Revital and Cain Carroll on Hand Mudras


Singing Dragon authors Cain and Revital Carroll (Mudras of India) recently gave a one-hour webinar on hand mudras with Friends Health Connection.  In this presentation, the Carrolls described the health and spiritual benefits of hand mudras as well as historical background and instructions on technique and application.

Click the image above to view the webinar or click this link to view the video on the Friends Health Connection site.

Mudras of India has been called “a much-needed compendium that beautifully illustrates the incredible variety and versatility of the hand gestures.” Click the link below to order or for more information about this book which appeals to spiritual seekers, students and teachers of yoga and Indian Dance, scholars and lay people, and anyone interested in transformative effects of these powerful hand gestures.

Find out more about Mudras of India by Cain and Revital Carroll.


Michael Davies on the benefits of the gentle exercise known as Jiangan – The Chinese Health Wand

Michael Davies is a senior instructor with the Tai Chi Union for Great Britain. He has been practising Chinese internal arts for over 30 years and teaching Tai Chi Chuan for 13 years. He runs a Tai Chi club with regular classes, workshops and seminars in Tai Chi, Qigong and Jiangan. He lives in Hertfordshire, UK.

Here, Michael answers some questions about his new book, Jiangan – The Chinese Health Wand.

Video: Click to see Jiangan in action!

When did you first come across the Chinese health wand?

I saw it performed by an elderly Chinese man while on holiday in Malaysia in 1982, then later read a copy of the book by Bruce L. Johnson, the man who discovered the system in Shanghai in 1945. I had only just begun learning Tai Chi, which I took up mainly for the martial and meditation aspects. So although I was intrigued by the ‘Chinese Wand’ I was not sufficiently motivated to study it at that time. It was thirty years later, after working in an office and experiencing a sedentary lifestyle for much of that time, that I become more interested in the health aspects of Asian arts. I had become a Tai Chi instructor but felt that there were areas of conditioning and fitness that even this Chinese treasure was lacking. I decided to revisit Johnson’s book and experiment with the exercises, and was so impressed that I wrote this book.

What does Jiangan mean?

In Chinese (pin-yin) ‘Jian’ means health and ‘Gan’ means pole or wand. Jiangan can therefore be translated as ‘Health Wand’. Although there is no direct mention of Jiangan in Chinese written records, such exercises have been traditionally passed down from teacher to student orally for many generations. Dr Cheng, the Chinese Grandmaster who taught Bruce Johnson, claimed that the art was as old as Yoga and Qigong. But unlike other Asian mind-body systems that developed health aspects as by-products of spiritual advancement (Yoga), martial skill (Tai Chi) or healing specific illnesses (Qigong), Jiangan was specifically devised as a daily health and fitness maintenance routine for the gentry and imperial family who had unique health problems caused by their sedentary lifestyle. So for this purpose only the exercises evolved, the less effective and less safe exercises being replaced by more potent and safer exercises through countless generations. This makes it a scientific and comprehensive daily work-out.

Did you find Jiangan easy to learn, and have you found that the practice has expanded over the years?

It is very easy to learn but deceptively so. It possesses hidden subtleties and can be as simple or as challenging as you like. People tend to start practising physically but when the body adjusts there is less need for physical exertion. Eventually you realise that it is very much an internal exercise and you focus more on the deep diagrammatic breathing and develop a meditative frame of mind which greatly enhances your practice. The book takes the reader through the exercises in great detail and suggests traditional mental imagery based on the Chinese element system which helps to link the physical movement to spiritual concepts.

What are the health benefits, and how long each day do you need to practice?

The benefits include a sense of well-being, a clear tranquil mind, deep restorative sleep, increased energy, sexual vitality and fertility, increased circulation, clear skin, more efficient metabolism and improved digestion. But in addition Jiangan stretches and strengthens the physical body and is capable of delivering body-shaping results associated with vigorous gym workouts. It is therefore a holistic internal-external exercise. Many people separate health and fitness but Jiangan regards both as the same. Although there is stretching and strengthening similar to Western exercises these are performed in the style and spirit of a Tai Chi or Qigong routine. We approach stretches in gradual stages, always returning to the beginning posture with each breath and not holding a stretch for longer than a breath. Every movement is cyclic, gradual and gentle. So physical goals can be achieved at the same time as ‘internal cultivation’ because they are both part of the holistic joining of mind and body. Perhaps the systems’ most crucial contribution to health is its capacity to improve posture and help with a whole range of back, shoulder, and neck problems.

Twenty minutes a day is adequate to avail oneself of the many health benefits.

VIDEO: Michael Davies demonstrates some Jiangan exercises.


Is this a purely ‘health’ practice or does it, like other Chinese energetic movement forms, carry within it a deeper spiritual practice?

The unique esoteric aspects of the art are based on Chinese traditional medicine and more obscure ancient practices, particularly involving the Gan itself. I discovered that the length that Johnson and Grandmaster Cheng specified for the Gan is approximately a ‘Golden Ratio’ longer than the length of an average person’s arm, which is probably the basis of the intriguing esoteric principles surrounding the Gan (‘Wand’ is an apt, rather magical term). Holding the Gan at each end – one hand considered ‘Yin’ and the other ‘Yang’ respectively – may relate back to the Healing Rods of ancient Egypt. Continuing with the Egyptian theme, this wide grip creates a symbolic pyramid shape with the body. As we continually circulate Qi around this ‘pyramid’ its vertex or tip repeatedly focusses on and stimulates the body’s two ‘polarity points’; the Yang (Baihui) on the crown of the head and the Yin (Huiyin) at base of the spine. This process relates to the important Chakra centres of Yoga and can also be seen as a simplified way to perform the ‘Microcosmic Orbit Meditation’ of Taoist alchemy. The ‘Yin-Yang’ concept is also an important influence on body mechanics. In most exercises the Gan acts as a fulcrum or lever. In many of the exercises, one part of the body is motionless (Yin) while another part is in motion (Yang). This creates a resistance that causes beneficial stretches and also massages internal organs. It is a methodology in stark contrast to Tai Chi where all the body moves as one unit.

Why do you think it is not very well known?

Bruce Johnson said that Dr Cheng was the last Chinese Grandmaster. When he introduced it to the West in the 1950’s there was little enthusiasm for Asian arts. By the time Tai Chi and Qigong became popular Johnson had given up teaching for religious reasons. The art was left behind. Though a few people kept it alive using Johnson’s out-of-print book as a reference point. But the internal, philosophical side of the art was not being taught. In recent years it seems to have been relegated to the role of a ‘quirky physical exercise with a stick’.

Using my experience in Chinese internal arts I wanted to rediscover the internal philosophy and present the art as originally intended so that a new generation can reap the health benefits. In fact, it was the way Jiangan effects the physical body that was the catalyst for writing the book. Even though I had been practising Tai Chi for over thirty years, like many men my age I had developed a middle-aged spread. There seems to be a consensus amongst Tai Chi and Qigong practitioners that it is possible to have a middle-age spread and still be healthy and to regard exercises that focus on physical improvement as somehow inferior and cosmetic. But an expanding waistband is often a sign that visceral fat – the fat that sits around the major organs and linked to diabetes and heart disease – is accumulating in the body. After practising Jiangan for several weeks my middle-ages spread was gone and I felt fitter, leaner and stronger, more supple than I had for years. I hope that my book will be particularly useful to people attracted to internal Chinese health but who also need to reduce weight and keep fit.

How does this practice fit within the Chinese martial arts tradition, and how might you integrate it with martial arts practice?

Jiangan is not a martial art and there is no evidence that it evolved from martial techniques. However, the dimensions of the Gan itself is approximately the same as the Chinese short staff (sometimes called the ‘Gun’ or ‘whip staff”) used for some martial forms.

It is a complete and integrated warm-up, a stretching, strengthening and Qigong-energy type practice that can be utilised to support any martial art training. It enriches training sessions and makes them more effective.

Now that the book is published, what is your next challenge?

I would like the art to become better known and more widely practised – particularly in the areas where it’s unique qualities can make a significant contribution, such as tackling obesity and weight-loss – especially in seniors and helping sedentary people overcome problems associated with their lifestyles. As it is simple to learn there is great opportunity for a wide range of people to teach themselves without long-term commitment to lessons or classes. Johnson wanted his own book to be in every nursing home, every hospital, every physical therapy room, every doctor’s office. I would like to see Jiangan practised by workers in offices and factories to increase productivity and the health of the workforce. I would also like to see it practised in schools and colleges, where it could not only help maintain student’s physical fitness but also be an accessible introduction to Chinese internal arts.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.

VIDEO: Lisa Spillane demonstrates the Six Healing Sounds – Qigong for Children

Lisa Spillane is the author and illustrator of the new book, Six Healing Sounds with Lisa and Ted: Qigong for Children, which teaches young children how to transform negative feelings into positive ones by using simple breathing techniques that are based on ancient Chinese Qigong exercises.

Using a special sound for different parts of the body, Lisa and Ted show that a “haaaww” can heal the heart and blow away impatience, and a “whooooooo” can steady the stomach and chase away worries.

In this video, Lisa demonstrates each healing sound from the story so that parents, teachers, carers and children can make sure they’re getting the most from them.

Click below to see how it’s done!


Lisa Spillane qualified as a teacher of Art and Design at the National College of Art and Design (NCAD) in Dublin, Ireland. She also has a master’s degree in Education and is a co-founder and former Director of Artlink Ltd., a charitable company promoting access to art in the North West of Ireland. Having taught at a number of schools, Lisa went on to work for several years in Northern Ireland on community projects with children and young people. She learned Qigong meditation from attending classes taught by Grandmaster Mantak Chia. Lisa currently lives in Brussels, Belgium.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.

VIDEO: Damo Mitchell’s ‘Daoist Nei Gong – The Philosophical Art of Change’

Nei Gong has been a well-kept secret within the Daoist sects of China for centuries. Based upon the original teachings of the great sage Laozi, it has only ever been taught to close students of the masters chosen as the heads of the ancient orders.

For the first time in the English language, Damo Mitchell‘s forthcoming book, Daoist Nei Gong: The Philosophical Art of Change, describes the philosophy, principles and practice of Nei Gong.

The author provides a breakdown of the entire Nei Gong process, and explains in plain English the philosophy which underpins Nei Gong practice, and which is based on the original teachings of the ancient Daoist priests. The methodology of Sung breathing, an advanced meditative practice which has until now been reserved for ‘inner-door’ students is described, and the book contains an entire set of Qigong exercises accompanied by instructional photographs and drawings.

Watch the official book trailer:

(Courtesy of Damo Mitchell and Metal Dragon Media)


Watch Damo Mitchell in action:



Damo Mitchell has studied the martial, medical and spiritual arts of Asia since the age of four. His studies have taken him across the planet in search of authentic masters. He is the technical director of the Lotus Nei Gong School of Daoist Arts, and teaches Nei Gong in the UK and Sweden.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.

VIDEO: Master Chungliang Al Huang on Living Your Own Tao

This month, Singing Dragon was honoured to host an afternoon talk by author and Tai Chi Master Chungliang Al Huang during his visit to London for the launch of his four new perennial editions: Quantum Soup: Fortune Cookies in CrisisEmbrace Tiger, Return to Mountain: The Essence of Tai Ji; Essential Tai Ji; and The Chinese Book of Animal Powers.

We are very pleased to share this edited video of that event below.

Master Chungliang Al Huang is the founder of Living Tao Foundation, an international cultural-arts network for lifelong learning, and the director of the Lan Ting Institute, a cross-cultural study and conference center at the sacred and historic Wu Yi Mountain, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the People’s Republic of China, and at Gold Beach on the Oregon Coast in the USA. He has written many classic books including the four named above, all of which are now brought back into print by Singing Dragon.

Part 1: Master Huang shares the background behind each book and demonstrates his beautiful calligraphy.


Part 2: Master Huang shares some stories about his amazing life’s journey and the larger-than-life people he has befriended along the way – including Sammy Davis Jr. and Alan Watts.

Part 3: Master Huang shares with us the essence of the Tao and how we can lead more balanced lives.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2011.

Video: Richard Bertschinger on Gia-fu Feng and The Secret of Everlasting Life

This month, Singing Dragon staff were treated to an afternoon talk with author Richard Bertschinger, author of the new book  The Secret of Everlasting Life: The First Translation of the Ancient Chinese Text on Immortality.

In these videos, Richard explains the origins of this second century text, the Can Dong Qi, and talks about the careful way in which he translated it from the Chinese over two decades. He also shares memories from his time with the influential Taoist sage and Master, Gia-fu Feng, and reads some passages from the book.

Part One

Part Two

Video: Nancy Williams on the benefits of Yoga Therapy for children with special needs


In this series of videos, Nancy Williams – author of Yoga Therapy for Every Special Child – talks about the many benefits of Yoga for children with special needs, including those with autistic spectrum disorder, developmental delay, sensory integration disorder, anxiety disorder, ADHD, Down syndrome and cerebral palsy.

Nancy has been a yoga therapist for 9 years. She also works as a pediatric Speech Pathologist, and is a certified Neuro Developmental Treatment Therapist, Zero Balancing practitioner, Yoga instructor and Reiki Master Teacher. Nancy runs her own yoga therapy practice in Tucson, Arizona (USA). more…

This lovely slide show features images from Nancy’s yoga workshops:


Nancy introduces ‘Yoga Therapy for Every Special Child’:

Nancy on Why Yoga Therapy Works for Children with Special Needs:

Nancy on The Difference Between Traditional Therapies and Yoga:

Nancy on How to develop a Yoga practice of your own, or locate a good Yoga teacher or class:

Watch more videos about Nancy and her Yoga workshops…

VIDEO: Noah Karrasch on how CORE Bodywork can help release bodymindcore trauma

In this video, Singing Dragon author Noah Karrasch shares some thoughts on his approach to bodywork and introduces readers to his book, Meet Your Body: CORE Bodywork and Rolfing Tools to Release Bodymindcore Trauma.

Many of us hold on to old fears, traumas and stresses and allow them to define and frame our lives. Based on the idea that the body is composed of twenty-one important hinges, Meet Your Body shows how we can ‘oil’ and free these hinges, stretching the body out so we can feel healthy and happy more of the time.

Noah Karrasch is a certified Rolfer and licensed massage therapist, and holds a teaching degree from the University of Missouri, Columbia. He teaches core bodywork skills throughout the midwest and also works with the Wren Clinic in East London, UK. Noah lives and works in Springfield, Missouri, USA.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2010.

VIDEO: Steve Haines on Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy and his new book, Cranial Intelligence

In this video, Singing Dragon author Steve Haines talks about his new book Cranial Intelligence: A Practical Guide to Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy, which he co-authored with Ged Sumner.

At the deepest level of our physiology, all living tissues and fluids expand and contract with the ‘breath of life’. Through gentle touch, the skilled practitioner can interact with these subtle rhythms to address physical aches and pains, acute or chronic disease, emotional or psychological disturbances, or simply to promote enduring health and vitality.

This new and important textbook demystifies the biodynamic approach to craniosacral therapy and shows how and why it can be so effective at bringing about a natural realignment towards optimal health.

Steve Haines has been working in healthcare for over 20 years, and as a bodyworker since 1998. He studied Biodynamic Craniosacral Therapy with Franklyn Sills, Michael Kern and Katherine Ukleja. He is a UK registered chiropractor and also trained as a shiatsu practitioner. Steve lives and works between London and Geneva, and teaches cranial work internationally, including in Switzerland, North America and Malaysia.

Copyright © Singing Dragon 2010.