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 Unit 2-Understand and perform the 8 Strands of Brocade.



   Drawings taken from "Ancient way to Exercise" by Zong Wu & Li Mao









Unit 2.1 Perform the 8 movements.

Before we look at the movements, it is important to understand the basics of Qigong. The 2 things that we need to look at are Correct breathing and Correct Body Alignment.

"The main forms of breathing are natural, abdominal, and reverse abdominal. Natural is the every-day breathing that most of us do, which normally involves filling the chest with air first and then some of the abdomen. Full abdominal breathing is used with Qigong. On inhale, your abdomen fully expands first, then your chest. Babies breathe this way, so we all knew how to do it the right way at one point in our lives. Reverse abdominal breathing is a more advanced form of breathing where your abdomen contracts on inhale. This form of breathing is not recommended without the guidance of a Qigong teacher or master." from www.qigonginstitute.org

 Abdominal Breathing.

This is the style of breathing that we recommend until you are an advanced practitioner of Qigong.

Place one hand on your chest and the other on your abdomen. Which one moves when you breathe in? Babies breathe naturally, that is they are natural abdominal breathers. As we get older we are told to stand up straight and hold our tummies in. By doing this we can only breathe using our chests.

Chest breathers:

  • Waste a lot of effort just to get air into their lungs.
  • Tend to raise their shoulders and employ incorrect muscles in breathing.
  • People that are chest breathers tend to take more breaths per minute than abdominal breathers.

Abdominal breathers:

  • Employ the diaphragm to get air into the lungs.
  • Use this efficient method of breathing to obtain greater oxygen transfer.
  • Can use breathing as a strategy for stress relief and relaxation.
  • Abdominal breathing can trigger off a 'relaxation response'.

The mechanics of abdominal breathing

  • As the diaphragm contracts it descends: this increases the volume of the chest cavity.
  • There is a subsequent decrease of air pressure so the greater air pressure outside the body, forces air into the lungs.
  • As the diaphragm relaxes the diaphragm moves upwards and so air is expelled from the lungs.

For abdominal breathing we suggest that you breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth to gain the maximum benefits but nose breathing is an alternative and is often used in both Qigong and Tai Chi practice.

Once your breathing and movements are finally co-ordinated you will be able to lead both the movement and, with time, your Qi. This is accomplished by intent or Yi, which you will have learnt about in Unit 1 of this course.

There are also a few websites that you can visit that will give you more background information to abdominal breathing and it's benefits for health.

If you are working with older people changing to abdominal breathing may take a while for them to master but it will bring lots of benefits - more oxygen is the main thing!

  • Breathing becomes shallow the older we get.
  • Arthritis pain can be helped by abdominal breathing. 

 Pain relief

Stress relief

Change in brain pattern as a response to abdominal breathing

The handout that can be found as an attachment at the bottom of the page will explain correct breathing.

Reverse Abdominal Breathing

Reverse Breathing is a breathing technique associated with Qigong. It consists of expanding the abdomen while breathing out and then compressing it while inhaling -- the opposite of what an abdomen would do during abdominal breathing. It may sound a bit like chest breathing to you at this stage of your understanding, but it involves more than the breath alone. On inhalation the perenium is 'lifted' up which helps to move Qi .

For a detailed account of qi movement click here.

Click here for more details of reverse breathing.

Reverse breathing is the type of breathing that is used for advanced practitioners of Ba Duan Jin. For this course it is important that you have knowledge of reverse breathing and understand the difference between this and abdominal breathing, but we do NOT recommend its practice at this stage and it should never be done by anyone with high blood pressure or heart complaints.

A video clip of reverse breathing can be seen by clicking here- this is for information only, not for your practise.

Some people suggest that reverse breathing is dangerous because it can have bad effects if you try to force it or do it all the time. This is just one opinion but it is included to help you understand the importance of knowing what you are doing before you attempt anything!

Now you have covered the breathing techniques that are used for Qigong, we can look at the correct breathing pattern that is used for each of the movements.

As a general rule when we inhale the movement is towards the heart and when we exhale the movement is away from the heart.

Movement 1: Inhale - the palms face up and move towards the heart and when you reach heart level you need to rotate the palms as you begin to breathe out.

Movement 2: The breathing pattern for this movement is: inhale - cross the arms, exhale - pull the bow (open the lung meridian channel.)

Movement 3: Inhale - the hands move towards the heart. Exhale -the hands move away from the heart

Movement 4: Inhale - Hands move up. Exhale - Hands push down and twist out to the sides.

Movement 5: For this diagonal movement it is best to breathe in a way that suits the pace of the movement. We suggest inhale- stretch to the left, exhale - stretch to the right.

Movement 6: This bending forward movement requires the following breathing. As the hands 'mark out' the dantien area start to inhale. Carry on breathing in as the hands move round to the back. As you exhale, the torso bends forwards and your hands begin to move down the back of the legs. Begin inhalation as you draw up the

Movement 7: This 'punching' movement is performed with the following breathing pattern - Exhale: the hand rotates and you push out. Inhale: the hand rotates and you bring the hand back in.

Movement 8: Inhale - The hands lift up and you raise onto the balls of the feet as the hands push down, exhale - drop down the heel so the body 'shakes'.

The breathing sequence of the movements can be found as an attachment at the bottom of the page so that you can print it out.


Correct Body alignment

This will have been dealt with in depth during your practical work but you need to understand the theories behind the practice. The main focus of your study should be Yang Chen Fu's 10 Essentials. Although these 10 essentials mention Tai Chi, the same correct alignment applies to Qigong.

You will need to remember the following points:

  • Stand straight, with the coccyx very slightly tucked in. Keep the head upright but with the chin very slightly tucked in.
  • Chest and back alignment - Do not protrude your chest. Ensure that you keep your back straight and sink (relax) your shoulders.
  • Relax the waist.
  • Distinguish between your 'full' and 'empty' stances.
  • Keep your shoulders in a relaxed, natural position - make sure that the elbows are held slightly down othwise the shoulders can't relax.
  • Use mind not muscle.
  • Co-ordinate the upper and lower parts of the body - root the feet.
  • Focus the mind.
  • Move the whole body as one - follow up with down and down with up.
  • Connect all the movements to achieve a continuous flow. 

While we are looking at body alignment we should mention a few terms that you will come across during your studies.

Rooting - Rooting is developed by keeping the knees soft (unlocked) and ensuring correct body alignment. In a shoulder width stance, weight must be divided equally between both feet - 50% in one and 50% in the other. The feet must stick to the ground: this is achieved by relaxing the feet 'into' the floor. Take a look at this website to learn more - Rooting

Full & Empty -To experience the concept of Full & Empty, try standing in a shoulder width stance. Then slowly shift your weight very slowly from one side to the other. Start with 50/50 and slowly change to 70/30 then 90/10. If you are upright and balanced, this will allow you to 'feel' the weight sinking into one foot- you will experience rooting. The upper body should be light (empty) and flexible from the waist while the legs are heavy (full) and rooted to the ground. These terms are used a lot in Tai Chi but Qigong practice should also be balanced

Health and Safety is something that should be considered when thinking about correct body alignment. The main thing to remember is correct knee/toe alignment to avoid injury. When you look down at your feet can you see your toes? If not you will need to readjust the positioning of the knees or the weight distribution between the front and back of your feet, so that you can see the tips of your toes.

There are 2 main stances that you will use when performing the 8 Strands of Brocade - Wuji and Horse stance.

Wuji is actually a postural stance and a theoretical concept that relates to both mental and physical state. For this style of qigong, the correct foot positioning is with the legs 'hanging' from the hips - so approximately a shoulder width apart. It is important that you realise that the position alone is not enough to be called wuji - the position is only the external form. The stance is an important part of training and should be practised regularly to obtain the benefits that it can bring. Deep relaxation and inner peace are developed by this stance training. With time, and practise, you will begin to feel internal energy, or qi, flowing around your body.

In Chinese literature Wuji is defined as "the great emptiness" or "the great nothingness."

It can be discussed in terms of both the physical and the mental state.

In Chinese martial arts, Wuji refers to "an erect posture of equalibrium" - the most balanced and relaxed posture that exists midway between the states of Yin and Yang.

Horse Stance - A wide stance with the knees quite bent - approximately 1 and a half shoulder widths apart. A wide horse stance is used for movement number 2



Unit 2.2 Describe in detail, the 8 movements, showing knowledge of suitable modifications.


The Eight Strands of Brocade is a classic set of Qigong exercises that have evolved from the ancient set of 8 exercises - seated 8 Strands of Brocade.

There are many versions of the Eight Strands of Brocade and you will see the 8 exercises called by many names, such as:

The Eight Treasures Dao-yin

The Eight pieces Brocade

Eight section brocade Qigong

Eight Treasures Exercises

Brocade exercises in eight forms standing exercises

The set of practical movements that we follow are those taught by Master Jesse Tsao.

For this unit we will be looking at 2 things - Describing the movements and How to adapt the movements to ensure inclusion. Some of you may be working with special groups of people - older people, wheelchair based, children - rather than teaching 'mixed' groups, so you will constantly need to be aware of their needs.

The practical sessions that you attend will cover how to describe the movements and an attachment at the bottom of the page is also available for you to download and print out.

How to adapt the movements will also be discussed on the practical day but the list below contains some of the things that you need to think about when making any modification or adapting the movements :

Are there any contra-indications to the movements? ( See unit 2.3 below)

Why do you want to adapt the movements and is this possible?

Is the modification to make the movements more accessible for your group of learners?

If this is the case then will they still gain the benefits from the adapted movements or postures?

Are you teaching a group of people who are disabled? Can they perform upper body movements if seated?

If you're teaching a group of older people then maybe they aren't as flexible as you. Can you accomodate for this?These are things that you need to think about and the handout at the bottom of the page will help you with this. If you are not attending the practical sessions for this course, you may find that you need extra tutor support with the practical work, so just arrange for your tutor to give you a phone call.


 Unit 2.3 Explore the health benefits associated with each of the 8 movements.

Research has been carried out using 8 Strands of Brocade Qigong. Some of the links to this information can be found below.

Bone Loss

Knee Arthritis

Improvement of blood fat levels in the older population

As you will see from the research that has been carried out, older people can gain numerous benefits from participating in this style of exercise. From a physical point of view, the exercises will help increase both fitness and stamina.

Below you will see a list of both the physical and internal benefits for each of the movements. If you would like to print this out, a handout is provided at the bottom of the page. The internal benefits are those suggested by Master Tsao.


Movement 1

Name - Pressing Two Hands Towards Heaven.

TCM - This movement opens up the Sanjiao or Triple warmer meridian. The Sanjiao is a yang meridian and runs up the back of the arm to the head - from the corner of the nail bed of the ring finger (closest to the little finger), to the side of the eye, just under the tip of the eyebrow. The movements benefit the internal organs of the Triple Warmer –Upper Warmer- Heart & Lung, Middle Warmer- Stomach & Spleen, Lower Warmer- Liver & Kidneys.

Key points - Imagine the energy of the air, sky and the heavens filling your lungs and whole being. When moving your hands down imagine moving energy from the Heavens, head and lungs, down the front of your body into your dantien. Breathe in as the palms face up and as you rotate the palms begin to breathe out. Pay attention to the ring finger – this is where the meridian begins – as you push up and extend it. This opens the front chest and energy below.

Physical benefits – Exercises the thighs, shoulders and triceps.

Movement 2

Name -Draw Bow and Shoot the Arrow.

TCM - This opens the Lung meridian. The Lung meridian is a Yin meridian and runs down from the torso, towards the thumb on the inside of the arm. Opening the thumb and index finger opens up the lung meridian channel to allow the energy to flow freely.

Key points - Stand into Horse riding stance. Cross hands in front of your chest. One hand has the thumb and index finger extended whilst the other hand has a soft fist as you extend the arms.

Physical benefits - Conditions and strengthen the legs, knees, waist and back muscles. Shoulders, biceps and forearms are conditioned and strengthened.

Balance and brain functions are improved by the coordinated movements.




Movement 3

Name - Separating Heaven and Earth.

TCM - Opens the stomach and spleen meridians, allowing energy to flow. Stomach meridian starts under the eye down the front of the legs to the feet. The Spleen meridian runs from big toe up the insides of the legs and up the chest, dropping down to the front of the armpits. The aim is that as each hand goes up and down, stretching and opening of the 2 meridians occurs.

Key points – The hand that moves upwards toward the Heaven twists and spirals.

Physical benefits - Works on the middle and upper back, shoulders, and stretches the spine.

Movement 4

Name - Turn Head to Look Back.

TCM - Opens the Conception and Governing Vessels. These 2 major channels circle the torso: the Governing vessel up the back and the Conception vessel down the front.

Key points - Stretch the torso as the hands push down . 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.

Physical benefits – Gently stretches the spine and upper back.

Contra-indications - People with neck ailments should be very careful when doing this movement. Only turn the head a very small amount!



Movement 5

Name – Turn from Side to Side.

TCM – Opens up the Kidney meridian. Draws the water from the Kidney Meridian. As you change weight from left to right water energy is drawn up to wash away worries from the heart. The heart is related to fire whereas the Kidney is related to water. Drawing water energy up to the heart controls the fire. Water on fire creates steam – steam is energy which moves through all the body.

Key points – Stand in wide Horse stance if possible and change the weight from one side to the other. Look at the foot as you stretch – concentrating on the Bubbling Well energy point and pull up the water energy.

Physical benefits – Works on the hips, thighs, knees and back.

Contraindications - People with hip, abdominal or lower back injuries should not perform deep bends from the waist.

Movement 6

Name - Touching Toes and Bending Backwards.

TCM – Strengthens the Kidney energy flow. Works on the Kidney and Bladder functions.

Key points – Take energy in the front and round to the back. 'Bend' backwards first, then bend forward keeping the hands on kidneys. Then follow the bladder meridians down the back of the legs and up the Kidney meridian on the inside of the legs. Avoid bending forward with the knees locked in a straight position as this places undue stress on the lower back and hamstrings.

Physical benefits – Stretches the lower back, hamstrings and abdominal muscles.

Contraindications -

People with high blood pressure or heart problems should not lower their head below their heart.

People with lower back stiffness or pain should avoid bending forward or backward too deeply from the waist.





Movement 7

Name – Push out Fists.

TCM - Strengthen inner power in the dantien.

Key points – Stand in wide horse riding stance and make the hands into fists. Slowly punch forward with one hand then the other, twisting the hands as you push out. Breathe out as you punch out and breathe in as pull in.

Physical benefits - Works on the thighs, lower back, knees, and shoulders.

Movement 8

Name – Bouncing on the Toes.

TCM – Shake off stress and illness, stimulating various meridians of the body.

Key points - Place feet with heels together. Lift up onto toes and gently drop back down and vibrate the torso. As you press down with the hands you raise the heels and send energy to the fingers and toes.

Physical Benefits – Works on calves and thigh.


 Click here for a more detailed explanation of the health benefits of the movements


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Unit 2.1 Correct Breathing.doc Unit 2.1 Correct Breathing.doc
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Unit 2.2 Modifications.doc Unit 2.2 Modifications.doc
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