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Daoyin: Chinese Healing Exercises

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image of Asian Medicine

Daoyin, the traditional Chinese practice of guiding (dao) the qi and stretching (yin) the body is the forerunner of qigong. Like other Asian forms of body cultivation, it uses a combination of mental awareness, controlled breathing, and slow physical movements to engage the person, develop health, and open ways to spiritual attainment. Unlike Yoga or Magical Movements, its worldview focuses on the concept of qi or vital energy, the material aspect of the dao and foundation of human life, and its patterning according to Yin-Yang and the five phases. The practice of daoyin is first documented in medical manuscripts of about 200 BCE, where simple movements and close correlation to symptoms are the norm. Later Daoist developments involve movement sequences, subtler breathing instructions, and spiritual connections through visualisations and prayers. Daoists also created an integrated system, where daoyin in combination with general rules of moderation and guidelines for healthy living forms the foundation of advanced immortality practice. They moreover systematised the breathing practices into various levels of holding, guiding, and enhancing qi as breath. Overall, the differences from other Asian practices dominate, and the way daoyin envisions and transforms the body is uniquely Chinese.


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