Health Qigong ● Yi Jin Jing (“Yi Jin Jing” for short hereinafter) has commendably inherited the basic characteristics of the traditional exercises of ancient China. Its movements are vigorous, powerful, and well-balanced between rigidity and flexibility. This paper is a preliminary analysis of the characteristics and mechanism of this exercise.
Exercising and Cultivating the Body, Building a Vessel for the Spirit
The fundamental purpose of compiling and popularizing Health Qigong is to “promote health”, i.e. to maintain or recover the healthy state of the body and thus retard aging and improve the quality of life. It is believed in traditional Chinese medicine that the health of the human body is determined by the body and the spirit. True health cannot be obtained unless both the body and the spirit are strong. Therefore the cultivation of the body and the cultivation of the spirit are two major aspects of health preservation. However, in the practical application of body and spirit cultivation, some schools lay more emphasis on body cultivation while others lay more emphasis on spirit cultivation. And corresponding theories and approaches have also been created.
Those who lay more emphasis on body cultivation usually consider sports as the elementary approach. This is why they are called the “body motion school”, which may have been originated from the aphorism “Running water never becomes putrid.” in Lv Shi Chun Qiu. As a matter of fact, “body motion” has been the cynosure of health preserving experts of all generations in history. As Huang Di Nei Jing: Ling Jiu: Tian Nian says: “As long as the body and spirit remain coherent, longevity can be expected.” Zhang Jiebin, a scholar of the Ming Dynasty, pointed out in Jing Yue Quan Shu: Zhi Xing Lun that: “The body is the foundation for all my existence. Without my body, I will cease to exist.” “Those who want to preserve health must first cultivate this body as the vessel for the soul. Those who want to recover from their diseases must first cure this body as the foundation for rehabilitation.” “When the soul is reconciled with the body, longevity can be expected.” This statement in Lv Shi Chun Qiu: Jin Shu and Zhang’s health-preserving theory have directly expounded the relationship between the “body” and the “spirit" and its effects on “longevity”. In other words, the body is a vessel for the spirit. When the body is strong, the spirit will be naturally at ease. “When body and spirit exist in harmony, one will live to the maximum span of his life.” (Su Wen: Shang Gu Tian Zhen Lun). We are still unsure as to whether the creation and compilation of traditional Yi Jin Jing were influenced by the abovementioned ideas. But both the name and characteristics of the exercise have reflected the feature of exercise-based health preservation.
Let’s first take a look at the name of the exercise. The literal meaning of the word “Yi” of Yi Jin Jing means “change” and the word also implies “strengthening”, meaning strengthening the “tendons”. According to Shuo Wen Jie Zi, “Jin” means “the power of the flesh”. They are generally believed to be the parts that connect bones. According to the fundamental theory, they “should include muscles having the retracting function and streak tissues having the transmission and controlling functions (such as nerves)”. In other words, tendons are related to the bones, muscles, and joints of the exterior of the human body and the viscera and channels of the interior of the human body. Tendons are an important part of the “form” of the human body. Therefore it is fair to say that the “Jin” of Yi Jin Jing refers to the entire body in general. Chi Feng Sui, a treatise of Qigong written in the Ming Dynasty, contains many similar terms like “Yi Qi”, “Yi Xue”, “Yi Mai”, “Yi Rou”, “Yi Sui”, “Yi Gu”, and “Yi Fa”. Here “Yi” always means strengthening. And “Qi”…… “Fa” mean all aspects of the “form”. The book mentioned them in order to expatriate the different extents to which the Qigong exercise strengthens the body.
With regard to the manipulation of the exercise, “motion” is a common characteristic of most Heath Qigong exercises. But compared with other exercises, Yi Jin Jing has at least 3 features of “motion” as follows: For example: With regard to the positions of motion, it includes operations based on motion of the limbs (e.g. “Wei Tuo Presenting the Pestle”), operations based on spinal motion (e.g. “Bowing Down in Salutation” and “Swinging the Tail”), and operations based on both limb and spinal motions (e.g. “Tiger Springing on Its Prey”), which ensure the full-body motion. With regard to the mode of motion, it includes operations based on static-force motion (also known as isometric exercise), operations based on dynamic-force motion (also known as isotonic exercise), and operations based on both of them, embodying the diversity of motion. With regard to the intensity of motion, this exercise generally involves high intensity of motion especially in “Pulling Nine Cows by Their Tails”, “Bowing Down in Salutation”, and “Swinging the Tail”. These characteristics have established Yi Jin Jing as a “body-strengthening” exercise in the real sense. Perseverance in the exercise will “harmonize the viscera, facilitate the muscles and bones, tighten the skin, smoothen the circulation of nutrient and defensive Qi, and maintain the normal and healthy state of the human body…” (Ling Shu: Tian Nian). Certainly, old and middle-aged practicers can make proper adjustments to the intensity according to their respectively health status in order to achieve the best results.
（By Huang Jian）