Healing Philosophy of Chinese Health Balls

To understand how Baoding Balls keep the body healthy, a person would need to have some understanding of the Yin and Yang philosophy.  The Yin and Yang are symbols of two forces kept in balance by the flow of your internal energy.  This energy is your Qi (“chi”) which is the energy of life that guides and controls everything.

Yin and Yang are best compared to as active and passive principles.  The Yin represents the passive, dark, cold, and negative aspects.  The Yang represents the active, bright, warm and positive aspects.  They are on opposite poles in conflict with each other but always connected to each other.  A metaphor would be the Sun to the Moon and Light to Dark.  

In a healthy and balanced person, the Yin and Yang energy interact in harmony so that a person’s emotions, body, spirit, and mind are all in balance with each other.  In Chinese medicine, when a person is unhealthy, it is believed that the person’s internal energy is imbalanced and requires specific treatment to correct it.  

Chinese medicine practitioners believe that the body’s Qi (“chi”) flows through pathways known as meridians.  There are 12 meridians in the body and each is related to a particular organ.  For thousands of years, acupuncture doctors would use needles inserted into a person’s meridian to affect the flow of the internal energy.  The acupuncture doctors have studied which organs are connected to Yin energy or to Yang energy and what points of the body they must stimulate to treat the condition.  By the same theory, using pressure (Acupressure) can also stimulate the meridians through massage.  

In your hand, there are several meridians and acupressure points connected to your organs.  By using Baoding Balls in your hands, these points can be stimulated to affect the energy flow of your organs.  To increase Yang energy, the balls should be rotated quickly to increase the temperature and in a clockwise directly.  To increase Yin energy, they should be rotated slowly and in a counter-clockwise directly.  

Using Baoding Balls in this way to affect the body’s energy has given them the name of Chinese Health Balls.  However, practice with these balls has health benefits in addition to balancing the flow of Qi.  Regular use of the health balls will improve and stimulate the circulation of the fingers.  The exercise will also strengthen the muscles of your hands and fingers.

If you are suffering from the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome or feel the onset of the condition, using Baoding Balls can help manage your condition.  Rotating the balls will stretch out the tendons and warm up the hands and wrist.  Regularly performing short warming up exercises  for the wrist before engaging in activities with intensive or long periods of wrist activity can prevent and avoid the symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome.  

How to Select Baoding Balls

If you would like to purchase a Baoding ball for yourself with an eye towards becoming a serious practitioner, usually it is best to examine the size of your hand first. Generally, the taller your height, the bigger your hand.

Baoding balls are made in different sizes. Children can use the balls measuring 35 millimeters while tall adults can rely on the balls measuring up to 55 millimeters.  For an average woman, 35mm to 40mm balls are recommended and 40 to 50 mm balls are suggested for an average man.  If you plan to use more than 2 balls per hand, then look towards the smaller balls unless you are an expert.

Using Baoding balls takes some getting used to. To start, take at least 2 balls and place them in your palm. New practitioners should look for balls that are small at the start, then get balls which are larger as proficiency in rotation goes up to a certain degree. Rely on your hand’s dexterity to rotate the balls in a direction which feels most natural for you. You might want to tilt hand in different angles to get the most benefits based on gravity. Once you have mastered rotation in one direction, try rotating the Baoding balls in the opposite direction. You ought to be able to comfortably rotate the balls in either direction after some time spent practicing.

You may attempt to rotate the balls so they will not hit one another. Baoding balls can be rotated so smoothly by practitioners that they will not hit each other at all. But make sure you switch hands every so often so that one hand will not become more dexterous than the other. You can later use bigger balls as your hands become stronger. Over a 15-minute period, you will find that your hands, shoulders, and forearms are getting a great workout.

With practice, you can be skilled enough to rotate 80 balls like this guy. (kidding)

Most people will find it helpful to manipulate baoding balls and particularly the elderly since the activity is a gentle one. Dexterity improves through practice of the rotation of health balls, while blood circulation and inner energy (or Qi) are also enhanced. When other activities are added, such as walking on pebble paths or Tai Chi, the health benefits are maximized.

Take care of your health balls by keeping them dry and clean. Balls which are made of metal should be kept dry. Try to prevent having the balls violently impact on one another and against other hard surfaces (though the balls are usually tough and durable).  If your metal balls are going to be stored for a long time, it is recommended that the owner wax or grease the balls before storage for maintenance and preservation purposes.

History and Types of Baoding Balls

The Various Types of Baoding Balls and their Origin

Baoding balls are believed to have originated from Baoding town in Heibei province in China sometime during the Ming dynasty. People and soldiers would use a couple of walnuts to exercise their hands until iron balls were created.  There are still workmen and artisans in the town who meticulously produce the Baoding balls in the market today. Baoding balls are dubbed one of the “three treasures” of Baoding and are known to have been used by people from all classes of society. Even emperors have been known to use them. 

Ronald Reagan receiving Baoding Balls, a treasure of Baoding China

In the Baoding city, the Baoding balls are known as Iron Balls, since at first artisans relied on iron to produce the balls. The iron balls reportedly doubled as weapons at that time. However, they are presently made from different kinds of materials such as solid jade and solid stone, though chrome-plated steel remains the predominant material used. Such steel balls are light and hollow, plus may contain a chime inside so that when the balls are manipulated they create a nice sound.

Jade walnuts. Walnuts were used before the discovery of metal.

Baoding Balls are made mainly from metal or stone.  Metal balls are the choice for most users.  Their medium weight and durability make them good for all-around exercises and skill levels.  Metal also allows the craftsman to design the balls by engraving the balls or through cloisonne designs.  Stone balls are solid and heavier.  Thus, using stone balls is more of a workout.  If you choose to use stone balls, you need to be careful not to drop them because they are more likely to chip or break.  

Baoding balls are generally sized differently depending on who will use that size. For the general public, a ball may have a diameter of 35 millimeters to 55 millimeters, though 35 millimeters is adequate for children and 55 millimeters for tall men. Average people should stick with the 37 to 47 mm balls.  An advanced user will use multiple sizes of balls.  For example, they could rotate 4 small balls in one hand or rotate 2 small balls around a large ball.

When selecting the balls which are appropriate for you, check their size and weight. As a rule, the larger and heavier balls have a more invigorating effect on acupuncture points and the reflexes. It is recommended though that you begin with small balls. In time, you will get used to rotating these and can move up to larger sizes, as well as usage at one time of 3 to 4 balls.

The Baoding ball is also known by the following names: Baichi (valuable balls), Reflex Balls, Miracle Balls, Iron Balls, Cloisonne Balls, Meditation Balls, Qigong Balls, Chiming Balls, Exercise Balls, Therapeutic Balls, Therapy Balls, Melody Balls, Relaxation Balls, Stress Balls, and Worry Balls. 

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