31 Qigong Exercises for Beginners: Boost Your Everyday Life

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Man does Qigong at the Beach

You decided to start practicing Qigong and don’t know which exercises you want to begin with? 

The many different exercises and styles of Qigong might be confusing, especially in the beginning. That’s why we’ll introduce to you the following exercises in this article: The 8 Brocades, the exercises of the 5 Elements, and the 18 Qigong Shibashi exercises. 

These three series of exercises are the best known and easiest, especially for beginners. 

If you need more background information, you should start by reading our detailed Qigong Guide. In that guide we explain the basics of Qigong and give you helpful tips on how to get started. 

Jump ahead to any of the sections below:

8 Brocades of Qigong

Group does Qigong in Park

The 8 Brocades (Chinese Baduanjin) of Qigong are relaxing exercises, which are especially suitable for beginners.

Furthermore, physical exercise is the main focus of the 8 Brocades. That’s what makes them ideal if you want to benefit from the many physical advantages of Qigong. On top of that, they are easy to remember and well known in the Qigong community. 

Should you prefer to practice Qigong in a group, it’s easy to find a studio in which the Qigong teacher can teach the 8 Brocades. This can be more difficult with less common Qigong exercises. 

There are also no precise instructions on how long you should practice each of the Qigong brocades. We recommend that beginners start small. Five to seven repetitions are sufficient to get started. If you feel more confident, you can increase the volume.

It’s also essential to have a short break between the exercises. After the 1st brocade, for example, stay in the basic posture for a few seconds and focus on what you feel in the present moment.

For a better understanding, the basic posture of Qigong, which we’ll be referring to in this article, is a standing position in which you stand with your knees slightly bent, and a hip-wide stand. It’s also crucial that you stretch your back and don’t bend your upper body.

After our instructions on each exercise, you will find a video of the 8 Brocades, which gives more visual guidance on how to do each one of them step by step. 

1. Brocade: Two Hands Hold up the Heavens

The first exercise is called “Two Hands Hold up the Heavens” and begins in the basic posture, with your hands placed at the hip level and your palms facing inwards. Lift your palms slowly, vertically upwards, and turn them around on the height of your chest. Then gently let them sink back down again.

The palms of your hands must always stay together.

Then raise your arms, palms down, until they are above your head.

2. Brocade: Drawing the Bow to Shoot the Hawk

The second Qigong exercise is a little more demanding and is performed in the horse stance. In this practice, unlike the first brocade, you must stretch your legs a little further apart. Start the exercise by clenching fists with your hands, with the openings of the fists pointing upwards. 

Take a wide step to the side with your right leg, without moving the left one. Bend both knees a bit further, your lower back and the spine remain straight. Imagine you are sitting on a horse.

Now slowly raise both hands to the middle of your chest. Imagine you are holding a bow. Gently draw the bow with your left hand while moving your right hand to your right and extending your index and middle finger upwards. Turn your head gently towards the bow hand.

3. Brocade: Separate Heaven and Earth

Rainbow shines on a hand

This exercise helps you to stretch and straighten your upper back and your arms. As you do the exercise, it’s best to imagine the upper hand raising the sky and the lower hand pushing the earth down. 

It may sound a little far-fetched, but visualization, same like breathing, is an integral part of Qigong and dramatically enhances the effect of its exercises.

Start with the basic posture, with your knees slightly bent, and place the hands at the level of your lower abdomen – the fingertips point towards each other. Raise the hands vertically up to the middle of the chest. There you vertically turn them away from each other: Lift the right hand slowly upwards while pressing the left hand downwards simultaneously. 

4. Brocade: Wise Owl Gazes Backwards or Look Back

The fourth Brocade exercise is, unlike the previous ones, done with only a few movements. Start in the basic posture and let your arms hang. Stretch them outwards in a semicircle and keep them at the level of your lower abdomen. Turn your palms upwards and your head to the right.

Important: when turning your head or wrists, only go as far as is painlessly possible. Strains or injuries should be avoided. 

5. Brocade: Sway the Head and Shake the Tail

The exercise “Sway the Head and Shake the Tail” requires more practice. It’s good to strengthen the upper body and to release tension.

Start the exercise in a deep horse stance and place your hands on your thighs. Now follow a large circular movement with your upper body. Circle from your right leg to your left and keep your upper body upright. 

As soon as you reach your left leg, turn your head slightly towards your right leg.

6. Brocade: Two Hands Hold the Feet to Strengthen the Kidneys and Waist

The sixth brocade mainly promotes blood circulation. 

The exercise begins standing in the basic posture, with slightly bent knees. Pull your hands gently upwards until your arms are stretched out above your head. Now bend forward by about 90 degrees, keeping your arms outstretched and your back straight. 

Slowly lower your arms until they touch your toes. Keep your legs as straight as possible. Pull your hands along the inside of your calves and thighs until you are level with your lower abdomen.

7. Brocade:  Clench the Fists and Glare Fiercely 

The seventh brocade perhaps reminds you of Tai Chi or similar martial arts. This exercise focuses primarily on the muscles of the upper body.

Get into the horse stance and lower your hands as clenched fists slowly backward and downwards until you can put them on slightly above your hips. 

Slowly push the left fist away from you while keeping the right fist above your hips. Once extended, open your hand and turn your palm upwards. When you are finished with this movement, clench your hand back to a fist and move it back to your hips slowly.

8. Brocade: Bouncing on the Toes

The last exercise of the 8 Brocades finishes the series by stretching the whole body once more. You build up tension in the body and release it. The 8th brocade ensures that muscle groups that were not addressed by the previous seven exercises will also be eased. 

You perform the eighth brocade seven times.

This exercise, unlike the other brocade exercises, begins with your legs stretched out. Turn your heels towards each other until they are in a V-shape and place your hands on your hips with the palms facing down. 

Lift your feet so that you stand on your toes and feel the tension all over your body. Release the tension, and let yourself drop suddenly onto your heels. For safety’s sake, keep your knees slightly bent when you drop onto your heels so that your legs are not entirely stretched.

Video Tutorial for the 8 Brocades



You may notice that we explained some exercises or specific movements a little differently.

There is nothing wrong with that, as the differences are the result of centuries of transferring knowledge. You must understand the exercises at their core.  Every Qigong master has his or her way of doing and explaining exercises.

You are welcome to change the exercises yourself if, for example, a particular movement causes you physical discomfort.

Exercises of the 5 Elements

Besides the 8 Brocades, there are also the exercises of the 5 Elements. The theory of the 5 Elements originates from Chinese medicine and can also be found in Qigong. 

The 5 Elements are earth, water, fire, metal, and wood. 

No matter if earth, water, or wood: Each element is symbolized by a color, sound, and a season. According to Chinese medicine, each element is said to have health benefits for particular organs. 

Here is an overview of the 5 Elements:

ElementOrganColourSoundSeason
MetalLungsWhite“SSS”Autumn
WaterKidneysBlue“CHOO”Winter
WoodLiverGreen“SHH”Spring
FireHeartRed“HAAHH”Summer
EarthSpleenYellow“WHOO”Late Summer

Each element represents an aspect of your physical and emotional health in a figurative sense. The element fire, for example, symbolizes enthusiasm but also confusion.

If you do specific Qigong exercises for one of the 5 Elements, you can, at least according to Chinese medicine, balance this element in your body. Thereby your burdens and discomfort, whether physical or emotional, should be eliminated. 

Video Tutorial for the 5 Elements 

In contrast to the 8 Brocades, the 5 exercises for the elements are not strictly defined figures and poses. Therefore we didn’t write detailed instructions for them.

Here is a video, for a routine that covers the 5 Elements:



18 Qigong Shibashi Exercises

The 18 Shibashi exercises are another well-known series of Qigong exercises. However, we consider them to be just as important as the 8 Brocades or the exercises of the 5 Elements.

After our explanations, you will find a video tutorial for the 18 exercises.

1. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Awakening the Qi 

This exercise is fundamental in Qigong and can be used independently from all other Shibashi exercises. In this exercise, you lift your arms gently up to the height of your shoulders and then let them gently glide down again.

2. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Opening the Chest

You start this exercise like the first one. The only difference: Move your hands away from each other as soon as they are at the height of your chest. Here you must open your arms wide outwards. 

3. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Painting the Rainbow

Raise your arms wide open above your head, with the palms pointing to each other. Now slowly bend to the side and imagine a rainbow or beam of energy projected between your palms. Imagining a rainbow may seem a bit over the top at first, but this is important because, especially for beginners, it can be challenging to keep the palms aligned. 

4. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Separating the Clouds

Cross your wrists, turn your palms upwards and lift them gently to the height of your head. There, turn your hands away from each other and form a large outwards circle with them and let them gently slide down again.

5. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Cycling the Arms 

Start the exercise in the same way as the previous one. However, once your hands are at the height of your head, stay there. Then push them away from each other. Position your left hand behind your head while stretching your right hand forward. Now move both palms towards each other and rotate the positions of your hands.

6. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Paddle a Boat

Boat on Sea

Push your palms to the back and rotate your arms in a full circle until they return to the starting position. Please go with the rotation only as far as you can without hurting yourself.

7. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Lifting the Sun 

The seventh qigong exercise is performed one-handed. Put your hands on your thighs. Now start to raise your left hand to the right (up to shoulder level) and turn your body in the same direction. Your right hand remains at the height of your thighs. Now let your left hand gently slide back into the starting position.

8. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Turn the Body and Look at the Moon 

Turn your entire upper body to the left. Both hands point in the same direction. Turn back to the starting position and repeat this in the other direction.

9. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Push the Palms

Take the same position as in the seventh exercise and place your hands on your thighs at the hip. Now gently raise your left hand upwards and position it with the palm facing to the right. Now push your hand to the right and imagine yourself pushing something away from you. Let your hand gently slide back to the starting position.

10. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Rolling Tai Ji 

You perform this exercise in the horse stance. Put your weight on your left leg and lean your upper body to the right. The left hand is at hip level and points upwards, while the right hand is at shoulder level. Imagine that you are lifting a big ball. Now slide with this ball in the opposite direction. Change sides and shift your weight to your right leg.

11. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Lift and Spray the Water 

Put your right foot forward. Your weight goes on the left (back) leg while you lift the toes of the right one. Spread your arms out and let yourself fall forward over the front leg (arms remain stretched). Now move the palms of your hands towards each other and pull your arms up to your head.

12. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Push the Waves

Take a step forward with your right foot, just like in the exercise before. Raise your hands to chest height (palms point away from you). Now shift your weight forward to the front leg. As soon as your hands are at the knee level of the front leg, slowly stretch your arms away from you.

13. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Let the Dove Free 

In this exercise, you make another step forward with your right leg. Stretch your arms to the side, keeping your shoulders and wrists relaxed. Shift your weight to the front (not as much as in the previous exercise) and swing your arms gently towards each other. Lean back again and slowly shift your weight to the back leg. Open your arms slowly. 

14. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Punching in the Mud

Fist stretched out

Form your hands into fists and place them on your body at waist level. Now gently push your left fist away from you until your left arm is fully extended. Rotate the fist (pointing upwards after the rotation) and bring it back to the starting position. Repeat this with your right fist.

15. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Flying Wild Goose

Place your hands crosswise on top of each other at the level of your lower abdomen (palms pointing towards you). Now gently swing your arms upwards until your hands are at shoulder level. Shoulders and wrists remain loose. Now swing your arms down and put your hands back together.

16. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Hug and Swing the Sun

Place your hands crosswise on top of each other at the level of your lower abdomen (palms pointing towards you). Now gently swing your arms upwards until your hands are at shoulder level. Shoulders and wrists remain loose. Now swing your arms down and put your hands back together.

17. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Bounce the Ball

Similar to the first exercise, gently lift your left arm upwards. While doing this, lift your right foot (knee remains bent). When you lower your arm, you also lower your foot. 

18. Qigong Shibashi Exercise: Quietening the Qi

The last exercise is for maximum relaxation after the 17 other exercises. In this one, you raise your arms (palms pointing upwards) from the outside to above your head and slowly lower them again to head level until you reach the starting position.

Video Tutorial for the 18 Qigong Shibashi Exercises 

In this video the, 18 Qigong Shibashi exercises are illustrated once again:



Conclusion

In this article, we introduced you to the most important Qigong exercises and instructions on how to do them. Now it’s up to you to decide which one you want to try. Never forget: Tthe most important aspect is that you feel well during the practice, and relaxed.

We usually recommend beginners to kick it off with the 8 Brocades, because they are body-oriented. You can also combine the 8 Brocades with the 18 Qigong Shibashi exercises and create a completely individual sequence. 

Test them all and decide which exercises suit you best. 

No matter how you decide: you will always benefit from the many advantages of Qigong. By this, we don’t solely mean the spiritual aspects, but rather the physical and mental benefits that regular Qigong brings to your life. All this, regardless of your body type.

The bottom line is that Qigong is a great way to develop more mindfulness for your body and mind, as it combines breathing exercises, visualization techniques, meditation, and physical movements. 

Learn more about Qigong and how mindfulness helps you achieve your goals and subscribe to our free newsletter now. 

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