Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Breath of fresh air

By Lu Hong (China Daily)

Engineer Liu Sha spends long days in the office, suffers from shortness of breath and easily catches colds. But her days of anguish are slowly disappearing thanks to "yijinjing", a combination of stretching movements and breathing exercises.

This technique was practiced inside the confines of the Shaolin Temple 1,500 years ago and up until 40 years ago, remained a mystery.

The exercises Liu practices mostly involve standing in a half crouched position raising the arms and breathing slowly.

"Now I have stronger breaths and a bigger appetite," Liu, 31, says. "My neck pain is also getting a little relief."

Under the instruction of Master Liu Yuchao, the 31-year-old professional has learned to control her breathing and can now feel qi (energy) flowing through her body.

Breathing plays an important role in most yijinjing movements, which is similar to taichi, another traditional system of physical exercises.

She learned from a news report that a yijinjing training class had opened in the Lianyang International Neighborhood, just a stone's throw away from her home.

"I learned that yijinjing is also helpful for ordinary practitioners to replenish qi, nourish the blood and calm the nerves," she says. "Then I decided to have a try."

Yijinjing, which means "limbering up exercises for the tendons", is one of the most treasured internal exercises to come out of the Shaolin Temple in Henan province. The temple is also the birthplace of Chinese kungfu.

According to legend, Bodhidharma Ta Mo created yijinjing about 1,500 years ago. It blended Zen Buddhism with martial arts to help strengthen the Shaolin monks, prolong their meditations and get them fighting-fit in order to defend their temple from invaders.

For centuries, the Shaolin monks practiced these exercises in secret and most Chinese were unaware of the techniques until the 1960s, when Louis Cha's martial arts novels became hugely popular.

In these novels, the leading characters began their lives as ordinary men but after practicing yijinjing in the Shaolin Temple they would miraculously grow into top kungfu masters.

"Actually yijinjing is not as mysterious as people think. It's just like yoga, and is good for everyday fitness," says Liu Yuchao, the instructor.

Chinese medicine doctor, Liu Yuchao, from Yueyang Chinese Medicine Hospital, opened the first yijinjing training class in Shanghai in September and Liu Sha was one of his first students.

"In my clinic, I've often taught my patients some movements to practice at home, as a way to coordinate with their clinical therapy," Dr Liu says. "They just don't know that I'm teaching them yijinjing."

Yueyang Chinese Medicine Hospital is now launching a health campaign in the city and Dr Liu is the yijinjing promoter.

Liu massages the neck and spine of each student and can discover their health problems immediately. He then suggests the best movements to cure their pain. Students consult Liu about their health problems after class and ask for advice.

Dr Liu and his promotion team want to promote yijinjing among foreigners in Shanghai.

Their first class was at Lianyang International Neighborhood in Pudong and their second class, which is being prepared, will be held in Gubei International Neighborhood.

Currently, Yueyang Hospital is not the only organization devoted to promoting yijinjing. Shaolin Temple announced a plan in September to open yijinjing training courses across China.

"Our company did have such a plan but everything is still under preparation," says Qian Xiangpeng, a project leader of Shaolin Huanxidi Company, a subsidiary of the temple's commercial arm.

Jane Chen, editor-in-chief of a yachting magazine, has tried yijinjing because she flies to Europe six times a month on average for business and the jetlag leaves her exhausted. Yoga didn't help so she tried something new.

"I've practiced yoga for a long time. It emphasizes body stretching and twisting," she says. "For me, it's too simple because I have a soft body.

"I often feel shortness of breath, yijinjing is an exercise that emphasizes internal breathing, and so it might work on me."

See this article at: http://www.chinadaily.com.cn/life/2008-12/30/content_7353791.htm

No comments: