The Frolicking Five Animals
THE FROLICKING FIVE ANIMALS
Throughout the ages, many movements and forms have been created so man can achieve optimum health. In health as well as other aspects of life, China and India have bequeathed a vast storehouse of knowledge for us to plunder and receive with hands outstretched.
For an enthusiast, though, difficulties exist in being able to find and receive this authentic source. But as people in the world are becoming increasingly aware and apprehensive of the significance of eastern traditional health practices, especially in China, are coming out after many centuries of being merely confined in the shells of family clans, to share their knowledge.
Tiger Monkey Deer Bird Bear
In this article, we will zero in on the practice of the Five Animal Exercises, one amongst the many types of Chi Kung exercises.
Chi means breath or internal energy, and Kung means work. So Chi Kung is the skill of developing the internal. Chi Kung is primarily based on the movements of the animals in nature, which relaxes the joints, helped circulate the internal energy of the body (chi), and nourishes the internal organs. Chi Kung is the Daoyin which has a vital role in the Traditional Chinese art of preserving one’s health.
Dao means the mind guides to physical movements which in turn stimulates the flow of the chi within the body. Yin means that the assistance of the movements of the body, chi can reach the body’s extremities like the hands, feet, and head. The main emphasis of daoyin exercises is to achieve harmony between the body and mind. Unlike the practice of sports which requires the use of strength and skill and hence, a consumption of energy, daoyin is based on mental activity making it possible to conserve the energy while doing the exercises.
The emphasis of soft, flowing exercise in cultivating the essence (vital fluid the body) and energy – foundation of human health – can be found in the earliest Chinese the Confucian classic, Spring and Autumn Annals written in the 4th BC states: “Flowing water never stagnates, and the hinges of the active door never rust. This is due to the movement. The same principle applies to essence and energy. If the body does not move, essence does not flow. When essence does not flow energy stagnates.
Hua Tuo, a centenarian and famous physician of the Eastern Han Dynasty devised a set of exercise based on the movements of the tiger, deer, ape, bear, and bird. From these animals evolved the Five Animal Games which is a set of daoyin exercises.
Huo Tuo himself lived to be 100 years old, yet his body looked young and robust. Wu Pu, Hua Tuo’s disciple , integrated this five animal games in his daily routine and lived through his 90’s with good hearing and vision, and set of firm teeth.
Certain ailments like arthritis, rheumatism, digestive disorders, nervous afflictions, and circulatory problems can be alleviated by this set of exercises. Over a thousand years old the Five Animal games have been gradually improved, originally, this set of exercises was done sitting down. But during the Ming Dynasty, the sitting position was replaced with standing ones.
Bodhidharma, an eccentric ragged Buddhist monk, brought the pranayama breathing exercises from the Indies, combined them with Chinese daoyin and the Five Animal forms and taught this new system to the monks and martial artist in Chinese monasteries, such as the famous Shaolin monastery. The unique system of breathing and exercise which Bodhidharma started has become the basis of other schools of Chi Kung in China.
According to certain records, the Shaolin Fist of the Ming Dynasty was derived from the Five Animal Exercises but with some alterations. The deer, bear, and ape were changed to dragon, leopard, and snake. The bird becomes the crane, hence, the birth of the Five Fist of Shaolin.
In practicing the Five Animal exercises, one reaps the benefits from doing any Chi Kung forms. The slow, soft movements of the Five Animal exercises calm and quiet the mind, important for us who move in a very stressful environment. It helps the endocrine glands secrete hormones that enhance vitality and boost immunity. With its deep abdominal breathing and gentle rhythmic movements, optimum balance between acid/alkaline content is achieved in the bloodstream and other fluid of the body. As it has been observed in china and other places in the West where Chi Kung has been practiced people suffer less of colds, flu infections, and other common maladies, even when directly exposed to infected people.
In the Philippines, the ancient Five Animal exercises is practiced and taught by Luo mei Cheng, a traditional Chinese medicine healer and teacher of martial arts.