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  • Writer's pictureJohn Blue

Quick Overview of Snake & Turtle for Beginners

Updated: May 11, 2022

In the art of instruction, it's very useful to provide a simple summary of the information that will be presented. This helps students organize future lessons more easily.

Follow me through a very abbreviated overview of the Snake & Turtle form.

The goal is to give you a simplified experience of the movements so that it’s easier to study them in greater detail later. Please practice along with this video a couple of times without working too hard. Just let the information wash through you, and don’t worry about doing anything right or wrong.

1. Snake and Turtle Join Their Qi:

I like to think of this movement as “Turtle in the Rain.”

Feet in line with the inside of the shoulders, symmetrical

Hips & Knees gently flexed, as if sitting on a high stool, with the knees pointing out over the toes

Soften your back, belly, and chest, allowing your breath to be natural

Shoulders release, with your arms hanging naturally by your sides

The neck softens with the head hanging upward into the sky.

Once the structure is built from the ground up, we soften back down through and into the ground.

Imagine that rain is falling and flowing downward through your body, softening and revitalizing as it flows downward.

Let go of the neck so that the head softens upward

Release the shoulders, the elbows, the wrist, the hands

Upper back, chest, scapula, ribs, abdomen, and lower back

Hips & groin, thighs, calves, ankles, feet, toes

Imagine the rain flowing over & through you into the earth. It travels a meter below your feet, carrying tension and anything else that no longer serves you.

Place your palms upon your navel, resting your awareness deep to the navel in the middle of the abdomen.

Rest in stillness for a moment. Free yourself of tension and weight by releasing it down through the body and into the ground.

2. Two Dragons Play With a Ball

Make sure that your hands are comfortably warm before beginning to touch your body.

You may hear me refer to this as “Turtle Warming its Belly.”

Place your hands on your belly, and rest your awareness beneath, feeling warmth and softness spread comfortably for a moment.

Starting small, use your palms to circle your navel, successively larger and larger spirals, sending warmth and comfort deep into your abdomen.

Once the hands cover the entire abdomen, change direction and begin spiraling inward. Smaller and smaller until the hands again rest on top of the navel.

Feel the warmth of your hands soaking into the space between the navel and the spine, which we can call the DanTian.

3. Sway Left and Right Like a Wave

I prefer to call this “Snake Softening its Sides.”

Slide your hands around your waist to rest on the corner of your lower back and sides.

Leading the movement with your hands, slide your palms up and down. Gently rub and soften the back & sides of your torso and legs.

Pour the weight down one side of your body, through the leg, and into the ground. The hand slides down that same leg.

At the same time, allow the other half of your body to become light and free. The hand on the same side is sliding upward while keeping your shoulder soft.

Begin opening the side of the body that has the hand sliding upward, softening the neck, ribs, hip, knee, & ankle.

Focus on opening & softening long, rather than closing and clenching the body. Keep the movement side to side without twisting or rounding the back. Keep the hips and knees soft.

Slowly return to the center, resting the warm hands against the lower back, before drawing them back around to the front.

4. Sway the Head and Shake the Tail

a. Hang the Waist and Rotate the Buttocks

I prefer to think of this as: “Snake Twirls its Tail.”

Allow the hands to slide down, the fingertips resting below the pelvic bones, helping keep the tendons and muscles soft.

Starting small, imagine that you have a long tail attached to your tailbone, its tip touching the ground. Gently tilt your pelvis in a circle and drag that tail in a small ring below you.

Larger and larger circles, moving like a Polynesian dancer or Belly Dancer, maintain your weight and the position of your torso in the center.

Find a way to generate the movement through softening instead of tension, spiraling outward in both directions. Keep your knees unlocked and body soft.

b. Lotus Leaf Swaying in the Wind

I like to call this movement “Green Snake Softens its Hips.”

Hands resting upon the lower aspect of your hips, begin making small spirals by softening the hips and waist.

Your head will remain more or less centered as your hips circle comfortably around like a Leaf in the Wind.

Circle in both directions before returning to the middle. Maintain normal breathing and soft-long neck position.

c. Sway the Head and Shake the Tail

You might hear me refer to this practice as the “Red Snake Softens its Neck.”

Standing with your awareness under your feet, begin softening your neck & upper spine as you make small circles.

Slowly begin making larger and larger circles, being gentle with your body. Don’t push into any tight spots or force it to make noises.

Eventually, roll upward before changing directions to spiral outward in the other direction.

If you encounter tight spots or clicking, please move gently and slowly. Find a comfortable way through or around the obstructions without force to press into them.

Take time to end with a “Closing Movement” to make sure your body remains soft and relaxed through practice.

5. Sway Back and Forth Like a Wave

I prefer to think of this as “Snake Lengthens its Spine.”

Beginning in a comfortable basic standing posture, take a movement to release any tension in your neck and upper back.

Start this movement by softening your neck. Soften your throat to extend your chin forward and downward, continuing around the circle comfortably.

Allow the wave of softness to spread gently along the front and the back of the body.

Allow the shoulder to follow the natural arc of the movement, breathing normally and effortlessly.

Slowly move from small to large waving movements, and then return to small motions. Return to standing posture again, following the closing movement.

6. Black Snake Coiling Around a Tree

You may hear me refer to this as “Black Snake Loosens its Waist.”

Again begin in a comfortable stance. Allow the back of one hand to rest gently upon your lower back.

The opposite hand, at the same moment, will float upward to rest with your palm on the back of the head. Use that hand to gently pull and turn your head in the direction of the opposite shoulder.

Continue twisting in that direction, using the waist rather than turning the hips. Keep the knees facing over the toes, gently softening the hips, lower back, and abdomen during the twist.

Soften the front of the torso, looking gently upward

Soften the back, looking gently downward.

Release the lower hand, and use the upper hand to slowly lower down in front of the body, softening the neck and torso with the movement.

Repeat on the other side.

Eventually, finish with the closing movement.

7. White Snake Flicks its Tongue

I like to think of this one as “White Snake Opens its Chest.”

Place one foot in front at a comfortable distance.

Swing one hand outward and upward to the level of your shoulder while the other hand slides upward along the centerline of your torso.

Release your arms gently back down and repeat the movement by switching your hands.

Trade this movement back and forth with your feet in one position, and then switch your foot position to continue softening your chest & back, emphasizing the other side.

As the hands float upward and outward, allow your shoulders to remain soft and your hips comfortable.

8. Golden Snake Coiling Around a Tree

I like to call this one: “Golden Snake Loosens its Shoulders.”

Step out into a comfortably wide stance.

With both hands at the waist, lead one across the body with the palm upward, and then allow it to open outward to your side.

The hand floats up above the head while keeping the shoulders & neck relaxed. The palm continues to circle overhead until it reaches the opposite side of the waist.

Leading with the fingers, allow your hand to turn over as it continues in that circle until it extends outward along your side, palm facing upward.

The little finger leads, and your hand circles forward in front of your body, allowing your torso to lean comfortably as you open in a full circle. Return to your starting position at the end of the circuit.

Trace a path between your navel and your lower back with your fingertips, turning your waist without twisting your knees.

Allow your fingertips to continue around the circle, moving over the head as though loosely keeping a cup of tea in your palm. Leisurely return to the starting position and then repeat on the opposite side.

9.) Turtle Spirit Plays in the Water

This movement is an example of an unusual practice known as spontaneous qigong. For now, simply flow naturally for a minute in any direction that feels like it needs a bit of loosening. Be creative and have a bit of fun, staying soft and allowing your whole body to move as though immersed in water.

When finished, return to a comfortable standing position with your hands resting upon your navel.

10. Turtle Spirit Drinking Qi

Begin in an easy standing posture. Place your hands on your lower abdomen and soften your hips and glutes as much as possible.

Allow your knees to bend a little as you fold your hips in the direction of a forward bend. Let your hips sway back as your head drops downward, then soften your neck for a moment to lengthen your spine.

As though leading with the top of your head, soften the front of your body as you stand back up.

11. Snake Spirit Standing Up

I like to call this “Earth Snake Rising.” Release the front, back, and sides of your neck, feeling as though the whole head becomes light and effortlessly suspended.

With your arms nearly straight, lead your fingertips up the sides and towards the sky. By softening your entire body, feel it lengthen as your tension melts to the ground.

Imagine that you cup a piece of the sky in your hands. Lead it down through your body to the ground.

Sinking comfortably, imagine that you grasp some earth and lift it to the level of your waist.

Return to a basic posture and allow the feeling of softness to permeate into your bones.

12. Mighty Snake Shakes its Tail

Take a slightly wider stance, and gently swing your arms to pat your torso, side to side.

Maintain your hips and knees facing forward without twisting the knees.

Keep your body upright and avoid leaning, breathing normally.

13. Snake and Turtle Swallow Qi

You may hear me refer to this as “Snake and Turtle Rest.”

Place your palms upon your navel, close your eyes, and allow your whole system to rest easily.

After finishing, spend a few moments with self-massage and some gentle shaking movements that I like to call “Snake Shedding its Skin.”.


Such a delightful and straightforward practice!

Follow along with this simplified overview a couple of times before moving to the next lesson. It will be helpful to have a blueprint in mind as you learn the practice in greater detail.

Remember that this is only a tiny part of a more extensive system and sequence of teaching videos. Subscribe to my channel to learn more!

Make sure that you begin your practice at the beginning of the sequence

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Yung Sahm

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