There are over three thousand kinds of Qi Gong, each of which reflects a different method or intention. Some practices focus on cultivating positive energy, others on clearing stress or anxiety, and others yet on preparing for sleep, just to name a few.
Although all forms of Qi Gong share common roots in ancient China, there are wide variances in how they are each practiced. One form goes back to the very beginning of the ancient art: Tao Yin. This blog post will explore the origins of the powerful and transformative Tao Yin practice.
Origins of Tao Yin
Tao Yin is the most original form of Qi Gong and is the foundation from which all others emerged. In fact, before the practice was called Qi Gong it was only known as Tao Yin.
Similar to our intention with Qi Gong, Tao Yin was practiced to cultivate the internal life force energy. Translated into English, Tao Yin means “to guide and direct the vital principle, Qi, through mind and body.”
Tao Yin was discovered when Taoist sages found paintings on cave walls and inscriptions on tortoise shells. The practice revealed natural movements that help to heal the body. Many of the practices mirror the movements of animals and of nature, reflecting a deep respect and reverence for the natural world. Taoist sages were always seeking the learn from the world around them, and Tao Yin is the practice that embodies their wisdom.
In addition to its significance in influencing modern Qi Gong, Tao Yin is also a shared ancestor of yoga. Tao Yin was very formative in the evolution of yoga and helped to integrate Chinese and Indian wisdom into a powerful movement practice.
How Tao Yin is Practiced
The common ancestry between Qi Gong and Yoga makes it no surprise that Tao Yin uses a lot of deep stretching exercises that resemble modern-day yoga. Tao Yin is practiced with an emphasis on the meridian lines and brings great attention to how energy circulates within the body. By clearing lines of tension and freeing up stagnant energy, the practice helps to restore and cultivate health.
Breathing is another important element of Tao Yin and is used to calm the body and help in the release of tension. Similar to Lee’s Qi Gong classes, Tao Yin views the breath as a powerful tool for tapping into our emotions and inviting a calm and relaxed state in the body and mind.
As we discussed above, the Taoist sages sought to embody the qualities of nature and animals for health and vitality. Flowing movements are an especially powerful way to harness the grace and strength of the natural world. A flowing river doesn’t use effort and force to make its way down the mountain. As practitioners, we use flowing movements to help us learn the effortless beauty and power that nature is constantly teaching.
In Qi Gong, we often say “Qi flows where the mind goes.” Mindfulness is a powerful practice that helps us to use our attention as well as intention to guide and circulate our Qi. Recognizing that the mind and body are one, Tao Yin uses the power of mindfulness to cultivate all parts of our being.
As humans, we’re very affected by our experience of touch. Touch and massage can have deep reaching impacts on our mind, body, and spirit. Usually, we think of massage as something that one person does to another. In Tao Yin, we empower the individual by doing self-massage, making the benefits of massage widely accessible and immediately available.
Our internal life-force energy operates in myriad ways, so Tao Yin offers a holistic foundation for working with Qi. With so much to explore, it’s no surprise that it continued to evolve into numerous different forms, but Tao Yin is a great way to return to the source of all Qi Gong practices.
Tao Yin Immersion
Lee will be offering a Tao Yin immersion program during the week of March 18th through the 22nd, 2019 in Santa Cruz, California. In the immersion, participants will have the opportunity to learn directly from Lee about the ancient practice. Some of the lessons will be discussions to help students gain a better intellectual understanding of Tao Yin. Other lessons will focus directly on teaching the practices and skills that can stay with you forever.
Tao Yin is an excellent practice for new students and experienced practitioners alike. If you’ve already completed the Five Elements or Three Treasures, this can be a great way to expand upon your existing practice. Alternatively, Tao Yin can serve as a perfect starting point for those interested in learning more about Qi Gong.
One thing we love about Qi Gong is that there are so many different ways to practice, and Tao Yin really allows you to experience a wide breadth of Qi Gong wisdom. Whether you’re starting from the beginning or a seasoned practitioner, Tao Yin is a great way to cultivate your practice!
Check out our immersion page below to learn more about this opportunity.
By Ian Drogin