Playing With Your Balls (It’s Not What You Think!)


Some would say that I am a nervous person. I often don’t know specifically what gives it away, but I tend to be a bit jittery. I also don’t sleep regularly, work too much, and don’t get out of the city often. All of these factors probably contributes to my ongoing nervousness — as well as my unfriendly neighbors, who I saw too much of this holiday season. So, I certainly would like to feel less stressed.

My aunt, bless her heart, decided to gift me some “Baoding balls” for Christmas in the hopes that they will relieve my nervousness — or at the very least, channel it to something else. And I love to read the directions for every gift that I receive. This is not to say I follow them to the letter; rather, I find comfort in going over them.

When gifted with a pair of big iron balls, a certain amount of curiosity arises: how exactly are they supposed to help? Is juggling an acceptable form of ball play? Is this really therapeutic — or an elaborate practical joke? To answer my endless questions, I turned to the manual that came with the balls.

According to the manual, the balls are just as old as I am — as they were made the year I was born. I took that to be a lucky sign — not that I’m superstitious or anything. The ones I received were produced by the Chinese Baoding Iron Hallow Ball Plant. Their motto is, “Strengthen the ball players and make our country powerful,” which I found funny in a way I’m sure that the author did not intend. It turns out that Baoding ball production dates back all the way to the Ming Dynasty and is considered one of the “treasures” of Baoding, China.

I also discovered that a traditional Chinese medical theory called Jingluo refers to an internal network of main and secondary energy channels, along which acupuncture points are distributed. Based on this school of thought, our 10 fingers are connected to our hearts and vital organs through our cranial nerves. There are 12 of them connected to the human brain, and they are part of the peripheral nervous system.

The idea behind Baoding Balls is that by using your fingers to shuffle the balls around — you stimulate the diverse acupuncture points in your hand — promoting the circulation of blood and energy in your body and therefore creating overall health benefits. In the manual, it states that the balls “can prevent and cure hypertension and various chronic diseases.” Since the peripheral nervous system largely works to connect the central nervous system to the limbs and organs — this ancient Chinese medical practice may be on to something.

The manual goes on to state that if you practice with the balls for years and years, “You can get the fine results of keeping your brain in good health with high intelligence and good memory, relieving your fatigue, drowning your worries, and moreover, and prolonging your life.”

Personally, I think that this beats the hell out of acupuncture — since I am not very needle friendly. Hopefully, playing with the Baoding Balls will relieve my overall nervousness as my aunt intended. There’s certainly no harm in giving them a try.

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