Dao Yin – Chinese Yoga
For many thousands of years, esoteric Chinese Taoists developed physical exercises, breathing methods, and meditation methods that worked the inside of the body to increase one’s physical health and spiritual well being; these were called “Dao Yin”, which literally means “guiding and stretching”. Dao Yin is also known as “Chinese Yoga”, since it similarly used to balance, strengthen, and heal the body through physical stretching and standing postures and guided meditation.
Traditionally and historically speaking, Daoyin practices are stretching exercises, usually combined with breath work. This breath work was called “Qigong” (i.e., ‘Breathing / Energy Skills’). In this way, work was done inside the body to enhance heal, wellbeing, and longevity.
Chinese Yoga has three primary goals:
1. To increase the vital energy moving into and circulating within our bodies.
2. To become aware of the subtleties of our body, breath and mind and understand their relationship to one another, as well as how to use this relationship to create a sense of wholeness and peace in our everyday life.
3. To increase our physical flexibility and strength through full ranges of motion, as well as gain smoothness and depth in breathing. This helps to enhance every aspect of our physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing.
Neigong – Internal Exercises
This “internal” work was called “Neigong”. Neigong emphasized coordinating specific body movements with breathing techniques, in specific ways to develop internal strength by ‘harmonizing inner and outer energy’. Internal strength was designed to amplify the effect of physical actions while reducing the effort involved in doing them.
Emphasis was placed on the elasticity of the body, the mobility of the joints, the support of the skeletal structure, the twisting and stretching of the organs and connective tissue, and the proper alignment of the body’s parts in order to move as a unified whole.
Qigong and Neigong originated through the Chinese philosophy of Taoism (Daoism) with its first recorded history in the Yi Jing / I Ching (Book of Changes). Qigong has subsequently been influenced by Buddhist, Confucian and medical beliefs. Currently, it is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), along with acupuncture and herbal remedies. Its basic premise is to treat the origin of disease in the whole person – body, mind/emotions, spirit – by looking at the imbalance of the entire human system.
Qigong does this through a system [also used in acupuncture] of both pathways that circulate energy, known as meridians, and of vessels that store energy. Qigong exercises are designed to clear blocked energy in different body organs. It is acupuncture without needles, exercises you can do yourself that induce self-healing.
Some of the basic principles of Neigong are:
• the traditional Chinese belief that the body has something that might be described as an “energy field” generated and maintained by the natural respiration of the body, known as “qi”;
• the belief that this ‘qi’ (i.e., the life energy inside a person) flows and moves though the body and is assisted by the internal organs;
• the release of external and internal tension is a necessity for cultivating health;
• the letting go of muscular strength to perform specific techniques and postures;
• a heightened self awareness of internal body structure and posture;
• the development of ‘root’ by lowering the body’s center of gravity, whereby the origin of movement is lowered within the body, which is believed to cause a sinking of ‘qi’ or internal energy;
• the combining of the normally separated areas of the body into one integrated, unified, and powerful whole;
• the coordination of specific breathing methods with bodily movements, and the development of an internal peace or calm emotional state;
• the methods involve using the minimum amount of force to achieve maximum results via leverage.