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I. Five-animal Play (Wu Qin Xi)

Inspired from the actions of different animals, the ancient Chinese invented "remedy dancing" to help maintain good health. The famous TCM physician, Hua Tuo (AD 141-208) claimed that: "the human body needs physical exercises but must not exert itself to the extreme. Motions promote digestion, absorption and blood circulate smoothly has to be well designed." He thus devised movements that mimicked the movements of five animals: the tiger, deer, bear, monkey and bird.

1. The tiger movements
Tiger movements

Take a breath; hold your breath with clenched fists; look down and swoop the fists to the right and left sides repeatedly; stretch the body; raise the arms slowly as if lifting an extremely heavy object; gulp down the breath soundly. These vigorous movements help to strengthen the muscles.

2. The deer movements
Deer movements

Raise the head and shake to the left and right sides repeatedly; steer the body in alternative directions while looking down as if chasing your tail; hold the breath with clenched fists; stretch the body as far as possible and jump up on the tiptoes. The flexible movements help to unfold the tendons and joints.

3. The bear movements
Bear movements

Sway from the waist while stepping heavily toward left side and then right side like bear walking; stand up straight and make the joints crack. This helps to relax the upper body and induces the blood and qi to flow downward.

4. The monkey movements
Monkey movements

Hold the breath, position yourself like a monkey climbing a tree; stretch out one hand like grasping a fruit and have one leg raised; make the other leg twist with the body while gulping down the breath until perspiration appears. This gives agility to the limbs and makes the joints supple.

5. The bird movements
Bird movements

Take a deep breath and then hold it; make the body bow and raise the head like a bird ready to take flight, and raise the arms just above the head and touch the fingertip together; gently stroke down from the forehead to nose and lightly tap the crown of the head with fingers. These movements expand the chest and help regulate circulation in the meridians.

The five-animal play is an ancient exercise that promotes all five zang-organs and is suitable for individuals with chronic conditions. You don' t have to perform all five animal movements at once; you can pick one or two for regular practice.