Saturday, May 26, 2012

Bai Bi Yun Dong: Swinging Arms Exercises

I am developing a webpage on Bai Bi Yun Dong (Swinging Arms Exercises).  It it includes lessons on various forms of this popular exercise, an extensive bibliography and links, and a brief introduction. Here is my description of the Swinging Arms Form One.

1.  Swinging Arms Exercise - Form One
Swinging the Arms Forward and Back, Up and Down
Pendulum Swing

1.  Stand with your feet at a hip width distance apart, less than shoulder width, feet pointing straight ahead.  Keep the knees slightly bent.  This standing stance should be comfortable.  Release tension in the body, soften, stay loose, open the chest, keep an open mind - in short, maintain Sung

2.  Keep your head over your shoulders, and the head in line with the spine.  Lift the crown of the head and tuck the chin a little.  Shoulders are kept relaxed, but don't slouch.  Maintain central equilibrium.  Keep an upright posture. 
3.  The feet are grounded and rooted into the earth.  Feet remain flat on the floor during the entire exercise.  The feet should point straight ahead.  The knees are over the feet.   
4.  Look forward, soften and widen your visual focus.  Take in the whole practice scene.  Don't try to block sensory feelings, zone out, or escape being fully present in the simple here and now.
5.  Arms should be loose, relaxed, and hanging gently at the sides of your hips.  Hands should remain soft and relaxed. 
6.  Gently raise both arms up in front of the body, palms facing down.  Raise the arms up to about shoulder height or less, depending upon the mobility or comfort range of motion for your shoulder joint.  The arms are fairly straight with only a slight bend in the elbow. 
7.  Allow the arms to gently move down and back to the sides of your hips.  Continue to lift the arms up behind the body, palms facing up, to a height you are comfortable with, depending upon the mobility of your shoulder joint.  Most people draw the hands up behind the back at considerably less than a 30 degree angle up from the hips.  Then bring the arms downward until the hands are along sides of the hips.  The arms are fairly straight with only a slight bend in the elbow. 
8.  Continue moving both arms at the same time from the hips, up to about shoulder height or less in front, down to the sides of the hips, and up the back, then down to the hips.  Be gentle.  Take your time.  Both arms will gradually begin to effortlessly swing up and down, forward and back, up and down.  Relax!  The arms are fairly straight with only a slight bend in the elbow. 
9.  Breathing is natural, comfortable, effortless, unstrained.  Breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth.  The tongue rests gently on the upper palate.  
10.  The knees will gently begin to bend and straighten slightly as the arms swing forward and back.  A swinging rhythm will establish a bending pattern and movement flow in the knees.  Don't keep the knees stiff, locked, or rigid.  Go with the flow. 
11.  Continue to swing the arms forward and back until you have warmed up your body, loosed the joints, and established a comfortable and flowing motion of swinging your arms.  Slowly increase the pace of your swinging. 
12.  Avoid rapidly snapping the lower arms or hands as you draw you arms downward from the front.   
13.  Enjoy swinging your arms forward and backward for as long as you like.  Start with a swinging practice of two to four minutes, and gradually increase the practice time as your body becomes conditioned to the exercise, your stamina increases, and you find benefits from doing this exercise. 
14.  As you near the end of the exercise period, slow the swinging pace down and reduce the range of motion in the swing.  Gradually slow down and finally stop.  Stand and rest for awhile.   
    This dynamic stretching exercise helps various parts of the body and is an excellent warm up exercise.  It stretches the biceps as you draw the arms back and up.  It stretches the triceps as you swing the arms up and forward.  The relaxed fingers and wrists are stretched on the downward fall of the arms (a nice counter to the flexed and tensed positions of the hands on a keyboard).  The shoulder joint and tendons benefit from the gentle range of motion activity, and the deltoid muscles are exercised.  The pectoral muscles are stretched on the backward movement of the arms.  Strength gains, although very modest, are primarily in the deltoids, latissimus, obliques, quadriceps, and trapesius.  If the swinging arms activity is continued long enough the heartbeat will increase slightly.  This kind of rhythmic activity has a calming effect on the body and reduces stress.  Stephen Sinatra, M.D., claims this exercise will benefit the thoracic duct and help the heart.  Chinese Qigong masters claim that Qi flow is enhanced and the body energized, blood pressure is reduced, and various diseases are prevented or healed. 
    There are alternative versions of this Swinging Arms exercise practiced and recommended by different folks.  Some people like to quietly count the repetitions on the forward up swing as it helps them to focus and maintain a regular breathing pattern.  Some people just swing one arm forward and back, and alternate between the arms.  Guo Lin's Qigong, a Walking Qigong, for cancer patients, alternates the arm swing from side to side, but the elbows are bent more and the waist turns from side to side as the arms swing upward.  Some people enjoy stepping in place or walking forward in a coordinated manner (e.g., Yang Jwing Ming) as they swing their arms forward and backward, up and down.  Swinging the arms or pumping the arms during brisk walking is a popular exercise.  Some swing the arms higher up in the front, up to face level or higher.  Some rise on their heels as they swing the arms up.  Some rock the toes up and down, or the heels up and down as they swing their arms.  Some like to talk with others as they swing their arms, others prefer being quiet.  Some hold very light dumbbells or kettlebells in the hands while doing this exercise for greater strength gains, although repetitions are kept low.   
-  By Michael P. Garofalo, Swinging Arms Exercises: Bai Bi Yun Dong

                                      运 动

Here is an informative video presentation with some creative adaptations of Swinging Hands by Shifu Mike Pekor of Tai Chi Kung Fu of Long Island: Tai Chi Swing Series  UTube, 9:21 minutes.  I also describe this version in my new webpage as Swinging Arms Form Two.


  1. Good morrow Mike,

    We do something similar called 'ping shai' (I think I got the spelling correct). Swing on counts 1,2,3,4 & then dropping the 'qua' bounce slightly with 5 & begin again (o,a,se,sa su ...) J

  2. The Romanized spelling of Chinese words is always a challenge.
    I've seen a couple of different names for this exercise. There are a number of variations for swinging hands. Your version has a "bounce" to spice it up. - Mike

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  4. This is interesting. Thanks! Keep it coming.

    Tricep Stretches