Updated: Oct 17, 2020
The Tao Yin was probably the second qigong form I learnt after the shibashi back in the 90s. I love it, but then I think I say that about most forms. But there’s something special about the forms you’ve been practising for a very long time. I’ve refined it over the years at instructor training and at class and feel very settled about how I practise and teach the form now.
The Tao Yin or Daoyin Qigong is of course very old. Just how old is debatable, since written records were scarce, but let’s go for about 1500 years give or take. Variations occur as the forms are handed down by word of mouth, so there are many different versions now. This form is taught at Celestial Tai Chi College and there are 16 moves. I’ve chosen 8 for this video based on relative ease of following a video in mirror image, and for the variety of movements the body is taken through.
It’s always good to remember that qigong is for illness prevention and health preservation. The aim of the exercises is to keep us well. The movements stretch and strengthen the body and move us in ways that we would not normally move in an average day. The meridians are stimulated, stagnant qi is flushed out of the body, muscles and fascia are lengthened, the mind is focussed, the nervous system is calmed. The moves are beautiful and elegant and feel powerful and relaxing at the same time.
I’ll just talk through a couple of the moves and some of the acupressure points that are stimulated. We start with Elegant Crane Greets the Morning Sun. This is one of my all-time favourites. It’s very hard to learn a form from video so that you can practise it without looking at the video, but at the very least, give this move a go. All people who spend time sitting at a computer will benefit immensely from this simple exercise.
We lift up the heels with a straight body while stretching and rotating the arms to the front, side and back. The act of raising the heels stimulates the yongquan point under the balls of the feet. This is also called the ‘bubbling well’ or the ‘gushing spring’ and is on the yin kidney meridian, point number one. This point is for revival, amongst other benefits. Control is needed of the intrinsic muscles of the feet and the lower leg muscles that move the ankle and help us balance. If you can’t lift your heels for the whole move, start with lifting them one or two centimetres for as long as you can then lower them before you start wobbling too much. If you do this regularly then the muscles will become stronger and will adapt to the movement.
We press on the laogong point in the palm when we make the phoenix eye fist. It is the heart constrictor (pericardium) meridian point number 8 and is good for exhaustion. (Just excuse me while I give it a good massage right now!) The point is between the second and third metacarpals and you press on it with your middle finger when curling the fingers to make a fist. If you do the elegant crane through twice you will stimulate this point ten times – all good. We also press on the side of the index finger for the phoenix eye fist and this is along the large intestine meridian which is good for digestion.
The stretching of the arms is a beautiful fascial and neural stretch depending on how tightly wired you are. The stretching and rotation stimulates all of the meridian channels of the arms, opens the chest and activates the muscles around the scapulae which are so often switched off and weak. Have I convinced you to learn this form yet? I hope so!
In elephant curls trunk we stimulate gall bladder 21, the tender point right in the middle of the fleshy upper trapezius between the base of the neck and the shoulder. Who does not have tension here? This is probably the most often massaged muscle in the body (speaking with my massage therapist hat on).
In traveller dusts robes we brush along several of the meridians down the front of the torso: stomach, spleen, conception vessel and kidney. We stroke and flick these with the backs of the fingers, thereby stimulating the large intestine, small intestine and triple warmer meridians.
There is so much to these exercises. While interesting, all of the above is academic though. The main thing is do the exercises and be aware of your body as you do them. Don’t push too far, back off if you have pain. Take care during tiger crouch – I hope I make it look easy, but it’s really quite hard. Your hips and knees simply may not let you do a full crouch. Modify and adapt as needed so that your muscles are still working but not so hard as to cause pain. After these eight exercises you should feel like you have done a good workout of body and mind. I hope you enjoy them.