Waterloo and Covent Garden Clinics Reopen 12 April

Rings of Life

I learnt this exercise from a daoist monk on Wudang mountain. Although there are many qigong exercises to mobilise the joints I find this one incorporates the Taiji principle of ‘dantian* moves, body moves’ or moving from centre.

It looks a lot easier than it is in practice, so start with the feet and then then hands and then as this feels natural do both together. In Traditional Chinese Medicine the wrists and the ankles are called the ‘rings of life’ as the 3 yin and 3 yang meridians compress before extending to the extremities and qi can often get blocked here. Practice this exercise daily, several times if you spend a lot of time sitting down and also as a warm up for other exercise. 

  • ANKLES: Take your weight onto the right foot and place the left foot slightly ahead (not too far). Circle the foot. As you lift the heel and roll the inside edge of the foot up until only the big toe is in contact with the floor. Then roll the outside (little toe) edge of the foot back down on the ground until the foot is fully on the ground. Do not lift the big toe off the ground. Repeat 8x. Then change direction.
  • WRISTS: Interlock your fingers. Keeping the elbows and shoulders down, Lift the right wrist and roll it away from you as the left wrist rolls back towards you. Then lift the left wrist and roll it forwards as the right wrist rolls backwards. Repeat 8x. Then change direction.
  • BOTH TOGETHER: Once 1 & 2 feel natural, try both together. Change direction, then change feet.


dantian translated as ‘red cinnabar field’ is the energy centre of the body which lies 3 fingers-width below the naval and inside the body. Ancient daoists considered this to be the site of alchemical transformation whereby humans could achieve immortality.