Tuesday, May 9, 2023


Nature. From the early times, Taoist principles and Qigong practices have been inspired by observations of nature. Shamanistic forms drew inspiration from animals, from the stars and astrology, from the elements. 

For example, “The Five Animal Frolics or Wǔ Qín Xì” were created by the Chinese Physician Huà Tuó (140-208 CE). These frolics not only imitate animal movements but also invite the practitioner to become the animal. 

The “8 Brocades” also referred to as “Ba Duan Jin” is one of the most popular Qigong practices dating back nearly 1000 years during the Song Dynasty in China.

But now, let’s get back to the topic at hand, Shibashi or 18 forms. Created in 1982. What? That’s like yesterday! 

Great, what is this Shibashi? It literally translates as “18 movements or forms”. How do you say it? It’s pronounced “she bah she”.

Shibashi is a set of individual Qigong exercises, encouraging us to stop and observe the qualities of nature. Shibashi combines elements from Yang style Tai Chi with breathing and movement exercises from Qigong. During and after a session, the body, mind and spirit undergo a “reboot.” Specific benefits are listed below.

Shibashi was created in Shanghai, China. To this day, all students of Traditional Chinese Medicine in China are required by the Government to study Shibashi. The exercises are medicinal and used to complement treatment of a number of common ailments, including cancer.

First off, many Qigong forms have cool names conjuring poetic images. For example: “painting a rainbow”, “Separating Clouds”, “Turning to Gaze at the Moon”, “Playing with Waves”…

Here are the 18 forms. I’ll note a couple benefits of each form. These are not promises. They’re not meant to replace other medical treatments, they are instead suggested as complimentary exercises. 

1. Commencing Move – I like to call this “getting hooked up.” As the arms raise, we inhale earth energy, calming the emotions.  As the arms lower, tensions are cleared and returned to the earth, where they are composted. We slow down. We move as though we’re painting, maybe we’re getting our canvas ready. 

2. Broadening the Chest – Now, we hook up to nature, to our surroundings. This form is helpful for those suffering from depression, insomnia and hypertension and relieving mental fatigue. We unblock Qi energy of the heart and lungs. We open our chest and declutter our heart. 

3. Dancing with a Rainbow – We turn upward and connect two important acupressure points: Laogong in the palms and the Bai Hui at the crown of the head. (Words in italics are defined in a previous blog post “Qigong and TCM terms”.) By connecting these points we strengthen the Heart and Triple Heater Meridians. Dancing with a Rainbow, or some call it Painting a Rainbow, relieves back pain and some say it may help to reduce fatty deposits around the waist. No promises though. 

4. Separating the Clouds – We reach down to the earth and then up to the clouds strengthening the legs while activating the kidneys. Those who suffer from dizziness, palpitations, anxiety, or shortness of breath may find relief. We also connect two points at the wrists, the Inner and Outer Gates, the Waiguan and Neiguan. 

5. Twisting Waist and Swinging Arms – This form moves congested energy from the liver and gall bladder, compressing these organs and lengthening the meridians. It relieves shoulder, elbow and wrist pain. The iliopsoas muscles, a troublesome couple of muscles, are lengthened. 

6. Rowing a Boat to the Center of a Lake - A great shoulder opener. This form moves Qi along meridians of the arms (Lung, Heart, Pericardium, Triple Heater…) 

7. Lifting a Qi Ball, Reaching for the Sun – Particularly good for relieving stress, it stimulates blood circulation and calms the spirit. The lifting and twisting motion activates the Spleen Meridian. 

8. Turning to gaze at the Moon – By twisting the torso, this form improves conditions related to the stomach and spleen and improves digestion and may help reduce fatty deposits around the waist. And then there’s the moon. The earliest Taoists turned to the moon as a window of intuition. By turning to gaze at the moon, might we be seeking hunches from our unconscious mind? 

9. Twisting Waist and Pushing Hands – Twisting the torso strengthens the function of and treats ailments of the spleen and stomach, aiding digestion. This form calms the mind, and treats pains in the waist and legs. The pushing motion encourages me to feel: “I’m finished with old, unnecessary thoughts and patterns, bring on the new.”

10. Wave hands like clouds – This has been a favorite form of mine since learning it from a Taiji teacher long ago. The hands focus our attention on the Heart center, and also the lower Dan Tian, the elixir field of our Qi. We connect these two centers with our hands and our breath. The two hemispheres of the brain are exercised with the movement of the hands.

11. Scooping from the Sea and Searching the Sky Once again we cross our wrists at the Neiguan and Waiguan points, the Inner and Outer Gates. These points remind me that I do not need to absorb other peoples’ energies. On a physical level Neiguan is a point used for treating nausea and motion sickness. The action of reaching down and then extending up and back nurtures the low back and kidneys while allowing us to feel expansive as we reach for the sky. 

12. Playing with Waves – While we are learning and practicing new movements, it’s important to smile, to play, to enjoy. Once again we are rocking on our feet, stimulating both Kidney and Bladder points. This movement calms the mind and alleviates anxiety and insomnia by pushing unneeded energy away and pulling in good, healthful Qi. The pulling of the waves directs Qi to the lower Dan Tian. 

Practicing this form and the next, we rock on the feet, massaging the point on the bottom of the foot called Bubbling Well, Yongquan, the point where we root to the earth. We also reach upwards from our Bai Hui, our crown. 

13. Flying Dove Spreads its Wings – Once again we open the chest by spreading our wings. In doing so, we release blocked Qi and nurture the heart and lungs. Like many other forms, this action helps with depression, especially if done with a smile.

14. Punching
 – What do you think of when you think of punching? Anger, which can be destructive but can be channeled into productive action. By punching in this form we relieve mental stress and tension (particularly work related stress). But, we focus on keeping our fists relaxed and soft. A dichotomy which can teach us to react with strength and confidence, but with softness. It also strengthens Liver Qi.

15. Flying Like a Goose – I’d like to call this “Acting Like a Silly Goose.” We’re reaching upwards, getting on our tip toes. This form is very grand and ballet-like. We lift away from depression and expand to new heights. This is a wonderful shoulder opener, activating the heart and lung meridians. By getting on our tip toes we exercise the kidney and bladder meridians. 

16. Turning the Wheel – This form used to make me dizzy. If we turn “the wheel” focusing on moving the rib cage rather than the arms, we won’t get dizzy. We also follow our arms with our eyes using peripheral vision rather than rotating our neck. Moving the rib cage moves Qi along the Gall Bladder and Spleen meridians. By compressing and then opening the abdomen and chest we aid bowel, liver and kidney function. 

17. Bouncing a Ball –  This is a balancing of left and right brain hemispheres, improving coordination. The bouncing takes place in our arms, legs and feet, once again moving briefly onto our tip-toes. And like these kids, we smile! Remember the song “Skip to my Lou?” It goes well with this form. 

18. Pressing the palms – Regulates and settles internal Qi through the meridians and settles the vital energy in the Dan Tian. We connect heaven and earth. The ascending and descending movements absorb the Yin quality of Earth Qi and the Yang quality of Heaven Qi.

And there you have it. Shibashi 101, a step towards your better understanding of Traditional Chinese Medicine. 

Practice these gentle yet effective moves with Karen Soo, and with me “in a park.” 

Monday, May 1, 2023


What a lovely morning practice we had in Davis Lane Park.

We celebrated Earth Day, one week late, but shouldn't every day be Earth Day? 

Being a chilly morning I chose to begin with more vigorous warm-ups and Silk Reeling. We then practiced forms associated with the Earth element. Now, hold on to your hats, this is where I took us to for a ride. 

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), of which Qigong is one branch, references the elements, the seasons, directions, sounds, our body's organs and meridians and even animals.

You'll notice that there are FIVE seasons. What, What? Yes, we have the run of the mill Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter but between Summer and Fall we have a season I like to call Harvest

You will also notice that Earth is the element of Harvest. Brian! It's Spring! Deer Frolic time! We're supposed to focus on the Wood element, the deer, the Liver and Gall Bladder Meridians. I was never good at "supposed to." I was thinking out of the box when I proposed Earth element forms including Monkey Frolics! Being cheeky myself, Monkey Frolics are my favorites. 

As with all group practices, I pick and choose movements and forms to fit our group. From this list we did Spinal Twist (good warm-up), and we talked the Qua (the inguinal crease) with the goal of feeling weight distribution through our legs and opening our hip sockets. More warm-ups with shoulder and back opening pumping and swinging. 

By this time we were ready to bring it down, do some flow, some Silk Reeling, Coiling Snake, and  a little brain exercise called Open and Close the Door. 

After a meditative earth focused Wuji (emptiness stance) we started our flow with some "frisbee throwing" a.k.a. Diagonal Flying. This also introduced our focus on the Solar Plexus, the Earth Element Center. 

As always, I am providing YouTube videos created by some of my many teachers. Some of the forms will feel familiar, some will be new. Enjoy your practice!

Mimi Kuo Deemer practicing Earth Element Forms

Mimi Kuo Deemer, Earth Element

Nick Loffree, Qigong for Harvest

Alex Hui, Monkey Form

Monday, April 17, 2023

We Gonged Qi in a Park

Davis Lane Park, Arvada

Springtime. New beginnings. New friends. An old familiar tree that’s about to bloom. A tree that holds a special place for me and for my good friend Erik. Nice place to do some Qigong. 

When I practice Qigong with a group, I like to write down the forms (the sweet moves) on a chalk board. Participants in the group may then take a photo of the board so that they can practice these forms at home using YouTube videos. 

I’ve thought about making videos, but why? There are so many talented teachers out there with different things to say. Maybe different approaches to the forms. 

I began our practice by introducing the Dan Tian and Wuji. Check out a previous blog post to see what on earth I’m talking about. 

Next up, Silk Reeling. Or as Erik called it, taffy pulling. 

We tapped some Meridians and then did 8 of the 18 forms of Shibashi, which means: ready? 18 forms. 

Without further ado I’d like to introduce two of my teachers Nick Loffree and Karen Soo, leading us though Silk Reeling (“Supple Joints”) and Shibashi. 
And while we’re at it, Karen Soo also has a nice video of Patting the Meridians and Bone Marrow Cleansing. 

Silk Reeling with Nick Loffree

Silk Reeling with Karen Soo (no chickens)

Patting the Meridians and Bone Marrow Cleansing with Karen Soo


Saturday, April 8, 2023

Qigong and TCM Terms


Earlier today I posted a video on Facebook. I adore Karen Soo's teaching, her friendly wave, and her chickens. 

Click on the link to warm up with chickens: Karen Soo Warms Up with Chickens

After finishing this video and sharing, I felt compelled to define some terms. Not just Qigong terms, but terms used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). These concepts are common also to Yoga and Martial Arts, but perhaps called by different names. 

Here is a glossary of terms you'll hear while practicing Qigong.

BAI HUI (pronounced "buy whey"): The Hundred Convergences. Great, huh? 

Bai = one hundred, Hui = meeting place. Oh, that helped. 

It is the crown on the top of the head, in line with the ears. All of the Yang Meridians meet at this point. (We'll save that for another time.)

In TCM and acupuncture, the Bai Hui is used to clear the senses, balance emotions and behavior, and calm the spirit. 

It's helpful to remind ourselves to LIFT AT THE BAI HUI. You'll hear it often. 

When you lift your Bai Hui:

You tuck your chin down and inwards. The head bends slightly forward. 

You straighten your spine decompressing your vertebrae which will help to avoid or reduce headaches, indigestion, and low back pain and stiffness. And it does a heck of a lot to improve your posture and balance. 

BUBBLING SPRING We've gone from the highest to now the lowest point on the body. Karen doesn't reference Bubbling Spring in this video, and the guy pictured above doesn't have legs and feet, but you should know what it is. Located on the sole of the foot, this point is where the Kidney Meridian emerges. It lies in the depression that appears when you curl your toes, between the second and third toes. 

It's where we plant out roots. That’s what you really need to know.

Bai Hui
Bubbling Spring

DAN TIAN (Sometimes spelled Tan Tien or sometimes call the Three Treasures.)

Okay this is a big one people, pay attention. There are three Dan Tians. These are the the elixir fields, the energy centers, the power stations, the cinnabar fields where the deepest energies reside

The lower Dan Tian located two finger widths below the navel is often where we start and end a practice. It's actually not on the surface of the skin, but on a line that runs straight up the middle of body called the Chong Mai. (That won't be on the test.) 

In Taoist practices and Chinese martial arts training, much attention is devoted to connecting with this lower Dan Tian. In doing so we become physically and mentally ‘rooted’ or ‘centered’.

Now, this is where things get dicey. The Taoists came up with these Elixir Fields. Then, the Buddhists and the Yogis said "hold up now, try thinking of it like this..." (Not a direct quote.) This shift was influenced by the Yogic Chakra system.

There is the Middle Dan Tian. Older models put the Middle Dan Tian at the Solar Plexus. This is the Hara in Yogic traditions.  Newer models put the Middle Dan Tian at the Heart Center. 

Placing attention at the older Dan Tian connects us with the earth element, grounding. Thinking of that Dan Tian as being higher at the heart connects us to our feelings, our heart-mind.

Then we have the Upper Dan Tian. Fasten your seatbelts. The Taoist older model places this Dan Tian at the heart. The newer models place this Dan Tian at the forehead, the third eye. Both places though conjure images of higher consciousness and intuition.

In a nut shell. All of these centers are recognized and hooked up when we’re practicing. When our candle is lit. I like to use this candle analogy. 

The Upper Dan Tian is the illumination, the light created by the flame. 

The Middle Dan Tian is the flame, the energy. 

The Lower Dan Tian in the actual candle, the wax with the wick traveling up through the middle. This is the the center most often referred to while practicing.

MING MEN translates as “Door of Life”, or the “Gate of Destiny”… It is located in the lumbar vertebrae just behind the Dan Tian. In fact, between the Ming Men and the Dan Tian we have what’s called the “Sea of Qi”.

The energy of the Ming Men is essential for strengthening your body, balancing your mind, and vital sexual energy.

NEIGUAN is known in the “inner gate.” It is located on the interior forearm, near the wrist, about where you would wear your watch. You may be familiar with this point. Pressing on this point can help with nausea and vomiting caused by motion sickness or chemotherapy or… Wristbands with small plastic knobs that apply pressure at the Neiguan point are worn by boaters. This point also helps calm people who suffering from anxiety, palpitations, hysteria, and insomnia by closing the inner gate, making us feel secure, at home.

SHAO GONG is a downward movement that settles the Qi. During practice we’ve created heat and energy. Heat rises. The practice of Shao Gong settles that upward flame.

WAIGUAN is the “outer gate.” This is a point located on the outer forearm, opposite the Neiguan point. This point releases discomfort or disease that come from our environment: colds, chills, fever, cooties… It is also used by acupuncturists and massage therapists to treat symptoms of the neck, ears, and legs; specifically sciatica, tinnitus and neck pain.

Okay one more:

WUJI is a practice of going to a place of emptiness. Specifically in Qigong, it is a posture that we start the practice with and end with. We root through our feet and lift from our Bai Hui. We create space in the joints. We remain quiet and simply breathe.

The heart of Taoist cosmology is the cycling between Tao-in-stillness and Tao-in-movement: with its dance of yin and yang. Focus and sensations unfold from Wuji, and then return to it. 


Thursday, April 6, 2023

Muscle Tendon Changing Classic

 Yi Jin Jing

There are over 7000 different forms of Qigong. I've recently immersed myself in the studies of Yi Jin Jing and also The Five Animal Frolics. We'll be practicing bits of these forms during Qigong in a Park sessions. So I'll provide a brief bit of no doubt invaluable information about these forms starting today with Yi Jin Jing.  

Yi = Change or Transform
Jin = Muscle/Sinew/Tendon
Jing = Classic as in a valued piece of work

I mean, come on. Who wouldn't want to practice a series of forms with these cool names?

Wei Tuo Presents the Pestle 1, 2, and 3

Transforming a Plucked Star into the Big Dipper

Turning 9 Cows around by Their Tails

Extending Claws and Exhibiting Wings

Nine Ghosts Drawing Swords

Three Plates Falling to the Ground

The Azure Dragon Displays Its Claws

Tiger Pouncing on Its Prey

Bowing Down

Swinging the Tail

The names alone evoke fanciful images of plucking stars from the night sky, ghosts with swords, intentionally dropping plates, and dragons flying while showing off their claws. I mean, how fun is that? 

Yeah fun, but what is it? 
  1. Yi Jin Jing is a sequence of 12 movements that combine raising, lifting, pulling, dragging, holding down, grasping, squatting, and pushing.

These movements combine stretching the muscles, and engaging the tendons and fascia, resulting in improved range of motion and resiliency. Yi Jin Jing also encourages movement of blood, synovial fluids, lymph and Qi. And, we have to use our brains. Like Tai Chi, the movements are sequential and flowing. But you have to know when and where you're going. 

Side note (but not on the side): you may read or hear about the stretching of ligaments. Yeah, well...  When joints are underused the ligaments go through a shortening process called contracture. We experience ligament contracture whenever we don't move enough (sitting at a desk, like I'm doing right now), hanging out, not moving after an injury or maybe after surgery, or lack of normal movement (arm in a sling). So maybe we’re not looking so much at stretching, but instead at keeping lengthened. Move it!

There are some guiding principles to this practice which, heck, if you ask me, these are good principles to practice in day to day life. 
  • -  Quietness: Picture this: calm water reflecting the moon. Calmness allows Qi to flow throughout the body. 

    -  Slowness: Slow movement encourages smooth flow of blood and Qi. Take your time, notice, savor, feel the sensations. Don’t let speed get in the way.

    -  Extension: Each movement is brought to a comfortable extension. Let yourself spread out. 

  • -  Pause: Efficacy comes through waiting and keeping tension for a brief pause, but not too long. Yeah, just pause. Nuff said.

  • -  Flexibility: Moving from loose to extended with limber joints and tissues, and without brittleness. Be like a bow from a bow and arrow or a violin bow. Strive to be not brittle! 

The exercises of Yi Jin Jing have proven to be very effective in boosting the recovery of injured muscles and tendons especially of the neck, back and shoulders. We create healthful tension and the relaxation allowing Qi flow. We compress and flush internal organs. We stimulate glands to produce hormones. We lift the spirit and the mind. And we have a heck of good time. 

Now, I know you’ve read this far thinking, “who is this Wei Tuo fellow or fella? And why is he/she/are they presenting a pestle?” 

Wie Tuo was a devoted guardian of Buddhist monasteries, guarding the treasures and objects of the Dharma. When the Buddha died, the bad guys came and tried to steal all of the treasures. Wie Tuo said “oh no you don’t” and returned all of the relics. Apparently one of those relics was a pestle. That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. 

Okay, next question. Buddhist Qigong. Yes. This very form, Yi Jin Jing was originally and still is practiced at the Shaolin Buddhist Monastery in China and at their satellite schools around the world. So, while I practice primarily Taoist and Medical Qigong, I’m not exclusive. And, while Qigong has serious roots in Taoism and Buddhism, it is not a religious practice. Amen. 

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Westernizing Eastern Thinking

Anatomy and Physiology of Qigong

I was recently corresponding with one of my teachers, Jess Reynolds, about the best way to inform people about Qigong. I wrote something like this: 

Qigong isn’t just about moving mindfully, it’s also a time-proven practice dealing with acute conditions. Qigong is more than an esoteric, ancient practice imitating Paleolithic dragons, celestial white tigers and trees growing in the Spring (even though I LOVE the metaphors and the archetypes). But I know some people are saying, “neat, but make my wrist pain go away.” 

I’ll try not to get too heady and wordy (ha, have we met?) but I’d like to provide some information about how Qigong actually works in the body.

Let’s start with defining some terms used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (henceforth referred to as TCM).  First off: 

There are five branches of TCM:

I’ll be touching on the branches of Acupuncture, Massage and Qigong.

Let’s review Qi”. I’ll even use Western terms. Qi in our body is bioelectricity. We live in a biomagnetic world. So Qi is affected by our mind (psychology), our activities, our food, the air we breathe and all of that natural energy circulating in our environment. Crazy talk now, before I perform bodywork with a client, I cultivate the biomagnetic field (Qi) in my hands. When I need to feel better, I purge unneeded Qi and bathe in my own bioelectricity. 

Meridians: Jess Reynolds defines meridians as “pathways through the body that are consistent and predictable from one person to another, that transmit force and energy.”

During a Qigong practice we stretch the meridians, wring out tissues around the meridians, and tap along the meridians. We flush, purge and free muscle and soft tissue by flexing, extending and rotating. One goal is to create fluidity of movement keeping focus on the meridians, tissues and joints. 

Points are found along meridians that treat specific conditions. An acupuncturist will use needles on these points. A massage therapist may apply Acupressure techniques to these points. In Qigong we may tap these points while moving, or simply standing. Sinus problems? We tap certain points on the face, on the back, and the hands. Low back pain? We tap points on the legs, the rib cage, and yes even the back. You’ll read a bit about distal points in a bit. 

Okay, that’s all very East, make it West.

A researcher named Thomas Meyers dissected cadavers to understand the inner workings of muscle fascia. He found lines of muscle fascia interwoven throughout the body and called them Myofascial Meridians. He initially didn’t know about the Chinese Meridian system. Someone tapped him on the shoulder (probably Gall Bladder 21) and he saw an uncanny parallel. He published his findings in a book “Anatomy Trains.”

Just like TCM Meridians, Myofascial Meridians run throughout the body responding and distributing force and energy along pathways, not just locally. (Reread Jess’s definition above). 

I picture both Myofascial and TCM Meridians as subways running from downtown to uptown. There is a Grand Central Station but that’s for another post. But, if you’re having a problem in Greenwich Village it could be because of a blockage at the Columbus Circle stop. Which is another way of explaining why you may say you’re experiencing wrist pain, but we may focus on opening lines through the neck or the armpit. Focusing on distal points is a very efficient way of treating an acute sensation (i.e. pain). 

There is much more information about fascia and Anatomy Trains, but I promised to not get too wordy. 

 These are TCM Meridians

These are Myofascial Meridians
Uncanny, right?

But, hold up boss. What is fascia? 

Sorry vegetarians, but have you ever seen silver skin on a raw piece of tenderloin? That’s fascia. Fascia is a sheet of connective tissue, beneath the skithat attaches to, stabilizes, encloses, and separates muscles and other internal organs.

Okay, let’s go to the East again. Connective tissues including fascia, tendons (that caught your attention musicians and massage therapists) and ligaments are referred to as Huang. Qi fills Huang, creating movement and fluidity of energy. By creating fluidity we move with ease by in part softening adhesions in the fascia and connective tissues. And opening joints. Letting that bioelectricity flow. 

Oh boy, joints. Another big topic. I’m going to tickle your funny bone with only a couple tidbits. See where I went there? 

Most, but not all of the joints in a bodies are called Synovial Joints. These joints contain synovial fluid that lubricate, helping the articulating bones move smoothly against each other without harm. 

Neat, why bring that up? In Qigong we lubricate joints by moving. As my teacher Nick Loffree says; "the hinges of an active door never rust." While we do hold some stretches briefly, our stretches are not generally static. We de-stagnate by moving Qi, blood, lymph, synovial fluids, oxygen, your focus and thoughts, your digestion, your dreams… Nick, a wise man, also says: 

“ Moving water never stagnates.”

I’m old. I need to make sure my muscles, fascia, joints, digestion, and dreams move freely therefor encouraging movement through the meridians and the world. Deep thoughts. 

Sources: Dr. Jess Reynolds https://www.aimonline.com/

Nick Loffree: https://www.nickloffree.com/


Nature. From the early times, Taoist principles and Qigong practices have been inspired by observations of nature.  Shamanistic forms drew i...