Thursday, February 4, 2010

DAO YIN Exercises for Health

By Junie Norfleet, L.Ac.

In the book Daoist Health Preservation Exercises, it is reported that Dr. Tissot, a famous French doctor from the 18th century, said, "As far as the role of movement is concerned, it can almost replace any kind of medicine. But no medicine in the world can replace the role of movement."

For many years the Chinese culture has recognized the importance of using movement to maintain and support the health of the body. The type of movement that the Chinese culture uses is not the aerobic and weight lifting types of movement that are so much a part of the culture in the United States.

Dao Yin movements are gentle and yet very effective for moving the energy (qi) of the body to help maintain health or to help cure illness. Following are some Dao Yin exercises that will help to maintain a supple, energized body. (As with all exercise, do only what your body feels comfortable doing.)

1. Lie on your back. Relax. Notice where your breath is in your body. Put your hands on that area. Relax. Gently guide your breath to the lower body. Breathe into the lower body several times. Place one hand on the upper body and one hand on the lower body. Inhale into the lower body and hold the breath. While holding the breath, force the breath into the upper body and then back down to the lower body. "Pump" the breath between these two places until you can no longer hold your breath. Release the breath through the mouth. Repeat several times. Relax and notice where the breath is now.

2. Stretch both hands over your head and spread your legs so that your body looks like an "X." Relax. Now you are going to "crawl on your back." Stretch the right hand higher over your head, then stretch the left leg out; then the left hand higher and the right leg out. By letting the hips shift as you reach, a "crawling" motion will be created when you do it at a fairly rapid pace. Once you have done it several times, relax and notice what feels different in your body. Where is the breath?

3. Lie on your back with your arms out to the sides as if the body is a cross. Pull the knees up and place the feet on the floor. Cross the right leg over the left leg so the knees cross. Inhale and let the weight of the right leg push the left leg to the left as far as it will go and release the breath. The head should naturally turn to the right. Let the left leg do the work of bringing both legs back up. Repeat this several times. As you repeat the exercise again, this time let the legs flop over to the left and release the breath rapidly. Repeat several times. Now lie on your back again. Notice what feels different in the body. Which leg feels longer, heavier? Where is the breath?

4. Repeat exercise 3, but cross the left leg over the right.

Doing these gentle exercises helps to lubricate the joints, stretch the sinews, move the qi, and relax the body. As you do these exercises more and more, you will begin to notice that you feel more centered and comfortable in your body, and that your body can stretch more each week. And remember, there is no medicine that can take the place of movement!