A friend of mine lent me an interesting book on qigong the other day. I found a description of a Chinese exercise called wuqinxi, or five animals play in it.
I tried to translate the introduction of the exercise of the book into English because I thought it was very interesting while reading.
(The book: no to karada ga wakagaeru: yondai kiko nyumon by Takashi Tsumura)
Wuqinxi: Five Animals Play
Hua Tuo was a famous physician in the Three Kingdoms era in China. He was summoned to the palace by Cao Cao, the king of Wei, but didn’t soon, so that he was thrown in prison and died there. According to legends, he was much healthier than jailers. Jailers asked him why he was so energetic even in the jail, and Hua Tuo replied, “I do exercises by mimicking animals in the cell every day.”
That is, you’ll be getting weaker and weaker if you just sit all day, but you’ll be able to keep your health in such a place if you do exercise well, especially by moving muscles which are not usually used.
Mimicking animal exercises developed as martial arts in China. It’s totally different how to use muscles between human-being and each animal. They might have thought that taking animal actions was a good way to create new skills.
Release fatigue by mimicking animals.
The five animals of Wuqinxi, or Five Animals Play, are bear, monkey, tiger, deer, and bird. You can use muscles unused in our daily lives by Wuqinxi. We don’t use all the muscles. Using partial muscles make you tired. If you get tired because of it, you’ll be able to relax by training unused muscles than by having a rest. For example, some people say that they are refreshed by playing golf in Sunday morning. Have you ever wanted to walk in the nature instead of lying on the bed if you get tired? Wuqinxi is a good way to use unused muscles. Besides it has also good effects psychologically and cerebrally.
2. Set “Yourself” Free
Everyone acts themselves.
You may think you are alive as a human kind. But most of our behaviors are learned ones in human relations than instinctive ones. It’s as if you act “yourself” to be recognized by others.
What if you didn’t need to work? What if you didn’t go home every night? You may act “yourself in your daily life” by forgetting other possibilities.
Becoming adults means wearing masks.
The idea reminds me of a wonderful book entitled Engi, or acting in English, written by Michizo Toi, who is an art critic of Noh and Kabuki. The author tried to understand humans’ behaviors as “acting”. In the beginning of the book, there is an interesting episode: a mother said her baby “Smile!” and it smiled. Babies learn that people would be pleased by their own smiles. And then they start acting their lives. Babies learn that acting “babies” makes adult relieved and happy and that they can have safety lives by the acting.
You must have learned that it’s necessary for being “nice” to act as a child or as an adult according to time and circumstances in your growth processes. In schools, teachers direct the actions of children. The orientations for newly-hired employees are like drama schools.
Many people act “themselves”, hiding their real emotions, and start forgetting what they really want to do. That is, there’s a gap between real “themselves” and pretended “themselves”. You know, some people change their character in the bar.
It seems to be difficult to mimic animals for people who are used to acting “themselves” because they have to deviate from their usual scenarios. But most people can enjoy mimicking animals after starting. It’s good way to heal you as actors. Mimicking animals is safety and cheap.
Which animal is your type?
The five animals are chosen as types of characters. It comes from ancient Chinese medicine theory, but all animals were not classified. Chinese medicine doesn’t have psychology as a separated study because of its holistic philosophy, but has studies of characters.
Bear: Slow-witted, but clever for gathering information and keep it.
Monkey: Nimble and clever, but restless as like ADHD kids.
Deer: Active and prompt, but irresponsible.
Tiger: Looks strong but usually sleeping.
Bird: Cowardly but sometimes bold. Have an observant eye.
Interestingly, when you are doing Wuqinxi, you’ll find the most suitable one among those five animals for mimicking. You may notice while doing it that you usually look like the animal’s figure to other people.
The others are suppressed “yourself”
But you’ll feel yourself fitting other animals while doing Wuqinxi. You’ll be able to act naturally what you haven’t thought to suit to you later. Then you’ll start thinking that you don’t need act the only animal that you thought the most suitable first. The first one is “you” that you regard as yourself and you’d like to show to others. And the other four animals are also “you” that you can be but you haven’t because you usually have suppressed within you.
If you choose bear as your type first, it’ll be difficult to act other four animals: monkey, dear, tiger and bird. But you’ll be able to enter the other animals’ cages easily while doing Wuqinxi. “You” that you’ve tried to show to others are not only “you”. When you understand it exactly, you’ll have composure, and then you’ll be relaxed and confident in yourself.
3. Improve the circulation of the blood in brain
There’s another brain in the depths of the navel.
We human-beings have never thrown our systems in our bodies in the process of evolution. It’s not too much to say that a cell itself is integrated unicellular monads.
It is said that our brain fluid and lymph keep ingredients of ancient seawater. It must have been a huge event to get out of the water and to live on the land for our ancestors which had lived in the ocean. That’s why they decided to bring seawaters within them as brain fluid and lymph as if astronauts bring oxygen with them.
Actually we have another old brain in the depths of the navel. It’s a splanchnic ganglion. It’s a kind of brain formed in the Coelentera Time, and still now we have. The adrenal gland, the gonad gland, and the intraperitoneal ganglion are other primitive brains in the abdomen. They were called “little brains” in the 1970s and were widely noticed.
But in Chinese medicine, it’s been common knowledge to be brains in the abdomen since the beginning. The brain is classified as a part of kidney there. Not only kidney, some ganglia, plexus, and endocrine glands have been called the abdomen brain. And the brain above neck has been regarded as a branch office of it. That’s why the circulation of chi is important between the abdomen and the brain for qigong.
The spinal cord was formed when the date processing ability was getting well in the nervous system. And then the top of the spinal cord started becoming bigger. It was medulla oblongata in the Fish Time. The hypothalamus was formed in the Reptiles Time, and the cerebellum was created in the Bird Time, and then cerebral paleocortex appeared when our ancestors evolved as mammal. In the Anthropoid Time, the cerebral neocortex was formed, and then we got the frontal lobe in our brain.
The main purpose of qigong is to rest your brain. It means reducing the blood in the frontal lobe. In all the meditations all over the world the purpose is the same.
Qigong not only reduces the blood in the frontal lobe, but also sends the blood to other parts of the body consciously. When you do mammals’ action, the blood gathers to the central nervous system of the emotion in the cerebral limbic system. When you act like a bird, the blood goes to the cerebellum. One-legged standing like a bird is an action for stimulating the cerebellum. Bending loosely your back like a snake makes the blood gather to the hypothalamus.
Nowadays, it tends to gather the blood to the frontal lobe, which is the newest part in the process of evolution. So people of ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) are increasing.
Redistributing the blood in the brain by Wuqinxi
If you use your brain for thinking, it stimulates the frontal lobe. It’s just feeling and moving to activate other parts of the brain. Wuqinxi is a good way to activate the cerebral paleocortex and cerebellum and refresh the central nervous system of the emotion.