Tiger, Deer, Bear, Monkey, and Crane are the five animals which together make up this qigong routine.
Known in Mandarin as Wi Qin Xi and also translated as 5 Animal Frolics, it was created by a Chinese doctor called Hua Tuo in the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 CE).
5 Animals Qigong consists of ten exercises, two per animal, and each pair of movements focuses on a particular meridian pair. Hua Tuo was a skilled and well known physician and as well as being a surgeon, acupuncturist, herbalist, and possibly the first person to ever use anesthesia, he also recommended qigong as a method of recovery, and most importantly a way to remain healthy and prevent illness and injury.
Each individual exercise has its own particular health benefits but overall 5 Animal Frolics is an internal system of Daoyin (deep stretching, with a mind-body connection) and Tu Na (deep breathing).
You could say that it has stood the test of time and we’re very pleased to be able to bring this incredible form of qigong to White Crane Online. One of the best things about it though is that it is fun! So enjoy the course HERE… and read on below for details of each animal.
Yin organ – Liver
Yang organ – Gallbladder
Element – Wood
The two moves are called Raising the Tiger’s Paws and Seizing the Prey.
There is an emphasis in Raising the Tiger’s Paws on reaching up and stretching the neck, shoulders, upper back, and arms. Seizing the Prey is a very good spine stretch, particularly the lower spine; it will help counter many of the health conditions many people find themselves with due to an inactive or sedentary lifestyle. During the course of the movement, the hamstrings are also stretched, further helping keep the back healthy.
Yin organ – Kidneys
Yang organ – Bladder
Element – Water
The two deer moves are called Colliding the Antlers and Deer Running.
The emphasis of Colliding the Antlers is on stretching the spine and the side of the body. One kidney is opened, whilst the other is closed. Deer Running focuses on stretching the upper spine and pairs well with Tiger Catching Its Prey, which emphasises the lower spine.
Yin organ – Spleen
Yang organ – Stomach
Element – Earth
Rotate Like a Bear and Sway Like a Bear offer stretching and rotational movements.
In Rotate Like a Bear we stretch, loosen, and mobilise the thoracic spine, moving in a circular pattern, which also serves to massage the stomach and spleen. In Sway Like a Bear we coordinate the movement of the legs, pelvis and arms in a rotational, swaying movement. It relaxes and opens the chest and upper back.
Yin organ – Heart
Yang organ – Small intestines
Element – Fire
The playful monkey moves are Raising Monkey Paws and Monkey Picking Fruit.
The opening move is very good for balance, and strengthening the calf muscles and ankles. We also give the upper back, shoulders and neck a stretch. Monkey Picking Fruit is very good for leg strength and flexibility, spine health, shoulders… and for picking a lovely peach off a tree!
Yin organ – Lungs
Yang organ – Large intestines
Element – Metal
Regular practice of Flying like a Crane and Crane Stretches Upward will greatly improve your balance.
Flying Like a Crane improves the range of motion and flexibility of the shoulders, as well as strength, balance and poise. Crane Stretches Upwards has very similar benefits – including increasing the lung capacity.
5 Animals Qigong is a complete system of exercise. It will provide you with many physical and psychological benefits – as ever, the key is regular practice!
As you practice, also try to approach each move with the essence of that particular animal. The tiger is vigorous, with an inner strength and great power. The deer is light, gentle, and calm. The bear is slow and strong, with a feeling of heaviness and relaxation. The monkey is of course playful, flexible, nimble, and well coordinated! The crane is graceful, relaxed and balanced.
Within the White Crane Online system of qigong and tai chi, I would recommend learning the easier Eight Pieces of Brocade and Shibashi 1 first. 5 Animals will be an easier routine for the brain and the body to learn and perform if you are already familiar with some basic qigong.
Once you have learnt it, you can practice as often as you like! Personally I enjoy practicing in the morning and I find it makes me feel loose, relaxed and nicely stretched out for some later tai chi practice and ready for the day!