By Linda Ebeling
The Five Animal Frolics are dynamic Qi Gong forms that incorporate movement, mental focus and breathing to promote health. They were developed in China by Hua Tuo, considered the father of Chinese medicine, during the second century. He designed the Animal Frolics combining his healing knowledge with shamanic dances, as well as the natural movements and postures of animals. He believed that movement is essential to health and is attributed with saying, “a door hinge that is used will not rust.”
The Animal Frolics stretch and strengthen the muscles and unite the body, mind, and breath with movement. The Animal Frolics help reduce stress, increase balance, strength, and vitality, while improving the flow of energy, or qi, in the body. Like Tai Chi, the movements are circular. This is in accordance with the Chinese belief that circular movement underlies all mental and energetic activity. Indeed, the Animal Frolics are believed to have had a strong influence on the development of Tai Chi and share many of the same principles of both movement and philosophy.
Each Animal Frolic emphasizes different health benefits and is associated with specific organs and seasons of the year, in accordance with Five Element Theory. The Crane Frolic improves balance, promotes a sense of serenity, and benefits the heart. The Bear Frolic develops power and strength, while working through the lower back and kidneys. The Monkey Frolic increases flexibility, agility, and improves digestive function. The Deer Frolic enhances alertness and grace, increases spinal flexibility, and benefits the liver. The Tiger Frolic builds muscular strength and aids the lungs.
The popularity of the Animal Frolics was renewed in the 1980’s when Madame Guo Lin, a famous Chinese actress, credited her practice of the Animal Frolics and Walking Qigong with curing her cancer. Because the Animal Frolics are over 2,000 years old, there are variations. The Chinese have recently adopted an “official” form of the Animal Frolics, though personally, I prefer some of the more traditional variations.
People often ask why these exercises are called frolics. Last summer, while practicing the Tiger Frolic in a park with my students, two young boys joined in with big smiles on their faces. So, get in touch with your inner animal and play some qigong.
© 2013 Linda Ebeling
Linda teaches classes and workshops on the Animal Frolics. For more information and to contact her see her website Crane Tiger Tai Chi (www.cranetigertaichi.com).