During chi kung practice it is quite common for the practitioner to feel sensations of chi moving through different parts of the body. Sometimes involuntary physical movements will occur as a result of this chi movement. Such involuntary, spontaneous movements are a natural by-product of correct chi kung practice, especially when practicing standing meditation (chan chuang) or when in the presence of a person who has cultivated a powerful chi field. Common spontaneous movements include muscle tremors, twitching, unusual breathing or vocalisations and gyrating movements. Other types of spontaneous movements include unconscious massage of acupoints, the adoption of yogic-like postures (even if the practitioner has never seen or practiced such movements) or movements that could not normally be performed due to the practitioners' physical condition.
The Five-animal Play
The most well known of the spontaneous chi kung exercises is the Five-animal Play, invented by the famous Chinese physician, Hua Tuo, who lived in the late Han dynasty. This set of exercises is well known in both China and abroad, however it is not so well known that, according to Wong Kiew Kit, it is actually a spontaneous chi kung practice and not intended to be practiced as a set of prescribed movements. The various postures of the Five-animal Play are related to the five elements & their corresponding solid organs, so a person who spontaneously assumes the tiger posture is unconsciously regulating the energy of the lungs (metal), for example.
The Five-animal Play has five movement types, each named after an animal:
1. 'Xian Men' Tiger Style
2. 'She Cheng Qi' Deer Style
3. 'Geng Sang' Bear Style
4. 'Fei Chang Fang' Monkey Style
5. 'Kang Cang Zi' Bird Stlye
As has been mentioned previously, the Tiger is related to the lungs and the element metal, the other organ/animal/elemental correspondences are as follows:
The Deer is related to the liver and wood, the Bear to the kidneys and water, the Monkey to the spleen and earth; and lastly, the Bird is related to the heart and fire.
Observation of those practicing spontaneous chi kung can be used as a diagnostic tool, so that if a patient begins pulling monkey-esque faces then it may be an indication that the spleen needs work. However other diagnostic tools, such as pulse or tongue, should be used to corroborate this evidence.
Five-animal play is also an excellent form of preventative medicine and was used regularly by Wu Pu, one of Hua Tuo's main disciples. As a result Wu Pu lived into his nineties with strong teeth, good sight and excellent hearing.
How to practice Spontaneous Chi Kung (Zi Fa Dong Gong)
1. Begin by standing with the feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent, head erect and the tongue touching the roof of the mouth. For weaker patients the exercise can be performed while sitting or laying down.
2. Breathe in a deep and relaxed manner for five minutes, calming the mind and emotions. Gently close the eyes and think of pleasant, natural scenery (such as the beach, rainforest or a beautiful sunset) and feel a wave of relaxation move from the crown of the head (Bai Hui, Du 20), down through the third eye (Yin Tang, Extra 1), past the heart and down into the Huang Ting (the yellow court), a region of the abdominal cavity between the Dan Tien (Qihai, Ren 6) and Mingmen (Du 4).
3. Once the energy is sunk to the Huang Ting, keep the mind focussed here until spontaneous movement occurs. Let yourself move as your chi directs, go with the chi flow. Avoid physical or mental resistence to the spontaneous movement as this may inhibit the therapeutic value of this exercise. After a short time the movements will become involuntary, this is normal so just let it happen. If the movements become too intense then simply concentrate on regulating the breathing or open the eyes slightly.
4. After 10 - 30 minutes of this exercises tell yourself that the movements are coming to a gradual stop. When the movements lessen, massage the face and ears gently and open the eyes. Walk around slowly for about thirty seconds to reorient yourself to your physical body.
There are many other versions of inducing spontaneous chi flow, most use relaxation and concentration on energy flow within the body. Others use concentration on major acupoints of the body that correspond to the nerve plexus' and/or chakras (energy centres). Practice of this exercise daily will help reduce stress, energy imbalance and may prevent illness.
By Bryn Orr
Kit, W.K. 1993 "The Art of Chi Kung".
Housheng, Lin. 1994 "300 Questions on Qigong Exercises". Guangzhou: Guangdong Science and Technology Press.