"Eight Simple Qigong Exercises for Health: The Eight Pieces of Brocade," Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming

Pros: Very thorough; more depth to the qi theory
Cons: Makes qigong seem a little less accessible
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

First posted 12/23/2000

Improve your health, increase your energy, and speed your recovery from illness with the Eight Pieces of Brocade, one of the most popular sets of ancient Chinese healing exercises.

Thus reads the back of the book. If you want a much longer explanation of what qigong is, read my review of Ken Cohen’s The Way of Qigong. One of the great advantages to reading Cohen’s book is that it makes qigong very accessible to Western readers. It integrates the concepts of qi and qi healing into an easy-to-understand perspective.

Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming also does a very thorough job of explaining the basics and the theories behind qigong, although from a much more Eastern perspective. If this is something you’ll understand easily, this is a fine book to start with. It doesn’t delve as thoroughly into the history of qigong, and it doesn’t touch on all of the scientific study, but it goes in-depth into some of the qi theory that Cohen skims over. It might be very useful to someone who understands the basics of qigong and would like to learn more of the theory. If you’re a Westerner, you might want to read Cohen’s book first, and then tackle this one. The one major difference I found was that Cohen’s book makes qigong sound easier. If I had started with this book, I might have had a harder time getting into the subject.

History and Theory

I found the history and theory a little dry; Dr. Yang lacks some of Cohen’s wit and humor. It isn’t bad, however. I did find it interesting. Dr. Yang goes into more of the religious and spiritual connotations and history of qigong, which I found quite fascinating. Also, since this book concentrates on one specific set of qigong movements, it delves into the background of the Chinese military officer who created them almost 800 years ago.

This book delves more into the whole external qigong/internal qigong theory than others I’ve seen, as well as different categories of qigong. It has a fairly thorough section on the theory of qigong training. Once again I might suggest reading Cohen’s book first, so that you don’t feel overwhelmed at the number of things you’re supposed to learn. As Cohen points out, you don’t have to bring every aspect of your training in at once; it’s a long learning experience. This is the only area in which I think Dr. Yang could have been more clear.

The Exercises

This book contains both sitting and standing versions of the Eight Brocades. Since there are many variations of the Eight Brocades in existence, it’s worth getting this book in addition to any others you may have that have this set in them. This set is certainly a little different than the one I’d already learned.

Dr. Yang is even more thorough than Mr. Cohen when going over the exercises! He includes old poems or songs meant to express the essence of the movements, he carefully explains the movements (along with clear photos), and he then gives an even more thorough discussion of the purpose and benefit of each movement. It is his belief that one benefits most from qigong if one understands what one is doing and why, and I can certainly appreciate that view. I found the sitting Eight Brocades to be particularly low-impact and gentle, perfect for anyone with injuries that make standing difficult.

This book emphasizes the philosophical more than the medical, but not in a detrimental way.

You may or may not wish to read “The Way of Qigong” first, just to get the gentle feel of the practice and to see it from a viewpoint more natural to a Westerner. Either way, I heartily recommend “Eight Simple Qigong Exercises for Health.” It’s a very well-made book from a qigong master who clearly knows what he’s doing.

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