It is more important that you really understand the root of the practice, and that you train patiently and perseveringly. Every piece has its own poem or song to explain the exercise and its purpose. The poems or songs have been passed down through generations, and form the root and foundation of each piece, so you should make a diligent effort to understand them. Whereas the sitting set emphasized the six Qi channels in the arms, the standing set works with all of the channels.
Here are three sets from the Standing Eight Pieces of Brocade:
First Piece—Sanijiao “Triple Burner”
Double hands hold up the heavens to regulate the Sanjiao (Triple Burner); Sanjiao passes (Qi) freely and smoothly, illnesses disappear. Reverse hands to face the sky and raise both arms. Thrust out (straighten) your chest, straighten your waist (and) swing to both sides. Stand upright and be steady. Practice long, the body (becomes) strong (and you will feel) happy.
Practice: Stand naturally with your feet parallel and shoulder width apart, and your hands at your sides. Close your eyes, calm down your mind, and breathe regularly. Open your eyes and look forward, continue breathing naturally and smoothly. Condense your Shen in your Upper Dan Tian, and sink your Qi to the Lower Dan Tian. Then interlock your fingers and raise your hands above your head without bending your arms, and at the same time lift up your heels. This is called “Double hands hold up the heavens” (Shuang Shou Tuo Tian). Drop your heels, and tilt your body to the left and then to the right, and then stand up straight again. Lower your hands down in front of your body to complete one round. Do twenty-four repetitions.
Discussion: This set does not start with calm meditation, but since Qigong training is strongly related to your feelings, it is important for your mind to be calm and steady. It is a good idea to stand quietly for a while before you start, so that your mind can become calm.
From the poetry you can see that this piece works especially with the Sanjiao or Triple Burner. The three areas, or “burners,” that are referred to are the area above the diaphragm, between the diaphragm and navel, and between the navel and the groin. The three burners are concerned respectively with respiration, digestion, and elimination. When you raise your hands over your head and tilt to either side you stretch the muscles of your trunk. When you let your arms down, the muscles loosen and relax, and the Qi can circulate unimpeded. Repeating the movement regulates the Qi circulation in your Sanjiao. When Sanjiao Qi circulation is smooth, the organs will be relaxed, and the organ Qi will be able to move and circulate freely. It is believed that disorders in the Sanjiao are the major cause of many organ Qi disorders. When Sanjiao Qi is regulated, the illness will disappear.
When you practice, you also lift up your heels. This helps you to generate an Yi of pushing up, which helps the Sanjiao Qi move up and down. When they say to “straighten your waist” they mean to keep your lower back straight.
Second Piece—Shooting a Bow
Left right open (bend) the bow like shooting a hawk, two arms strong and firm to strengthen kidneys and waist. Bend the elbow horizontal to the shoulder, (your mind) trying hard to pull. Hand arrow aims (at the target), use the eyes to stare. Left right shoot for twenty-four. Ride the horse and squat down to increase efficiency.
Practice: Step your right leg to the right and squat down in a horse stance. Relax your hands and lift them up to the chest area. Bring your palms together, then separate them with the right hand moving near the right nipple, while the left hand, changing into the “sword secret” or “single finger” hand form, extends to the left as if you were pulling a bow to shoot a hawk. Your eyes stare to your left at a very distant point. Then stand up and lower your hands, circle them up to the chest and repeat the same process to shoot to your right. Do twelve in either direction for a total of twenty-four.
Discussion: This piece is used to strengthen the kidneys and the waist area. First you must squat down to firm your root as when you pull a strong bow. Without this root, you will not have a center, and you will not be able to pull your bow effectively. Make sure when you squat down that you keep your back straight and tuck your buttocks under. This emphasizes the kidney area. When you are doing this, you not only strengthen the waist muscles, but also increase the Qi circulation in the kidney area, in your back near your lowest ribs. Your rear elbow must be bent and the shoulders must be firm to stabilize the pulling of the bow. Concentrate your mind so that you really feel that you are drawing a very strong bow. This concentrated mind is the source of the Qi movement.
Third Piece—Increase Qi in Internal Organs
To adjust and regulate the spleen and stomach, (you) must lift singly; spleen and stomach (gain) peace and harmony, sickness cured automatically. Lift arm and stiffen the palms, use the force to rock. Extend and develop the tendons and muscles, spleen and stomach comfortable. Right hand lifted high, left dropped down, left right extend and rock the tendons and channels alive.
Practice: After you have completed the last piece, stand up and move your leg back so that the feet are parallel and shoulder width apart. Then move both hands to the front of your stomach with the palms facing up. Raise your left hand above your head and push upward, and at the same time lower your right hand palm down to your side and press down slightly. Then change your hands and repeat the same process. You should feel that both hands are pushing against resistance, but you must not tense your muscles. Do twenty-four repetitions.
Discussion: This piece works on the stomach. When you repeatedly raise one hand and lower the other, you loosen the muscles in the front of your body. When you “stiffen the palms,” do not tense the muscles, but rather extend your force through the hands so that your arms stretch out all the way. This stimulates and strengthens the tendons and muscles. Reversing your arms repeatedly stretches and relaxes the body, “rocking” the tendons and Qi channels alive. This one-up-and-one-down muscle movement increases the Qi circulation in your stomach, spleen, and liver. If you wish, when you raise and stretch each hand you can also stretch the leg on the same side to increase the extension.
Once you become familiar with the Eight Pieces of Brocade, you will find that it is a very simple but effective way to maintain your health. You may also notice that unlike the sets developed by doctors and monks, breath coordination is not essential in most of the pieces. The Eight Pieces follow a few simple principles, but they will lead the interested practitioner down the righ path to discover what Qi is all about, and will also improve your health.