Written by Gioia Zhang
Translated by Yuqing Yang
Around two years ago, probably due to how unlucky my animal year is (just kidding haha) 1, the state of my mental and physical health started to go downhill. I therefore started paying more attention to self-care and gradually developed a great interest in traditional Chinese medicine. Every time I go to my doctor for further advice, she always mentions the Eight Silken Movements, which are easy for both the elderly and children. They have slowly become part of my morning routine and are now the first thing I do after waking up. I would now like to introduce the sequence to you. I hope that more people can benefit from these movements!
The Eight Silken Movements or the Eight-Section Brocade, like the Five Animal exercises and Taichi Chuan, is a popular kind of physical exercise in China. It has a long history and is widely known throughout China. The first records of the movements date back to the Northern Song dynasty and are now more than 800 years old. A “Jin” (Brocade) (锦jin3) is a high-quality silk product which is woven using multi-colored silk. For the ancient people, brocades represented the colors of the rainbow, beauty and elegance. These symbolic meanings perfectly embody the characteristics of the set of movements which contains delicate arrangements, smooth motions, help to prevent illness and strengthen the body.
Compared with other types of exercise, the Eight Silken Movements have the following advantages:
- As a callisthenic exercise, you do not need any equipment or have to be in any specific location in order to do the workout.
- Efficiency; the entire sequence of movements lasts about 10 minutes and is only practiced once every morning and night.
- Flexibility; it consists of 8 sections which are easy to learn. You can choose one or multiple sections for each workout according to your personal needs
- The postures help to improve flexibility and are simple, making them suitable for people of all ages.
Full-body workout; the movements in combination with the regulated breathing exercises take care of the body, both inside and out.
The Eight Silken Movements provide a full-body workout for both muscles and bones. The movements stretch the muscles and increase your internal strength, namely increasing flexibility and suppleness.
What is internal strength? It is a kind of force that can be easily directed and controlled. It is stored within and does not manifest itself externally. Internal strength is holistic, flows through the body, and is found throughout the body in equal measures, as is fully described by the saying, “iron covered by cotton, hardness hidden in softness”. There is a fundamental difference between internal strength and physical strength. Physical strength comes from our muscles and is gained through the kinds of exercises you would normally do while working out at the gym. This kind of muscular strength easily deteriorates once you reach the age of 60. But if you have strong bones and muscles, you can live well into your 80s or 90s and still have an outstanding physique and good posture.
One’s temperament decides the quality of one’s internal strength. Having a good temperament leads to the development of an easy-going, generous, joyful and peaceful internal force. Exercising internal strength requires us to put muscular force to the back of our minds, clear our minds of all distractions and to concentrate on our inner-most feelings. Long-term benefits of practicing the Eight Silken Movements include improving your skin, building your ligament strength, and increasing joint flexibility. Over time, the entire body becomes supple, and Qi cleanses the mind, body and soul.
Excluding the aforementioned advantages, the Eight Silken Movements also improve the nervous system and circulation, as well as your immune system. During the exercise the internal organs are gently massaged which can help to improve vascular congestion and reduce blood pressure. The Eight Silken Movements rely on deep breathing, which can slow down your heart rate and improve blood circulation. In the long run, it can help to reduce cardiac output and increase lung capacity.
In the next few blog posts, I will introduce to you some practice tips for each movement, but you can also get a better understanding of the sequence of movements from the following video:
1 Usually, one is supposed to have much luck in his animal year, but the opposite is sometimes true. Animal year refers to the recurrent year of one’s animal sign in the twelve-year cycle.
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