Lifting The Sky: Best Qigong Exercise Ever?

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lifting-the-sky-costa-rica-3What’s the single best health exercise ever invented? The award undoubtedly goes to Lifting the Sky.  This amazing Qigong exercise has changed countless lives, including my own.

Lifting the Sky is the first exercise in two of the most famous Qigong sets in the world:  The 18 Lohan Hands, taught by the great Bodhidharma, and The 8 Pieces of Brocade taught by General Yue Fe.  It’s safe to say that it is the most widely practiced Qigong exercise in the world.  And for good reason.  It’s awesome.

Eventually, you need to learn this exercise face-to-face from a teacher.  That’s because the real secrets are not in the movement, or even the breathing.  For example, the secret of energy flow really needs to be learned face-to-face.  But in the meantime, it’s safe to try this on your own by following the instructions below.

Practicing Lifting the Sky for about 2 minutes a day is a great habit, and I highly recommend that you implement it. Start by trying to do it every morning for 30 days.  You’ll feel great, and you’ll unwind a lot of stress, which is the start of self-healing.  To let go of even more stress, make sure to try my free audio lesson.

Just don’t expect to get the same, amazing results that my students get.  To get results like that, you need to learn the full 15-minute routine from me face-to-face, or you need to find an instructor.  Not what you wanted to hear?  Sorry, but it’s the truth, and you’d better get used to that kind of honesty if you’re going to be spending time on my site!

Edit 1/2/2014:  You can now watch a video of me teaching Lifting The SkyClick here to watch it for free!

Lifting The Sky – Posture 1


  • Your feet are close together.
  • Your mouth is gently open.
  • Your toes are pointing forward.
  • Your hands are relaxed by your sides.
  • Your posture is upright but relaxed.
  • Your chest is soft and open.
  • Your nose is pointing forward. 

Lifting The Sky – Posture 2


  • Your palms face down toward the ground.
  • Your fingers point toward each other.
  • Your fingers have some space between them.
  • Your arms are as straight as comfortably possible.
  • Your neck tilts down, as if looking at the hands.
  • Your body remains upright.
  • Your shoulders remain relaxed.
  • Your jaw is still relaxed. 

Lifting The Sky – Posture 3


  • Your arms arc up smoothly to the top.
  • Your nose follows the movement of the hands.
  • Your head ends tilting back comfortably.
  • At the top, you lift up gently from your heels to your hands.
  • Your arms remain comfortably straight.
  • Breathe in gently through the nose as you arc upward. 

Lifting The Sky – Posture 4


  • Your arms drop smoothly down, like a bird slowly flapping its wings.
  • Your wrists are no longer bent.
  • Breathe out gently through the mouth as your arms are dropping.
  • The neck gradually returns to normal with the nose pointing forward.
  • Finish in Posture 1.
  • Repeat.

The four postures are not static, of course.  There are some slight pauses, but they should flow from one to another.  They big secret is to make the exercise as comfortable as possible.  If it’s not comfortable, if you’re not enjoying yourself, then you’re not doing it correctly.  If you have any questions, then post them in the comments sections below and I’ll get you some answers.

Go ahead and share this page with friends and family.  Hopefully, you’ll pique their interest in Qigong and self-healing.  Who knows, maybe they’ll get serious about Qigong and make major changes in their health.   If so, then it will all trace back to the moment when you shared this page with them!  For me, it all traces back to the moment when I found my teacher’s book, so I know it’s totally possible!

[Update]  To get FREE instant access to an instructional video of me teaching Lifting The Sky, click here.

Zenfully yours,
Sifu Anthony

I'm Anthony Korahais and I help people young and old to discover the healing powers of Qigong and Tai Chi. I believe that in order to change the world, we must first change ourselves. I love sharing these amazing arts, especially with people who are fed up with conventional treatments that just aren't working.
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46 Responses to Lifting The Sky: Best Qigong Exercise Ever?

  1. John November 23, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    I don’t know if others appreciate this, but this and your 15-minute routine are invaluable “secrets” that you are sharing and we’re all blessed to have the access you are providing to help us in our own wellness journeys.

  2. Lowell December 5, 2011 at 5:38 pm #

    My question is about “Lifting The Sky”…

    I want to embark upon a thirty day commitment, as you’ve suggested, but have a technical question: I was taught to draw my hands (palms facing up) up the front of my body ..with elbows out to each side, and little fingers nearly touching the torso, rather than arcing the hands up with fully extended arms.

    The palm turn occurs at the forehead, as in Master Wong’s version, but I was taught a definite “push” at the fully extended point…What do you think? Am I eliminating or reducing the benefits by doing it this way?

    Thank you so much for your informative articles and advice.

    Lowell Hein
    Jensen Beach, FL.

    • Sifu Anthony December 5, 2011 at 7:03 pm #

      Hi Lowell,

      Lifting The Sky is one of the oldest and most widely practiced Qigong exercises out there. So it’s no surprise that there are many different versions of Lifting the Sky.

      I have practiced many different versions over the years. Obviously, I believe that our version is the best, which is why I practice it and teach it. But other versions are also good.

      If you enjoy the way you were taught, then do that. If you enjoy the way it is described in this article, then do it that. In other words, choose the version that you enjoy best.

      Sifu Anthony

      • Lowell December 6, 2011 at 12:46 am #


        Could you touch a little bit on what the purpose of the exercise actually is, and how the benefits are derived?

        I understand it’s to “regulate the triple burner”, but that’s Cantonese to me. : )

        Thank you, sir.


        • Sifu Anthony December 6, 2011 at 8:39 am #

          Lifting The Sky is one of the most holistic of all Qigong exercises. The “Triple Burner”, or “San Jiao”, is a complex (and invisible) system in Chinese medical theory. The simple answer is that Lifting The Sky regulates the flow of Qi through the upper, middle, and lower body.

          The purpose of Lifting The Sky is to get the energy flowing. Similarly, the benefits are derived from letting the energy flow. My students will know exactly what I’m talking about, but those who have not learned “Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow” from me or my teacher will be a bit confused. This is why it’s so important to learn from a living teacher.

          After you finish practicing Lifting The Sky, what do you do, Lowell?

          • Lowell December 6, 2011 at 2:13 pm #

            Hi Sifu,

            I follow with “Draw The Bow and Release Arrow”, “Separating Heaven And Earth”, “Wise Owl Gazes Backward”, “Punch with Fiery Eyes”,”Big Bear Twists From Side to Side, then ” Hold Feet”, I finish with a few minutes of “holding the urn”, or embrace tree” then seal the dan tien for a minute or two.



  3. Sifu Anthony December 6, 2011 at 4:33 pm #

    HI Lowell,

    That’s a fairly standard approach, but our approach is different. The various exercises, like Lifting The Sky or Separating Heaven and Earth (which we call Plucking Stars) get the energy flowing in different ways. But getting the energy flowing is only the first step. Once the energy is flowing, you have to let it flow!

    This is the secret that most Qigong students miss. Because the secret was so well kept, your approach has actually become the norm, especially in China. Although the results can be good, your results would improve dramatically if you learned how to let the energy flow.

    I teach the secret of energy flow, Flowing Breeze Swaying Willow, in my beginner classes. Unfortunately, the secret can only be learned face-to-face
    Until then, I recommend that you take 1 or 2 minutes towards the end of your session (before you seal dantian) to enjoy the flowing stillness. That’s the best that you can do for now, and your results should still be good.

    All the best,
    Sifu Anthony

    • Lowell December 6, 2011 at 5:44 pm #


      I appreciate your input…and will incorporate (my interpretation of) your suggestion into my 8 Pieces of Brocade practice. Perhaps one day our paths will cross in person. I look forward to it.

      Thanks again,

      Lowell Hein
      Jensen Beach FL

  4. Steve September 25, 2012 at 7:50 pm #

    Sifu Anthony,

    My mom is in some physical pain from stress, and she has a hard time relaxing. Is it safe to teach her this without any energy flow?


    • Sifu Anthony September 27, 2012 at 11:21 am #

      Yep. Just show her this page, or teach it to her like this. You can also give her my free downloads.

      I’ll be in NYC in December, and I’ve got a few slots open for private lessons if you want one for your mother.

      • Steve September 27, 2012 at 1:27 pm #

        Thank you.

  5. Mark January 26, 2013 at 5:21 am #

    Great page.

    Thanks to these tips I now enjoy this exercise more than at any time in the years since I learnt it.

    Thank you.

  6. Jeremy April 7, 2013 at 10:33 pm #

    Thanks for the article, Sifu,

    As someone who has recently received Reiki training, your articles are a great source of extra information and practice. Very happy that I have found my way here. As they say, some things were meant to be found!

    Best wishes,

  7. Igor April 29, 2013 at 6:12 am #

    Dear Sifu,

    I have two questions on this exercise:

    – is there any special reason why the feet should be close together? I prefer doing it with feet quite apart (more than shoulder-width) as keeping them close together usually causes me lower-back pain/tension… Keeping them wider apart is more soothing for me and I tend to do most of my exercises that way (especially the ones where there is some kind of stretching of the back involved – e.g. “carrying the moon”)

    – is it ok to do this exercise (or qigong in general) in the morning immediatelly after getting up? (once I read in an ayurvedic book that one shouldn’t do any ‘subtle’ practises, like pranayama or qigong, before emptying the bowels first as otherwise the flow of qi/prana can be blocked or obstructed in the abdominal region which can cause too much pressure of qi in the chest of head)

    Thank you!

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais April 29, 2013 at 8:08 am #

      Hi Igor,

      Yes, there is a good reason why the feet should be apart. When my book is finished, it will explain this. (It’s easier to teach you the reason than to explain it, which is what my book will do.)

      Yes, it’s okay to do qigong immediately after getting up. Don’t worry about moving your bowels first. The qigong will help you to do that more easily!

  8. Sgarcia May 7, 2013 at 10:31 am #

    Esteemed Sifu, I just found this Website yesterday (May 6, 2013) and started to do Lifting the Sky this morning. I have two questions:

    1. Can this exercise be done various times during the day, or is it recommended that it be done only once? I ask cause I have a desk job where I typically sit 6 to 7 hours a day and this exercise seems like the perfect way to get up and stretch. I would try to do this 3 or 4 times while at work.

    2. I noticed that some of the comments were written in 2011 and the publish date of this article is Sep 2012. Is there a time machine involved? 😉

    Thank you. Kind regards, Salvador

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais May 9, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

      Hi Salvador,

      Some answers:

      1. Yes, you can do Lifting The Sky several times during the day. The 2-Minute Drill is designed exactly for that.

      2. The article was re-published and updated in 2012. That’s why some of the comments are older. But I also have a time machine. It’s called Qigong, and it makes me look 10 years younger than I am. :)

      • Sgarcia May 10, 2013 at 4:36 pm #

        Esteemed Sifu, Thank you!

  9. Rik May 24, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    This is my favourite lohan yoga move ever. I do it every day

  10. Tony September 3, 2013 at 7:04 pm #


    What do you mean when you say lift gently from your heels to your hands? Does that mean my toes or heels come off the ground, or neither? Please explain.


  11. SGarcia September 30, 2013 at 2:09 pm #

    Esteemed Sifu:

    Hello again. My last remark was on May 7th when I started doing Lifting the Sky. Now Sept 30th, I have done this exercise every day at least once. I tend to get lost doing it. I count 10 to 15 repetitions, but usually end up doing 25 to 30.

    I was asked if I could share this exercise with a group of Spanish speaking people. I plan to translate the basic steps that you present in this article, but wanted to know if it is ok to include the images of the poses. This information will not be published anywhere and I will be sure to give you full credit, plus provide links to FlowingZen and to this page in particular. Thank You, Salvador

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais September 30, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

      Hi Salvador,

      I’m glad that you’re enjoying Lifting The Sky. Keep up the good work.

      If you want to share the basics, that’s fine. But it would be better if they learn from my e-book, which I hope to release in January. Perhaps I will have my wife translate it into Spanish!

      All the best,
      Sifu Anthony

  12. Keith November 3, 2013 at 12:36 pm #

    I have just come across your site today ands find it very inspiring. I am just starting to become interested in eastern thought. I’m going to start doing lifting the sky. I have two questions.

    Any tips for complete beginners? I started practising breathing from my belly area a couple of weeks ago.

    How should I feel after?

    Thank you.


    • Sifu Anthony Korahais November 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

      Hi Keith. Don’t worry about breathing from the belly. Just breathe naturally. You should feel good afterward — energized, more relaxed, invigorated, and mentally fresh. Hope that helps!

      • Keith November 3, 2013 at 1:40 pm #

        Thanks, I’ve opted in to your email list too, so I’ll take a look at your eBooks and audio.



        • Sifu Anthony Korahais November 3, 2013 at 1:50 pm #

          Keith, keep an eye on my email list. I’ll be announcing some new online offerings for beginners in the very near future! :)

  13. SGarcia February 16, 2014 at 2:50 pm #

    Me Lifting the Sky Winter style :-)


  14. Jean February 26, 2014 at 8:26 am #

    Your tips are all very inspiring. Thank you so much.

  15. Jean February 26, 2014 at 8:36 am #

    I came across your website today and just couldn’t stop reading. Your tips are all very inspiring, thank you! I’m going to start lifting the sky. I have one issue on my mind. I live in an apartment on the 44th floor, can I still practice Qigong in my apartment? I’ve read that a grounded place is a better place to practice Qigong due to the Qi flow.

    Thank you!

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais February 26, 2014 at 10:55 am #

      Hi Jean. Thanks for the kind words. Yes, it’s okay to do it on the 44th floor. In fact, the energy in the sky is quite good. If you want to ground yourself, then just make sure to walk daily on the street or better yet through a park.

      • Jean March 1, 2014 at 7:49 am #

        Hi Sifu Anthony, once again, thank you! I’m still a beginner in Qigong and your articles have already change my life for the better.

  16. philomena March 3, 2014 at 11:09 am #

    I requested the Free e book (twice) but didnt get the e mail to confirm .

  17. Max March 11, 2014 at 11:34 am #

    I noticed from the video that you breath out through the mouth. This is unusual compared with what I had seen from other teachers exposing the excercises.
    Do you advise to do this kind of breathing with other baduanjin/yijinjing excercises also? What is the aim of this kind of breathing? Letting flow of stuck qi blockages?
    Should not the tongue touch the palate also?


    • Sifu Anthony Korahais March 12, 2014 at 11:45 am #

      Hi Max.

      There are many different breathing methods in Qigong. Different styles use different methods. I’m lucky enough to have learned several different styles and breathing methods.

      The basic method that we use — breathing in gently through the nose, and out gently through the mouth — is a powerful way to get the energy flowing, and cleanse the meridians.

      The tongue need not be lifted to the roof of the mouth. That method is used when we practice the Small Universe:

  18. Karen April 29, 2014 at 4:41 am #


    Thank You for your wonderful website.

    I have Graves Disease, which is autoimmune hyperthyroidism, and Qigong has given me hope that I can make a full recovery. I am reading Wong Kiew Kits book “Chi Gung for health and vitality” and am enjoying “lifting the stars”, I also practise “pushing the mountains” ( I have severe odema in my face so I’m trying to work with my kidneys!) but im really only guessing as to which exercises might benefit me best.

    Your advice would be much appreciated!

    Thanks again.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais April 29, 2014 at 10:28 am #

      I’m glad that my website is helpful!

      Regarding your question — I can’t simply give you advice on which exercise is better for Graves Disease. The real deciding factor is not the exercise, but the skill with which you practice it. To raise your skill level, it’s necessary to learn from a teacher face-to-face.

      So my advice is to find a good teacher. If you want to learn from me, then I recommend that you come to the Costa Rica Retreat this summer! Here’s the link:

  19. Michael Tarantino May 5, 2014 at 10:40 pm #


    Thank you for the detail in which you bestow our Wahnam art for all Wahnam students. Your words have the same grace and elegance as Sigung.

    I have learned Wahnam (lifting the sky) for medical and health purposes from one of your qigong brothers. I recently viewed the Lifting the Sky video for your academy, and I actually learned a different breathing pattern and am inquiring for clarification.

    I learned to be silent on the exhale as well. That is the only difference. Your video makes it obvious to exhale Ahhh with sound. May you please clarify? Thanks Sifu.

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais May 6, 2014 at 8:00 am #

      Hi Michael,

      You probably just misunderstood your Sifu. In any case, the exhalation is not silent. It can’t possibly be silent. Here’s why.

      In a quiet room, try to exhale gently through the mouth, but silently. In order to make it silent, you would have to exhale extremely slowly — much slower than we do in Lifting The Sky. Even then, it’s still not really silent. You can still hear a “haaa” sound.

      Typically, the exhalation in Lifting The Sky is anywhere from 2-5 seconds long. At that speed, you’re always going to hear the “haa” sound on the exhalation. And you should hear it. In fact, people across the room should hear it. But be sure to keep the breath gentle, even though there is a sound.

      All the best,
      Sifu Anthony

  20. Guy Jackson July 13, 2014 at 11:12 am #

    Sifu Anthony,

    My interest in qigong at the moment is ONLY for mental, emotional and physical health. I am not interested in learning many qigong sets or patterns, just one that will serve the outcome I am gradually working towards- increased health and vitality in all of the fore mentioned areas. I learned Lifting the Sky from a Wahnam certified teacher after reading Sigung’s book about qigong and reading that kings of old used to practice only this exercise and had great health and vitality. I trust your opinion as a westerner and someone who is straight within all of their articles. My question is if I am only interested in the outcome I am seeking I mentioned above, if I practice ONLY lifting the sky twice a day for the rest of my life, is this all that I truly need to learn and practice? Thanks!

    • Sifu Anthony Korahais July 13, 2014 at 6:23 pm #

      My honest answer is no, Lifting The Sky is not enough for a lifetime.

      I’ve never seen, nor heard of anyone do what you’re talking about, i.e. learn ONLY Lifting The Sky, and nothing else, and still get the results you want. I’ve seen people get good results with just LTS, especially in the first few years. But sooner or later they’ll plateau with just the one exercise.

      There are a lot of other factors as well, like your age, your lifestyle habits, your overall health, and your environment.

      In the end, just learn a bunch of techniques. It’s not that hard to pick up new ones, once you’ve got the essence. If you’ve got the discipline to practice Lifting The Sky for the rest of your life, twice a day, then why not spend the time learning a few more exercises as well?

      • Guy Jackson July 13, 2014 at 7:27 pm #


        Thanks for the response. I actually learned LTS, Pushing Mountains, Carrying The Moon and Self Manifested Chi Flow (each of them 30 times each very fast). I learned the skill of relaxing and smiling from the heart, as well as chi flow.

        Personally, my outcome is to live a heathy life full of emotional, mental and physical vitality. If I switch these 4 patterns up daily and practice twice a day for the rest of my life, is this enough in your opinion to achieve my intended outcome?

        Thanks Sifu.

  21. Ray Morneau September 12, 2014 at 7:29 am #

    Sifu, Anthony – may this find you well and prosperous.

    Thank you so much for your e-mail newsletter(s) – especially the one this week with the LTS bullet points – which linked back to this article – which I originally read about a month ago … I find this two-minute routine to be a good starting point for my learning and an important daily centering/calming time for me.

    After one of my clients from mainland China suggested that I ought to look into T’ai Chi, I first found you with a browser search looking to compare Qigong and T’ai Chi Chuan … and you added Chai Tea! The rest is history.

    Thanks a thousand times!

  22. LiL Johnny December 16, 2014 at 6:08 pm #

    Hi esteemed seafood,

    Just wanted to say what a great article this is. Very enlightening !

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