Over the years, I have seen many versions of the eight seated brocades and practised different versions. Over time, I have come to the practice in the way I outline below, although this may change again as my practice deepens.
The outline of the exercises can be found in the “Ten Works on Cultivating Perfection.” The poem is attributed to Zhongli Quan (one of the eight immortals)
The First Section. Click the teeth thirty-six times to collect the spirit (shen). The two hands embrace the head and beat the heavenly drum (back of head) twenty-four times.
The Second Section. Left and right (turn) the heavenly pillar (the neck and spine) each side twenty-four times.
The Third Section. Stir the tongue left and right up to the roof of the mouth, thirty-six times. Gargle with the saliva thirty-six times. Divide the liquid into three portions. After that the internal heat (fire-qi) will circulate.
The Fourth Section. Two hands rub the kidneys thirty-six times. The more this is done the more wonderful the results.
The Fifth Section. Rotate one shoulder [the left one then the right] like a water-well pulley, thirty-six times.
The Sixth Section. Rotate both shoulders like two water-well pulleys, thirty-six times.
The Seventh Section. Rub hands together. Five times exhale a hah [a guttural deep throat] sound. Interlock the fingers and raise the hands [palms facing upwards] to support the sky (heaven), then lower the hands and press the palms against the top of the head. Do this three or nine times. [“Pressing against the top of the head” appears to be a mistake made by the scribe of this document. Many commentators suggest simply returning the hands to the lap and not pressing them on the top of the head.]
The Eighth Section. Using the hands as hooks, bend forward and grasp the (upper) soles of the feet. Repeat this twelve times. Then pull the legs in and sit with the back straight.
Calm the Spirit [Shen] – Click the Teeth – Tap the Heavenly Drum
This exercise appears simple, but it is essential to focus on it as it sets up the whole practice.
- Arrange the body in the seated meditation posture, place the hands on the thighs or knees, and close the hands to light fists.
- Calming the Shen allows the mind to become still and emotions to disappear. Focus on breathing in a relaxed way into the lower dantian/cavity. (This stage can take some time, and getting as deep into this state as possible each time is essential each time).
- Click the teeth together thirty-six times and let the movement, sensation and noise focus the spirit.
- Place the hands so that the palms or heel of the hands cover the ears. Place your second finger on top of the index finger in each hand and line it up with the points rather than the side of the spine where it joins the skull.
- Sit for about nine breaths, bringing your awareness inward.
- Move the second finger to strike the point on either side of the spine, place it back on the index finger, and repeat it thirty-six times.
- Bring the hands to the thighs/knee palms down and absorb further into the state.
This begins the practice of awakening the spirit and absorbing it into the body; this alone will reduce stress and improve breathing and related health.
Turn The Head From Side to Side – Shake The Heavenly Pillar.
The exercises begin in the meditation postures and is repeated 24 to 36 times.
The movements need to be instigated from the base of the spine, turning the body to the right and ensuring that the spine is upright and straight. Once the rotating is complete, turn the head upwards and slightly backwards.
They slowly return the head to the initial position and slowly rotate the spine back to the initial position.
Repeat the same steps to the left return to the middle this rotation both having now turned both ways this counts as one repation.
Inhale as you turn to the side and the head reaches its entire stretch; exhale as you return to the centre. The breath should be smooth and slow.
The Heavenly Pillar is the spine, and this exercise aims to strengthen the spine for prolonged sitting and to open the spine.
Stir, Gargle, and Swallow the Saliva – The Crimson Dragon Stirs the Seas.
- Form the hands into loose fists.
- Run the tongue (Crimision Dragon) around the outside of the teeth 36 times in a clockwise direction and then the same number in an anticlockwise direction.
- Rinse the saliva back and forward through the mouth 36 times.
- Raise the hands to the past above the head and look upwards, close the eyes.
- Split the saliva in the mouth into three sections and swallow each individually.
- Follow the saliva down to the Lower Dan Tian with each swallow.
- Open your eyes and return to the starting position.
- Repeat this whole process three times.
Along with digestive benefits, it also helps to open the Ren Meridian and help to connect with the lower Dantian.
Massage the Lower Back
- Hold your breath and rub the hands together until the palms are hot.
- Place the palms on the kidneys, rub the kidneys and slightly below thirty-six times, and direct the breath to the kidney area.
After the exercise is complete, allow the heat from the kidneys to move to the lower dan tian, and if you want, practice a form of meditation such as Nei Dan.
This stimulates the kidney Qi and helps to open the lower pass.
Winding The Single Pass
This exercise is repeated on both sides. I will describe the right side, and you can swap the instructions for the left.
- Place the palm of the right hand on the navel and the back of the left hand on the minging. This should mean that a line can be drawn between the logging points in the hands.
- The movement is a slow rotation of the body to the left with the hands tracing a circle; this circle is created because the body moves more than the hands. The spine is rotated from the bottom. As it turns, it moves slightly back on the fittest half of the circle and back on the second.
- The breath is to inhale through the first half of the circle and exhale through the second half.
- Repeat this movement thirty-six times and then repeat on the other side.
Remember, the focus is on the spine’s slow and gradual opening and not the hands’ external movement. When the movement is done correctly, each Dantian should create a circle/rotation. How small should the size increase as you move to the upper Dantian?
This exercise stimulates the circulations in the body and focuses on opening the spine.
Winding the Double Pass
- Place the back of the palms on the kidneys or as close as is comfortable.
- Inhale as you lift the right shoulder up, push the left one down, and create a forward circle with the right shoulder; as you reach the bottom of the circle with the right shoulder, exhale till you arrive at the starting position and repeat.
- This should be completed thirty-six times.
The exercise requires you to crates large circles with the shoulders, one raising and going forward as the other goes down and back; from the side, they should trace a circle, allowing the spine to move while still maintaining an up direction; The emphasis is on the circle being created with minimal leaning.
The breath should be synchronised with the rotations so as the right shoulder goes up and forward, you inhale for half the circle, and the exhale starts as the shoulder moves backwards to create the second half of the circle. The breath should be slow, and the movements fully experienced.
This movement helps to open the gates in the spine and create flexibility between the vertebra
Propping Up The Heavens
- Interlace the hands in front of the body and rest them on the lap.
- Inhale and raise the hands, turning them as they pass the shoulders so the palms are facing up; continue the motion till the hands are above the head with the arms stretched out as much as possible.
- Hold your breath for a comfortable period.
- Exhale and bring the hands back down to the starting positions; if possible, hold your breath after the exhale has been completed.
- Repeat this exercise nine or eighteen times
This exercise regulates the five internal organs and improves mobility in the upper body.
Bend Forward and Grasp the Feet.
- Extend the legs out in front with the soles of the feet facing away.
- Then inhale as you bend forward, running your palms over the top of your legs with the fingers facing to the outside and the thumb on the inside.
- If you can reach the soles of your feet, bring them in closer and use your thumb to massage K1 nine times. (If possible hold the breath)
- Exhale as you return to the upright position and repeat nine or eighteen times.
- When you have completed the repetitions, return to the sitting posture.
_An essential point in performing this movement is that the spine is kept straight and stretched open as you bend forward, it’s more important to focus on the body opening than getting your body entirely along your leg.
This exercise helps to open the body and improve the circulation of fluids, breath and qi.
This set can be performed independently as a complete practice. it is normal to practice meditation after the fourth exercise before continuing.
Some practice exercises three, five, and six after completing the set, but this is optional.
Again, it is worth stating that this is how I currently practice the set based on things I have learned through the time I have studied it; others may have different versions, and it is best to practice and learn from people to create an understanding that works for you.