Hurry! Openings still available for the full-day Five Animal Qigong workshop this Sunday, February 4, at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in downtown Chicago at bit.ly/fiveanimals. Approved for Illinois State CEU credit for LAcs and LMTs!

The Five Animal Play or Frolics (五禽戲, Wu Qin Xi) not only is a fun set of exercises to practice, limbering up your body, providing great circulation, and destressing your entire system, but also brings focused energy throughout your entire body for better health and increased longevity.

The Five Animals are a very special set of ancient Chinese exercises called qigong based on the movements of animals. Qigong (pronounced chee gong) is the art of cultivating qi (pronounced chee), the life force, or energy, that travels through all living bodies and the universe. It is centered on different types of breathing accompanied by mindfulness and certain body postures or movements. Qigong is considered a form of meditation as well.

Monkey posture from the Five Animal qigong

The Five Animal qigong set is thought by many to have been created by the famous doctor Hua Tuo, about 2000 years ago, although some claim the exercises were created by the Taoist master Jiun Chiam and only perfected by Hua Tuo. Regardless of their true origins, the Five Animals are an exceptionally effective set of exercises as far as health and longevity are concerned.

The Five Animals in this set are the

  • Tiger
  • Deer
  • Bear
  • Monkey
  • Bird (or Crane)

These can also be considered the Five Elements, a very important concept in Chinese philosophy. Each animal has two sets of exercises, corresponding to the five-phase theory of Chinese medicine, which groups the organ systems (which do not correspond exactly to Western concepts) into five yin-yang pairs.

For instance, the Tiger is associated with the element of Wood and the first of its exercises directs qi toward the Liver and the second exercise directs it toward the Gallbladder. The Liver is responsible for the movement of qi throughout the body while the Gallbladder relates to decision making and decisive action. These two organs must work in harmony but perform different functions.

Deer posture from the Five Animal qigong

The practice of the Five Animal set becomes more powerful when—in addition to proper body mechanics and breathing—the practitioner also works on the emotional and personality traits of each animal. It is easy to see how the Tiger is strong and fierce while the Deer is peaceful and serene, for example. Each animal develops different character aspects. Visualization of colors is said to add further power to the exercises, just as facing different compass directions does.

By directing the individual qigong exercises at one organ pair at a time, practicing the Five Animals can generate very strong benefits. One can balance all the organs and make them healthier and more efficient, working in greater harmony as a whole.

The Five Animals and Their Associations

  • Tiger – Wood – Liver and Gallbladder – Spring Green – East
  • Deer – Water – Kidneys and Urinary Bladder – Blue-Black – North
  • Bear – Earth – Stomach and Spleen – Yellow – Center
  • Monkey – Fire – Heart and Small Intestine- Red – South
  • Crane – Metal – Lungs and Large Intestine – White – West

For more information on a full-day workshop on Sunday, February 4, at the Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in downtown Chicago, go to bit.ly/fiveanimals. Approved for Illinois State CEU credit for LAcs and LMTs.

Five Animal Qigong postures