This very old and interesting form of Qigong originates form the Shaolin Temple and is named after the 18 legendary guards of Buddhism. In this form of Qigong the various influences from Indian Yoga are still clearly visible. Luohan Gong is the mother of numerous popular Qigong routines. The exercises strengthen the muscles, bones and sinews — the whole body is filled with Qi. Luohan forms part of Wai Dan — the outer elixir.
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This article will discuss the history, philosophy, and practice of The 18 Luohan Hands. Click on the links above for information about the other two sets. The word Luohan comes from the Sanskrit word Arhat. Both words refer to a person who has cultivated a high level of spirituality, somewhat like a Christian Saint. After the Buddha passed away, of his top disciples gathered together in a grand council.
Together, they reviewed and discussed his teachings word by word. These disciples became known as the Arhats. When Buddhism spread from India to China, it naturally adjusted to the new culture. For example, the Chinese paid special homage to 18 of the Arhats. Statues of these 18 Luohan are often found in Buddhist temples today. Bodhidharma taught at the Shaolin Temple roughly years after the passing of the Buddha.
He chose to pay homage to these 18 Luohan, perhaps in an effort to reach across the cultural divide. Over time, the 18 Luohan Hands evolved into the 18 Luohan Fists.
In other words, it was a form of Kung Fu. This was the birth of Shaolin Kung Fu, a martial art that would become legendary. The 18 Luohan Hands are the fundamental qigong exercises that I teach. The first exercise, Lifting The Sky , is the very first exercise I teach to new students.
Click on that link if you want to start learning it. The visible form is the least important aspect in qigong. The secrets lie not in the visible form, but in the internal dimensions of energy and mind.
In theory, the benefits of The 18 Luohan Hands are limitless. Most of my students spend most of their time practicing these techniques. So most of their results also come from these techniques.
To get these benefits, you need to know the secrets of the 5-Phase Routine. This is one of the most widely practiced Qigong sets in the world. Although practiced as a separate set, these 8 exercises correspond to the first 8 exercises in the 18 Luohan Hands. There are countless versions and interpretations of the 18 Luohan Hands.
But whether or not the set is the same as the original is not as important. The exercises that I teach in my school are amazingly effective. Where did Bodhidharma get these exercises? Legend says that Bodhidharma meditated in the cave near the Shaolin Temple for 9 years. Does that sound woo woo to you? I admit that, 20 years ago, it might have sounded pretty weird to me too.
But now I realize that all great art happens in a deep state of meditation. Mozart said that his music flowed to him from God. Da Vinci went into a deep state of meditation before creating his great works. When you look carefully at artists throughout history and across all cultures , you find one thing in common — they all tapped into the power of meditation. Wherever these exercises came from, they are a godsend. This pattern is arguably the best single Qigong pattern in the world.
Its forte is that it promotes a holistic Qi flow throughout the body. The exercise works on the Triple Warmer Meridian San Jiao Mai and thus harmonizes the upper, middle, and lower energies. Useful for: skin problems, respiratory issues, excessive or inadequate grieving, high blood pressure hypertension , depression, self confidence issues, memory issues. This exercise uses the One Finger Zen hand form, which is a special Shaolin technique that must be learned from a master. This exercise nourishes the Spleen and Stomach Meridians, which relate to the Western concept of the digestive system.
According to Chinese medical theory, good digestion is a prime ingredient for good health and vitality. This exercise can help with virtually any digestive or gastrointestinal problem. It also opens up the 8 Extraordinary Meridians along the sides of the body, which are important energy reservoirs. Energetically, Turning Head is used to powerfully cleanse the Chinese concept of the Sea of Marrow , which loosely translates to the head, spine, and nervous system.
The exercise brings energy to the entire spine, the brain, as well as the throat, ears, and eyes. This exercise is a great pick-me-up. Useful for: excess or insufficient anger, hemorrhoids, myopia and other eye problems, liver disease, stress relief, lack of self confidence. This pattern helps to develop powerful punches for martial artists.
But the power comes from the Qi, not from the muscles. If the muscles are tensed, then the Qi has trouble flowing to the end of the punch. Besides developing internal force for martial arts, this exercise massages and strengthens the Heart and Small Intestine Meridians.
Students love this exercise because it makes them look and feel young. It cleanses away negative energy in the body, especially the nervous system, by stimulating an internal shower of energy.
According to a Chinese proverb, you need not worry about getting old as long as your spine stays healthy and erect. This exercise is a great way to do that. Useful for: sexual dysfunction, memory problems, sciatica, low back pain, incontinence, phobias, fertility, impotence, low libido, self discipline. A Western doctor will tell you that your kidneys have nothing to do with sex.
A Chinese physician will tell you that your kidneys have everything to do with sex. This exercise, as the name implies, powerfully nourishes the Kidney Meridian. Useful for: knee pain, palpitations, cardiovascular health, hypertension, flexibility, strength, weight loss. On a physical level, Three Levels to Ground will make your legs strong and flexible. As a Qigong exercise, it can strengthen your Heart system, generate better energy flow, and increase your vitality.
Useful for: knee pain, kidney stones, strength, flexibility, longevity, weight loss. This exercise helps to channel energy down the legs. Because everything is interconnected via our energy matrix, channeling energy to the legs sometimes helps to solve problems in other parts of the body.
Of course, this exercises also helps build strength and flexibility. This exercise opens up the spine energetically but in a different way than Carrying the Moon.
It also channels energy down the arms, which is useful for martial artists. Drawing Sword is an effective way to generate energy flow to these eight meridians. Useful for: arthritis, tendonitis, impotence, low back pain, chronic fatigue syndrome, depression, grief, memory problems. This is one of the best exercises for channeling Qi to the hands. Useful for: depression, anxiety, COPD, lung disorders, excessive or insufficient grieving, fibrocystic breast disease, general breast health, self confidence issues.
This is an excellent exercise to open and nourish the Heart and the Lung systems. It is especially useful to cure clinical Depression. Interestingly, it will also give you powerful arms for martial arts. This exercise channels energy to the Spleen, Pancreas, and Kidney Meridians, as well as all ten fingers and the Meridians associated with them.
It is also used to develop the Art of the Dragon Claw in Shaolin Kung Fu, which is a compassionate way to disable an opponent without doing serious damage. Do you want to break a brick with your palm? This exercise, when done correctly, will give you the internal power to do that, without any other conditioning.
Those problems related to the Liver and Spleen Meridians will also find this exercise useful. Useful for: arthritis, knee pain, edema, varicose veins, sacroiliac pain, long leg disorder. This is another excellent exercise for the lower body. It opens up the meridians in the legs so that negative energy from other parts of the body can be efficiently drained out into the ground.
Useful for: knee pain, sexual dysfunction, edema, varicose veins, incontinence, impotence. You may be surprised, but Rotating Knees can help to overcome sexual problems, and it can enhance sexual performance and enjoyment.
Like Lifting Heels , it also helps to drain negative energy down the legs. Since this energy often gets stuck in the knees, this exercise is extremely useful. As the director of Flowing Zen, I'm fully committed to helping people with these arts. In addition to my blog , I also teach online courses and offer in-person retreats and workshops.
Using many, great to review those I was missing. JoAnn Saunders now residing in Ecuador. Thank you so much for sharing. I know a bit about this from a great tai chi teacher who incorporates these into his classes but this is a wonderful review and reminder for me. Thank you for the translation. They sound so cool and somewhat more powerful if one can understand Mandarin.
Self Defense Guides. The Luohan's exercise is the inner exercise designed to improve the ability to see at night time. This is the purport of this exercise. This kind of training is quite difficult for an ordinary man, especially at the initial stage, but it results in the ability to see in pitch darkness. This exercise is designed, for example, for those who enter the army to serve at remote frontiers, perform noble deeds and stand on guard of justice.
History of Qigong: The 18 Luohan Hands
Garofalo , All Rights Reserved. Introduction to Shaolin Temple Luohan Qigong. The essential insights and tenets of the Buddhist religion were formulated and taught by Siddhartha Gautama , the Buddha, in India. The Buddha lived from BCE. The City of Luoyang in Henan Province in China is especially known for early Buddhist translators, teachers and temples.
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