Yi Jin Jing (“Muscle/Tendon Change Classic”) is a qìgōng manual most notable as the source of the attribution of Shaolin Kung Fu to Bodhidharma. The most popular story about Bodhidharma relates that when he went to reside in the Shaolin Monastery, he saw the monks were weak and unhealthy. In order to strengthen them, he devised a system of exercises called the Yijinjing. As the name implies, “sinew transforming exercise” is the method to train the tendons and muscles. The exercise is designed according to the course and the characteristics of Qi circulation in the 12 regular channels and Du and Ren channels. During practice, Qi and blood usually circulates appropriately with proper speed and no sluggishness or stagnation. Because of this efficacy, Yijinjing has existed for centuries as a favorite with the populace and is still widely used in sanatoria and hospitals for therapeutic purposes.
Yijinjing – The Forms
Number of exercises tends to change, 18 should be the correct one (according to the 18 Lou Han), but can vary from 10 to 24, to 30. Today the most respected routine is that of Wang Zuyuan, composed of 12 exercises, and has been adopted by the most authoritative Academies of Chinese Medicine in China.
Purposes of Yijinjing
The basic purpose of Yijinjing is to turn flaccid and frail sinews and tendons into strong and sturdy ones. The movements of Yijinjing are at once vigorous and gentle. Their performance calls for a unity of will and strength, i.e. using one’s will to direct the exertion of muscular strength. It is coordinated with breathing. Better muscles and tendons means better health and shape, more resistance, flexibility, endurance, and is obtained as follows:
- postures influences the static and nervous structure of the body
- stretching muscles and sinews affects organs, joints, meridians and Qi
- torsion affects metabolism and Jing production
- breathing produce more and better refined Qi
- active working gives back balance and strength to body and mind (brain, nervous system and spirit).