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8 Exercises for Fitness, Healing, and Longevity - Part 5

The Big Bear Turns from Side to Side

Fifth Movement in the 8 Section Brocade Chi Kung

This exercise reduces Qi in the heart (heart fire). Excess heart fire leads to heartburn, restlessness, lack of sleep,  mental uneasiness, colds, and hypertension. This exercise pushes the Qi from the middle dan tien, into the heart and lung  area, and out through any obstructions.

NOTE: Inhale when you are in the beginning position and exhale when you bend forward.

The mind moves the qi...
Circulate the qi throughout the body, and direct it without obstruction, so that it can easily follow the mind.
To become nimble the mind-intent and qi must interchangeably respond to each other, and  achieve the most subtle pliability...
The energy is issued from the spine... first in the mind, then in the body...
Constantly relax the abdomen...
Seek to penetrate the qi into the bone...
-- from Mental Elucidation of the Thirteen Kinetic Postures by


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

Short Instructions:
1. Bend your knees slightly and stand with your feet two shoulder widths apart. Bend slightly and place your hands on your thighs with thumbs pointing out.
2. Slowly wave your head from side-to-side a total of four times.
3. Bend left and down from the waist and rotate your upper body down and around toward the right in a circle. At the same time, sway your buttocks towards the left. Continue rotation to beginning position.
4. Do this exercise eight times.

Long Instructions:

Starting Position: Wu Ji
From the Wu Ji position step out with your left foot into a horse stance.  Your feet should be wider than shoulder width.  Feet can be pointing straight ahead or pointing out from your body at a 45° angle.  The knees should be bent as you squat down.  The depth of the squat will depend upon your level of conditioning and any body mechanics or injury issues you may have.  Try to squat down a little more with every second repetition of this exercise.  Back should be straight,  Torso should be centered and upright.  Rest your hands on the sides of your thighs.  Your elbows should be pointing our to the sides at a 90° angle from the direction you are facing (if you are facing north, your right elbow would point to the east and the left elbow to the west).  Take a wide angle and soft focus with your eyes.  Breath naturally, deeply, and comfortably - as you bend down breathe out, inhale when facing to the

Movement: The Big Bear Turns from Side to Side 
Face north. 

Keep your hands on the sides of your hips throughout this exercise.

Slowly turn your waist to the left until your chest is facing east.

Your right elbow should be pointing north and you should have your head turned and looking north.

Inhale completely.  

Slowly turn to the right as you bend forward to the front.

Exhale as you move to the right side towards the west.

When you are facing north in the middle, your head and shoulders should be at the lowest point bending forward.

Continue turning your waist to the right and lifting the upper torso. 

Slowly turn your waist to the right until your chest is facing west.

As you turn to the right your left knee will bend more. 

Your left elbow should be pointing north, and you should have your head turned and looking towards the north.

Inhale completely.  

Slowly turn to the left as you bend forward to the front.

Exhale as you move to the left side towards the east.

When you are facing north in the middle, your head and shoulders should be at the lowest point bending forward.

Continue turning your waist to the left and lifting the upper torso. 

Slowly turn your waist to the left until your chest is facing east.

As you turn to the left your right knee will bend more. 

Your right elbow should be pointing north, and you should have your head turned and looking towards the north.

Inhale completely.  

Repeat the movement, back and forth, from side to side, for a number of repetitions, preferably eight times to each side.  

Get the feel of slowly swinging from side to side.  Keep the posture erect as you face east and west, and bend the head and shoulders and back down as you move towards the front (north).  High, low, high.  

Turn at the waist.  Swing from side to side using the waist.  Stay centered in your waist.
Exercise the middle of your body: waist, hips, lower abdominals, groin.  

Demonstration by Mike Garofalo of Movement #7: Big Bear Turns to the Left Side and Back
115Kb, Animated GIF.  

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.
Free up the mind, reduce thinking, forget, become outside more. 

Variations of Movement 5 (The Big Bear Turns from Side to Side)
The Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung 

Assume the horse stance.
Place your hands on the center of your thighs, palms down, thumb on the outside of the thigh and four fingers on the inside of the thigh.
Turn the head and shoulders to the left side and the waist to the left side.
Push down into the right leg as you turn to the left.
Turn the right shoulder towards the left.  Return to center.  Repeat by turning to the right side.
Turn and swing from side to side.   Don't bend low when in the middle.
Keep the torso upright throughout the exercise.
Keep your spine, neck and head in one plane, in-line, upright.     

Ba Duan Jin: Shaking the Head and Wagging the Tail To Eliminate the Heart-Fire.
The Big Bear Turns From Side to Side, #7
Drawing by Nadezda Kotrchova
Shaking the Head and Wagging the Tail to Eliminate the Heart-Fire


Health Benefits of Movement 5 (The Big Bear Turns from Side to Side)
The Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung 

Most of the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung, Animal Frolics Chi Kung, and traditional Chinese medical literature says that this exercise benefits the heart, and gets rid of "heart fire."  Exercising the lungs (metal) helps absorb the heat and control the fire, the heart fire - heartburn (Hsin For - heart fire).
The horse stance will strengthen and condition the legs and lower back.
Moving while in deeper horse stances will have some aerobic conditioning effect if the exercise is done with many repetitions.
Bending and turning at the waist will strengthen and stretch the hip, abdominal, and lower back muscles.
The upper back and triceps will be tightened and stretched as you turn and look forward when facing the side.
The spine is gently turned to effect realignment and prevent stiffness.   
Squatting down exercises the leg muscles including the thighs (quadriceps), hamstrings (biceps femoris), buttocks (glutes), calves (gastrocnemius), iliopsoas, and increases demands on the cardio-vascular system.   
Counter indications:  Persons with uncontrolled blood pressure should not have their head lower than their heart.   Persons with hip, abdominal or lower back injuries should avoid deep bends from the waist.  
I interpret this exercise as primarily waist training.  Many Chinese exercises focus on bending, turning, twisting, swinging, or moving from the waist.   Yoga and Pilates also use many exercises that strengthen the mid-section of the torso, one's Powerhouse, through exercises that involve bending or turning at the waist.   Dragon Chi Kung also exercises with turning, twisting, spiraling, and swinging movements. 
"Thus, exercising the waist area regularly will enable ch'i to circulate freely in the Tu Mo and will also stimulate the Shen Yu point.  As a result, the kidneys will be full of energy.  Since the kidneys store ching - the fundamental substance - it follows that when the kidneys have and abundant supply of energy, then ching ch'i, the essential energy of life, will also be richly available.  And yuan ch'i, the primary vital energy, will be vigorous in the maintenance of health.  For this reason, the traditional Chinese fitness exercises pay special attention to the training of the waist region."
-   Knocking at the Gate of Life, 1985, p. 33.    Chinese Waist Training Theory
Ba Duan Jin Exercise Set 5:  "Shaking the head and wagging the tail to remove excess heat from the heart.  The Ba Duan Jin exercise set 5 prevents against fever and reduce tension in the sympathetic nervous system. It certainly has a powerful relaxing effect and, as such, eases the flow of energy along a number of your body's meridians."  - Acupuncture and Chinese Medicine. 

References for the Names of Movement 5 (The Big Bear Turns from Side to Side)
The Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung 
(See below for reference sources.)                   

Shake Head and Sway Buttocks to Extinguish Fire in Heart.   (Zong Wu and Li Mao, R1)
Lowering the Head and Hips Removes Excess Heat from the Heart.   (Lam Kam Chuen, R2)
Sway the Head and Swing the Tail to Get Rid of the Heart Fire.   (Yang Jwing-ming, R3)
Search the Clouds.    (Geoff and Phyllis Pike, R4)
Wagging Head and Tail to Eliminate the Heart's Flame.   (PRC Publication, R5)
Bending Over, Wagging the Tail to Calm Heart-Fire.   (Kenneth Cohen, R6)
The Big Bear Turns From Side to Side.   (Michael Garofalo, R7)
Bending the Trunk and Stretching the Neck.   (Stanley Wilson, R8)
Turning the Head and Twisting the Tail to Expel Fire from the Heart
.  (Daniel Reid, R9)
Shaking the Head and Wagging the Tail to Dispel Heart Fire  (Jiao Guorui, R10)
Swaying the Spinal Column to Take Away Heart Fire.  (Maoshing Ni, R12)
Swinging the Head and Lowering the Body to Relieve Stress  (Chinese Health Qigong Association, R13)
The Constant Bear 

Names of the movements of the Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung in languages other than English. 

Comments about Movement 5 (The Big Bear Turns from Side to Side)
The Eight Section Brocade Chi Kung  

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.   

Cheng Man-ch'ing: Master of Five Excellences.  Translation and commentary by Mark Hennessy.  Berkeley, California, Frog, Ltd., 1995.  On pages 113-117, there is "An Explanation of the "Constant Bear."  Cheng Man-ch'ing (1901-1975) was a famous Taijiquan master and Doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine.  "It means "ch'ang" or constant, and refers to the constant, daily swinging to and fro of the bear's waist.  So, this move should be called The Constant Bear.  The Constant Bear combines the Five Animal Frolics and t'aichi into a single move." p. 114  "I bequeath the Constant Bear movement to the elderly, the sick, and the frail.
It is a wonderful, traditional exercise which is both simple and easy.  You can also use it for self-defense until you are years old.  All this is easily obtained.  Although my explanation is short and simple, if you understand its principles and practice with perseverance, after as few as one hundred days of moving your ch'i, you will notice a marked improvement in health and strength and no longer need to worry about illness.  It is truly a "sacred raft" to strengthen our bodies and bears no semblance to other well know yet inferior exercises."  p. 115  



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