1. Before birth you have no Qi of your own, but rather you use your mother's Qi. When you are born, you start creating Qi from the Original Jing which you received from your parents. This Qi is called Pre-birth Qi, as well as Original Qi. It is also called Pre-heaven Qi (Xian Tian Qi) because it comes from the Original Jing which you received before you saw the heavens (which here means sky), i.e. before your birth.
3. The verb "image" used here means to mentally create something that you treat as if it were real. If you "image" pushing something heavy, you have to adjust your posture exactly as if you were in fact pushing something heavy. You must "feel" its weight, the resistance as you exert force against it, and the force and counter force in your legs. If you mentally treat your actions as real, your body will too, and the Qi will automatically move appropriately for those actions. If you only "pretend" or "imagine" that you are pushing some thing heavy, your mind and body will not treat your actions as real, and the Qi will not move strongly or clearly.
It has been nearly one thousand years since the Eight Pieces of Brocade were created. There are many versions, each one somewhat different from the others. However, it does not matter which version you are training, the basic principles and theory are the same, and the goal is consistent. Remember that the most important thing in the training is not the forms themselves, but rather the theory and principle of each form, which constitute the root. Once you understand these, you will be able to use your Yi (mind) to lead the Qi to circulate and bring you to health. Therefore, when you practice you should try to understand the poetry or the "secret words." They have been passed down for hundreds of years, and are the root of the practice. Because of cultural and language differences, it is very difficult to translate into English all of the meaning of the Chinese. We will try to keep as close as possible to the Chinese, and hope that you are able to get not just the meaning, but also the taste of the original. Sometimes, words that are not in the original will be added in parentheses to clarify the meaning. Each section of poetry will be discussed so that it is as clear as possible.
As the first chapter explains, The Eight Pieces of Brocade is a Wai Dan (external elixir) exercise. It includes both types of Wai Dan Qigong practice theory: not only does it build up Qi in the limbs and then allow this Qi to flow into the organs, but it also uses the motion of the limbs to move the muscles around the organs and increase the Qi circulation there.
There are two sets of The Eight Pieces of Brocade. One set is sitting and the other is standing. The sitting set discussed in this chapter focuses on exercising the upper limbs, and benefits the six organs which are related to the six Qi channels in the arms. The sitting set is a good way to wake up in the morning, and it is usually practiced before noon. The sitting set is also good for people who are bedridden or cannot stand easily.
You may wonder about the number of repetitions given for the different exercises. Chinese people consider twelve to be the number of a cycle; for example, twelve months comprise a year. Therefore, you will often see twelve or its multiples listed as the recommended numbers of repetitions. Square numbers such as nine, sixteen, fourty-nine, or sixty-four are also popular. Such numbers are only a guide, and you don't need to follow them precisely. If you have only a limited amount of time, and cannot do the recommended number of repetitions, simply use a smaller number. Do not, however, omit any of the exercises.
You may have noticed that in the discussion of the training theory and in the training instructions there is very little about coordinating your breathing with the movements. This is simply because the set was designed for the beginning Qigong practitioner. For the beginner, the most important element of the practice is relaxation. Only when you have mastered the set and learned how to regulate your body should you start to coordinate your breath with the movements. The general rule in breathing is that when you extend your limbs you exhale and lead the Qi to the extremities, and when you withdraw your limbs, you inhale and lead the Qi to your spine.
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