Week Six: Crane
The energy of the Crane is light, quick and sharp. Its energy is aloof and peaceful, with moments of intensity. These traits can help us to rise above troubles and worries in our lives and find freedom from old emotions.
The primary element stimulated by the exercises we will be learning is the Metal element. This element relates to the Lungs and Large Intestines, the nose and skin. The movements of the Crane are expansive. The lengthening of the body takes pressure of the Large intestine and allows it to function freely. The extension of the arms and beating of the ‘wings’ opens up the related meridians and stimulates the Lungs inside the ribcage. The feathers of the Crane provide a protective layer for the Crane allowing external energies to brushed away or roll of the surface easily. The way the limbs are held in the Crane movements extends a slight tension to the surface, strengthening this protective function of the skin.
The nature of the Metal element in Chinese philosophy is often poorly understood. People are often puzzled as to why Metal is included within the elements while the more fundamental element of Air which appears in many other traditional elemental systems does not appear. Well… the place where we typically find Metal is in the mountains. This is also the place we go for fresh air. In addition to this in the generative cycle of the five elements Water comes from Metal. If we think about this in terms of geography, when warm damp air blows up against the Mountains (metal) this causes the moisture to come out of the clouds as rain, producing Water. So there is a clear correlation between the element of Metal and the Air, the Chinese simply chose to name it after the mountain rather than the clouds. If you look at the organs associated with this element too, well the Lungs being one of those organs gives you a pretty big hint as well.
The emotion related to the Metal element is grief, or letting go and freedom. These are part of the same process. Grieving is part of dealing with change. When we complete this process we have freedom to move onwards with life. The movements of the Crane can help us to let go as we rise through the process of grief and then soar high in freedom.
This Weeks Practice Sessions:
This week will be spent practicing Crane ‘warm-up’ exercises. These exercises will help you to start to feel the energy of the Crane and will prepare you for further Crane movements next week.
Start each practice session with the Alignment, Centering and Opening exercises and then do as many repetitions of the Crane exercises as you comfortably can. Then finish with more of the Alignment, Centering and Opening exercises.
Note down in your practice journal what you learn doing the exercises and how they make your energy feel.
Stand with your heels together and turn your feet outwards to something like 45 degrees. Squat down, coming onto the balls of your feet. Your knees should go out in the direction that your feet are pointing.
At the same time as you squat, make cranes beaks with your hands by bringing all of your finger tips and thumb together on each hand. Raise your arms high above your head as you descend until the backs of your hands touch each other at the lowest point in the squat.
As you stand back up lower your hands to your sides and then cross them in front of you like folded wings in one smooth motion.
Repeat as many times as you wish.
This exercise lengthens the back and opens the shoulders and side of the ribs so the lungs can expand more easily. We will see this lengthening of the back in many of the Crane exercises, particularly the lower back. This allows the nerves which run to the Large intestine to function freely.
You may breath in whatever way feels natural to you during this exercise, however you may find that breathing in as you squat and raise your arms and out as you stand and lower your arms maximizes the opening of the ribs and effect on the lungs.
Step out to one side in a bow stance with your arms crossed in front of you.
Breathe out as you bend your body forwards and raise your arms up behind on either side of your body with hands in Crane’s beak shape.
Breathe in as you lift your body back up straight and move your arms forward and up overhead with your hands still in Crane’s beaks.
Breathe out bending forwards and swinging your arms back behind you again.
Breathe in as you return to your starting position stepping your feet back together, standing upright and crossing your arms in front.
Repeat alternating sides.
This exercise has similar effects to the Crane squats, but this time opening to the front and back rather than to the sides.
Crane Extends Its Legs
Raise one leg and open your arms wide to the sides. Press your palms out with your fingers facing up.
Extend your leg to the front, then keep it extended as you move it to the side and behind you.
Bend the knee of your extended leg and bring it back forwards in front of your body and set your foot down on the ground. Bring your arms in and fold them in front of your body.
Repeat on the other side.
Many people will challenging their balance and flexibility in this way difficult to begin with. You don’t need to have your leg very high to gain the benefit of the exercise. Even if you just have your foot barely above the ground as you move it to the front, side and back, it will still create a gentle pulling through the pelvis and lower back, and challenge the lower back’s stability in all directions, helping it to lengthen and stay balanced allowing the nerves to the Large intestine to function more freely.
Crane Suns Its Wings
Raise one leg and place the foot across the front of the other leg. Extend your arms to the sides and let them lengthen outwards as you gently beat your ‘wings’ up and down like a bird warming and drying itself in the sun.
The overall effect of this is to let the shoulders and ribs open and expand outwards and the back and legs lengthen. It should create a feeling of separation between the ribs and the pelvis as the lower back lengthens and the ribs expand, and a sense of emptiness in the lower abdomen rather than fullness. The whole being should feel light.