward a little.

Loosen Up, Soften, Merge and Relax.

Feel yourself sinking and rooting into the Earth. 

Variations of Movement 4 (Wise Owl Looks Backward)The Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung 

Hold your arms up at shoulder height, elbows bent, and palms facing forward.
Slowly turn your torso at the waist to the left and move your left arm to the back.
Turn your head to the left and look backward.
Keep your feet at shoulder width.
Turn your neck to the side and back as you turn your waist.
Repeat the movement to the other side.
Move slowly and gently!
Do not make this into the dangerous and vigorous calisthenics exercise called "The Windmill."
Gently stretch the waist, back and neck.
Repeat 6 to 8 times on each side.  

Lift your arms and place your palms together at shoulder width height.  Extend your left leg forward as you move your left arm backward.  Place your left toe on the ground at a comfortable distance in front to maintain your balance.  Turn your torso to the left side and backward.  Look at your left hand behind you.  The right arm should remain in front at shoulder height.  When the arms are extended the hands should be open, all the fingers spread wide apart, the fingers pointing up, and the wrist flexed, and forearm tensed - "willow leaf palm."  Stay balanced.  Return the left arm back to the front, and look at both hands in front.  When the hands come to the front, only the thumb and pointer finger should touch, forming a triangle with the two hands.  Move the left leg back to a shoulder width stance.  Keep the weight more in the back leg.  
Extend your right leg forward as you move your right arm backward.  Place your right toe on the ground at a comfortable distance in front to maintain your balance.  Turn your torso to the right side and backward.  Look at your right hand behind you.  The left arm should remain in front at shoulder height.  Hands should be in the "willow leaf palm" or "starfish" hand position - fingers spread wide, tensed, and pointing upwards.  Relax - Soong!  Stay balanced.  Return the right arm back to the front, place both hands together in a triangle mudra (hand sign), and look at both hands in front.  Move your right leg back to a shoulder width stance.  Keep the weight more in the back leg.  Repeat 6 to 8 times on each side.  
Compare this movement variation with the "Topple Mountain Range with Palm" movement in the Luohan Qigong system taught by Dr. Gaspar Garcia.  
This variation is one of my favorites and I often add this to the ESB set or use this to replace ESB Movement 3.  This variation requires considerable balance, gracefulness, and poise.  Basically, it is a spinal twisting movement, and students of Hatha yoga have "spinal twists" in standing, seating, and prone versions.  I use the same movement in my Dragon Chi Kung, Movement 4, The Black Dragon Walks at the Edge of the Abyss.

c)  This movement can be done when walking.  Turn your head from side to side and gaze backward.  Allow you arms to swing naturally as you walk forward.  Keep your torso facing forward; only turn your head from side to side and look backward.    
d)  This movement can be done while seated.  Move slowly!  Move gently.  
e)  Place your right hand behind your head.  Keep your right elbow up.  Gently hold your head.  Turn your head to the left and look backward.  Exhale as you turn your head and look backward.  Lift your right elbow up slightly as you inhale and as you move your head forward.  Inhale as you turn your head forward.  Do 6 to 8 eight repetitions.  Reverse hands and to 6 to 8 eight repetitions looking to the right side with left elbow up.  

Health Benefits of Movement 4 (Wise Owl Looks Backward)The Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung 
Exercises the neck muscles.
Exercises the eye muscles.
Balance and brain functions are improved by coordinated movements.
Stretching helps contribute to the relaxation of stiff and tense muscles.
A clear and peaceful mind reduces negative stress on the body.
Using both sides of the body (mirroring in a movement form) can have positive effects on the structural alignment of the body and enhance coordination.
Slow, deep and regular breathing brings extra oxygen into your blood.  

Ba Duan Jin Exercise Set 4  "Relieving the exhaustion of the five internal organs and injuries caused by the seven human emotions, by practicing looking backward.  The Ba Duan Jin Exercise Set 4 is one of the most potent of the eight exercises. It has a powerful effect on your central nervous system and the circulation of both blood and Chi to your head. It stimulates the vital power of your kidneys. It also strengthens the activity of your eyeballs, your neck and shoulder muscles, and your nerves, and is excellent for alleviating high blood pressure and hardening of the arteries." - Chinese Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine 

References for the Names of Movement 4 (Wise Owl Looks Backward)
Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung
(See below for reference sources.)  
Turn Head to Look Back to Allay Five Strains and Seven Impairments.   (Zong Wu and Li Mao, R1)
Looking Back like a Cow Gazing at the Moon.   (Lam Kam Chuen, R2)
Thrust out the Chest and Twist the Neck to take a Good Look to the Rear.
The Five Weaknesses and Seven Injuries will be Gone.   (Yang Jwing-ming, R3)
Eye of the Tiger.   (Geoff and Phyllis Pike, R4)
Looking Backward to Get Rid of Weary and Injurious Feelings.   (PRC Publication, R5)
Looking Behind to Cure Fatigue and Distress.   (Kenneth Cohen, R6)
The Wise Owl Gazes Backward.   (Michael Garofalo, R7)
Turning the Head and Looking Behind.   (Sanley Wilson, R8)
Turn and Glance to Eliminate the Five Ailments and Seven Dangers,  (Daniel Reid, R9)
Looking Backwards to Mend the Body  (Jiao Guorui, R10)
Turning Head.  (Wong Kiew Kit, R11)
Turning Your Head to Tonify the Nervous System.  (Maoshing Ni, R12)
Looking Backwards to Prevent Sickness and Strain  (Chinese Health Qigong Association, R13) 
Names of the movements of the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung in languages other than English. 

Comments about Movement 4 (Wise Owl Looks Backward)
Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung

Persons with neck ailments should be very careful when doing this movement.  Turn very little!! Move very slowly.  Take your time, don't rush, be patient.  Do not bend your head backward towards your back - this hyper extends the neck and puts stress on the vertebrate in the neck.  Keep your head up straight, chin slightly down and just turn your head from side to side.   

Every beginner should stay within their comfort zone, don't over stretch, and be gentle with your body and mind.  Don't try to "exactly" imitate a fellow student who is an intermediate or advanced Chi Kung player or the teacher.   Know and respect your own body and mental state.  Don't go beyond your own personal bodily conditioning, skills, abilities and limits.  Some advise reducing your exertion levels and doing 30% to 40% less than you can do.   Be reasonable and kind to yourself.  Take your time, advance slowly, be careful, be patient, and remain injury free.  Sometimes, an old or new injury, or joint disease, will limit your range of motion.  Know your own strength and limitations - the practice of Chi Kung and Tai Chi forms will reveal to you your strengths and limitations.  Resolve to make two positive contributions today.  Stay within your comfort zone, explore with the body-mind, and renew-recreate both self-awareness and awareness of Self, and come to experience your comfort zone.  Float on the Wu-wei raft on the Tao River; when standing on Earth then root, soften, move.   

"Gently Shake the Heavenly Pillar means to crick and move the neck.  Properly, the neck is cricked to the left and right sides along with a gazing procedure. The two shoulders are followed by the gaze when swaying.  The left and right sides are counted separately, with each side being performed twenty-four times, and collectively forty-eight times. This cricking of the neck, swaying of the shoulders, and gazing in accordance with the movements in effect remove the fire of the heart and eliminate any invasions or disturbances of external malignant spirits."
-  Master Li Ching-yun, Translated by Stuart A. Olson.

Really turn the eyes to the side as you look down and backwards.  Exercise the eyes!  

"Referring to the seven factors causing impairments by overstrain, viz., [1] overfeeding that impairs the spleen; [2] fury that causes adverse flow of Qi and impairs the liver; [3] forced overloading or prolonged sitting in damp places that injures the kidneys; [4] cold weather or drinking cold beverages that injures the lungs; [5] sorrow and anxiety that injure the heart; [6] wind and rain, cold and summer-heat that impair the constitution; and [7] great shock and intemperance that impair mentality."
-   Ancient Way to Keep Fit, compiled by Zong Wu and Li Mao, 1992, p. 113. - Regarding "Turn Head to Look Back to Allay five Strains and Seven Impairments."  



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