Ba Duan Jin (Eight Silken Brocades) is a traditional qigong exercise set. One of the exercises is called Separating Heaven and Earth. It is also known as Harmonizing Spleen & Stomach by Raising Arm Separately; Raise Each Arm to Regulate the Spleen.
Qigong exercises are intended to harmonize the body, mind, and breath. Use slow, gentle breathing during the exercise and synchronize your movement with your breath. Move slowly and exhale when you extend. Finish extending as you finish exhaling. Inhale when you move back in. Finish moving in as you finish inhaling. Keep your mind focused on your breathing in order to develop a calm mind and body. (Read more here.)
There are many variations in the details of the movements from one teacher to another. Regardless of the details, one of the fundamental principles of this exercise is the split energy used to open up the joints in your spine.
1. Start in wu ji, with your feet about shoulder-width apart. Slightly tuck in your chin to straighten your upper spine. Take a moment to settle into the proper posture. (Read more here.)
2. Place your hands in front of you with one hand about chest height and palm down and the other at your lower abdomen with the palm up, as if holding a ball. (Alternatively, hold your hands at the same level, palms down, with fingertips pointing toward each other.) Begin to exhale, starting from the abdomen. (Read more here.) Bring your bottom hand upward, inside the top hand, so the palm passes in front of your chest. Move the hand overhead, palm up with the fingers pointing toward the opposite side of your body. At the same time, bring the top hand down near your hip with your fingers pointing forward. It is a gentle stretch with your elbows bent. Bringing the bottom hand to the inside adds some spiral, twining movement that twists and massages the muscles of the arm.
3. As you reach full extension, focus on expressing energy with both hands. This is the split energy. (Read more here.) Visualize that your spine is a string and you are gently pulling the string from both ends to stretch your spine. Visualize that your qi is flowing down the front of your body.
4. Pause briefly and feel your spine stretching and the space between the vertebrae opening up. This is just like the exercise I teach to expand the joints in your hand (Read more here.) Feel your qi flowing up your spine over the crown of your head. Imagine yourself growing taller. As you inhale, bring your hands back to the center with the hands reversed from the starting position. Feel your qi flowing up your spine to the top of your head.
5. Repeat to the other side. Repeat the entire exercise as many times as you wish.
1. Wu ji is used to get you into the proper posture and frame of mind.
2. If you wish, you can shift your weight back and forth. When you shift your weight to the right leg, the right hand extends overhead. When you shift your weight to the left leg, the left hand extends overhead.
Benefits & Effects
This exercise increases the flow of qi in the stomach and spleen. In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), the stomach is known as the sea of water & grain and is responsible for digesting food. The spleen is responsible for transporting nutrients throughout the body.
The alternating stretching stimulates the muscles in the front of the upper body, improves circulation to the stomach, liver, and spleen. The muscles of one side of the body are stretched against the other side. This kind of exercise harmonizes and adjusts the digestive system, the energy level of the body (particularly the stomach and spleen), and the vital energy circulating through the internal organs.
The internal organs, especially the stomach, spleen, liver, and gallbladder are massaged and stimulated through this exercise. The exercise stimulates the digestive process and the peristaltic action of the intestines.
© 2012 Eric Borreson
Notice: I am not a medical professional. I am not giving medical advice. I am writing about the reported effects of Traditional Chinese Medicine.