9. Tao Yin (The Breath of the Dragon)
The Breath of the Dragon - Tao Yin Meridian Stretching
In historical ink paintings we can observe free, unpainted areas. In these free areas the chi of earth and sky moves up and down, yin and yang, called the breath of the dragon. Through intensive stretching, space is created in the body with the subsequent relaxation. The chi flowing into these 'stretched free' areas is the breath of the dragon, the balancing of yin and yang. In Tao Yin we can experience this harmonisation in our body. With the physical body, the meridians are also stretched, and in the relaxation, congestion of the chi flow caused by emotions can flow away. Emotional purification, so to speak.
The most powerful meridian in the area of the spine - Chong Mai - is essentially dominated by the psoas muscle. In classical Chinese medicine, the psoas is not called the soul muscle for nothing. So it is no wonder that Tao Yin favours working with the spine and the psoas. If we follow the preventive Tao Yin path through the body, no miracle cures will occur, but stabilisation, gradual improvement and the absence of deterioration can be expected. Methodical structure with immediately noticeable effects in the body inspire even after years. It is like coming home physically.
Tao Yin takes a very different approach to Western physical training. It is a remarkably subtle discipline that links the mind with the body's movement, thus directing the practitioner's attention inward rather than outward in form.
For us in the West, fitness has more to do with the physical training of muscles and circulation. But as we can learn from the ancient Taoists, fitness is only a small part in a comprehensive health programme. The essential goal of Tao Yin is to create harmony in a combination of strength, flexibility and inner energy.
Tao Yin is meditation in motion, uniting body, soul and spirit. We learn the art of moving with mindfulness, experiencing the oneness of nature, the universe and ourselves.
The wisdom of your body can awaken, stimulating the activation of the subtle inner chemistry. Improved physical alignment will centre your spine and bring about the opening of chi flow in the meridians. Experience the exercises such as the "Love Ritual of the Cobra", or "The Dragon Stretches its Tail" as a kind of poetry in motion.
The Tao Yin exercises work into all the tendons from the fingertips, arms, neck and shoulder blades through the whole spine and lower back to the legs and feet, creating a connection into one "seamless" tendon. This causes the release of tension and blockages and a quiet, soothing and energising blossoming of chi.
All Tao Yin practices are performed either lying down or sitting. Therefore, they have special effects that cannot easily be achieved by exercises done while standing or moving.
Tao Yin means "to guide and direct chi"; but in general it does not mean that we should consciously direct energy through the meridians (the energy channels of the body) during the active phases of the exercises. If the exercises are performed correctly, the chi flow in the meridians will open on its own during the passive resting phase. Therefore, it is not necessary to first acquire knowledge about the meridians in order to benefit from these exercises.