The concept of Five Animal Qi Gong is the relation of the five animal postures ~ Dragon, Tiger, Leopard, Serpent (Snake) and Crane, to the five principal organs as well as the five elements ~ Water (Kidneys), Metal (Lungs), Wood (Liver), Earth (Spleen) and Fire (Heart). Each organ is responsible for physical and mental health and is a diagnostic tool in Chinese medicine. These effective health exercises were created to restore and balance the internal energy (Qi).
Qigong is a practice that incorporates breathing techniques and specific movements or postures to help adjust balance in body and mind. There are hundreds of different kinds of Qigong practices. Some focus more on the internal strength and others more on the external strength building.
Qigong can be broken down into Waigong (external) primarily employs external movements and Neigong (internal) that may or may not include external movements, but regardless, the actual energetic cultivation such as inner alchemy is taking place inside the body and mind.
The confusion between Waigong and Neigong arises in part due to the fact that once one reaches a certain level, one can be practicing the same external postures and forms, but in fact be practicing Neigong, and his would only be perceptible to very few.
Internal qigong practice can also be called ‘soft’ qigong. Daoist practice maintains that the cultivation of the mind and spirit must be coordinated with the improvement of the body. Daoist qigong’s main focus is on the body and health preservation. Both are considered internal/soft qigong. In internal qigong the focus is placed on deep breathing without allowing the thoughts to wander too far. The practice of soft qigong does not require the use of large amounts of physical energy. This type of training can help to open the lungs and strengthen respiration, strengthen the organs, and also open the energy channels and meridians of the body. We practice both hard qigong and soft qigong to connect the body as a composite whole.
The benefits of internal qigong practice are vast. Internal qigong practice is beneficial for all people and can help with physical and emotional ailments that a practitioner may be suffering from. The main practice of internal qi gong is the practice of taking in healthy fresh qi and expelling the waste, toxins, and unhealthy qi that have accumulated in our bodies over time. Alongside this practice is the practice of collecting qi and storing it in the dantian to strengthen the body and revitalize the energy and the spirit. After extensive practice and enough qi has been cultivated in the dantian of a practitioner they can then learn to use it to strengthen the five organs (recognized in Traditional Chinese Medicine) and also to use the mind an intention to circulate qi to open the body’s energy channels and meridians. The result being that a practitioner’s body and mind then gradually returns to the calm, soft, supple state of a child.
The dragon is especially noted for its wisdom and flexibility. It is the only mythological creature of the Shaolin Art form, thus the only one that can fight on land, the water or in the sky. the dragon uses rising and falling motions as well as twisting and turning to overcome adversaries. The dragon helps develop inner strength.
The tiger is noted for its strength and courage; tenacity and power. It is the physically strongest of all five animals–using straight-headed attacks, ripping and tearing as it moves and always pressing. The movement of the tiger develops strong bones and a strong back.
The leopard teaches us timing, footwork, speed and coordination. Although smaller than the tiger, the leopard is stronger in his size because of his long smooth muscle structure and sleek body frame. The leopards power is primarily produced from a relaxed whip-like action generated by speed and balance as well as limber waist and hip movements. The leopard helps develop conditioning of the skin, tendons and bones.
The snake is noted for its Chi or Qi or internal strength and deceptive movements. It has the most flexibility and rhythmic endurance of all the other creatures. It is cunning, accurate, swift and uses deceptive movements in its fighting. The snake can coil, zigzag and use rapid twisting motions to compensate for its lack of limbs. The snake helps develop chi or internal strengthening of the body and spirit.
The crane is noted for its agility, balance and grace. It represents longevity and teaches us concentration and patience. It has a calm and quiet nature. It’s movements are soft, relaxed and circular. However they are also explosive and can be used at a close or far away distance. The crane helps develop strength in the arms, fingers and wrists while conditioning overall leg and ankle strength.