The Chinese Wand 17 Exercises Routine is simple, easy to learn and demands no esoteric understanding or assumptions of `Qi’. We can feel the simple techniques working on the body and the effects are tangible. No particular belief system is needed to bestow health benefits. The exercises are based on practical physiological considerations rather than philosophy.
However, the art should be understood in the context of the culture from which it arose. In common with other Chinese health arts it is clear that it works within the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. Moreover, it can also be understood in terms of more ancient unique concepts. You can practice the art simply by focusing on the physical movements; or, if you are interested in Chinese philosophy and want to go a little deeper, continue reading about the esoteric aspects I present in my book Jiangan – the Chinese Health Wand.
Traditional Chinese Medicine
Yin and Yang
The wand exercises of China can be understood as a dynamic expression of the Yin Yang principle in many ways. In every exercise, one part of the body is still (Yin) while other parts of the body move (Yang). This is not as fanciful as it may at first appear. The result of this Yin-Yang interaction is a gentle resistance explained here. Individual exercises also correspond to triagrams of the I Ching. The exercise featured in the image below is shown by the triagram; Yang is sandwiched between two Yin lines, which represents the posture perfectly (two Yins holding a Yang in the centre). As the hands grasp the ends of the wand, one hand can be Yin and the other Yang. This is similar to the principle of the ancient Egyptian healing rods, double-prongued divining sticks and some Qigong practices.
Microcosmic Orbit meditation
The movements of some standing postures is essentially `microcosmic orbit meditation’. First we generate Qi in the Dan Tian to open energy centers along the `microcosmic orbit’ route where Qi passes. The movements coordinated with the breathing can be focused on the `Eight Extraordinary Channels’. Qi sinks down the Ren Mai (Conception) Channel to the Hui Yin point in the Perineum beneath the spine (Muladhara or root chakra in Yoga) then rises up the Du Mai (Governing) Channel in the spine to the Bai Hui point at the crown of the head (Crown chakra in yoga), then down again to the chest and belly to the genitals and Hui Yin. When this cycle is repeated with correct breathing and gentle stretching movements, it bestows multiple health benefits.
Each Graduated Stage of the exercises relates to one of the five Chinese elements in order of creation; earth creates metal creates water creates wood creates fire. Before earth there is Yin and after fire comes Yang.
Ancient Egyptian & Yoga Links
Pyramid Energy and Chakra/Meridian Points
There are pyramids in China but it is not clear whether these were the influence or whether focus on the pyramid structure had its origins in ancient Egypt. A symbolic pyramid is formed by the way the Wand is held in a wide grip in relation to the body (see photo below). Energy or `Qi’ is said to be circulated and re-circulated through this pyramid – along the arms, hands and Wand – instead of being dissipated through the hands. As part of the Chinese Wand Exercises’ microcosmic orbit meditation, we may focus on the vertex (tip) of the symbolic pyramid as it makes its way t the Baihui/Huiyin points (root & crown chakras in Yoga).
A hexagram star (two triangles, one pointed up and the other down, locked in harmonious embrace) is created in many postures. The `pyramid’ can also be interpreted as a triangle and most postures embody two triangles; one in `Yin and one in `Yang’ position, making a hexagram star. In Chinese symbolism, the two triangles are represented in the famous Yin Yang symbol as the two fish intertwine with one another. But these triangles can also be understood in terms of Indian tradition. The two triangles are called `Om’ and the `Hrim’ in Sanskrit, and symbolize man’s position between earth and sky. The downward triangle symbolizes Shakti, the sacred embodiment of femininity, and the upward triangle symbolizes Shiva, or Agni Tattva, representing the focused aspects of masculinity.
The mystical union of the two triangles represents Creation, occurring through the divine union of male and female. In the diagram below of `Sunrise and Sunset’ (the most comprehensive posture in the whole routine) the Yin position focuses the point of the symbolic triangle at the base of the spine (the root chakra in Yoga and the Huiyin point in Chinese philosophy); while the Yang position focuses the point of the symbolic triangle at the crown of the head (the crown chakra in Yoga and the Bauhui point in Chinese philosophy).
In advanced practice, awareness and meditation of this hexagram as we breath deeply and move gracefully between the two positions, Yin and Yang, will be of great esoteric significance to many people. The process can increase the aesthetic and mindful nature of the art. Creating such a universally profound symbol (circulating and re-circulating `Qi’ or `Prana’ around the body continually) undoubtedly has great influence on the incredible health benefits the art bestows.
Egyptian Healing Rods
The way the Wand is held may also be traced back to the Egyptian Healing Rods where one hand represented the moon or Yin and the other hand represented the sun or Yang energy. As the wand exercises also constructs a symbolic pyramid during the exercises it can be interpreted as a profound esoteric practice.
Parallels with Sacred Geometry
The vertex of the symbolic pyramid shape is focused on the body’s two polarities and this whole process conforms to ancient geometry; namely the Piscean Vessel, with the person’s Yang point leading to heaven and Yin point drawing up from earth. The exercises are performed by awareness of the pyramid and thus we have the triadic unity between heaven, human and earth.
Golden Ratio Principle
The most beneficial breathing was in accordance with the `Golden Ratio’ principle. Deep diaphragmatic breathing is naturally in tune with the Golden Ratio Principle. If we inhale for three seconds we exhale longer – about about five seconds or even up to eight seconds if we are especially meditative. This is the body finding its natural rhythm which is aligned to the Golden Ratio. The most effective length of Wand also corresponds to the Golden Ratio of the individual’ s arms length.
All these fascinating philosophical elements can only deepen the understanding and enjoyment of this wonderful health and fitness exercise.