After completing the first part of our class, quiet sitting (see previous post), we then go on to practice what we call daoyin, after the Chinese meaning to lead or guide. The daoyin consists of a series of 10 exercises, performed slowly and consecutively while maintaining specific postures. These exercises are meant to be done mindfully and involve moving the spine, shoulders, hips and knees through their physiological ranges of motion.
These are much more than simple warm-up exercises. The postures and movements are of the same kind the student will use at all levels of training. I sometimes think of them as the equivalent of a pianist practicing scales. Repeated practice lays a neurological foundation (some may call it ‘muscle memory’) for moving like a baguazhang player.
The daoyin is also a very effective form of flexibility training. The exercises involve a good balance of active and passive stretching methods to increase range of motion of whatever joint is being targeted. In the daoyin, all the major weight bearing joints are targeted and these are the ones of primary importance for performing Jiulong movements. Care is taken with the knees by limiting how much they bend to 90 degrees and avoiding lateral/rotational movements that will damage ligaments over time.
NOTE: Flexibility training in human performance in sports and martial arts is an enormous topic. I found a good and reasonably current review of the state of research findings on stretching here: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3273886/
This kind of information is extremely valuable in ensuring that flexibility training is safe and effective. My reading of the review suggests the daoyin is both.
The daoyin can be practiced as a form, with constant flowing movement from one exercise to the other. This kind of movement can give rise to what some may call meditative and others, spiritual feelings. Like doing taijiquan or a series of yoga postures, the daoyin offers the same experience of feeling gently energized and calm.
A template for movement, a safe, effective method of stretching, and a gateway to transcendent experience, the daoyin is all these things combined in a simple, unpretentious package that anyone can practice. Yet, it is only the second component of a typical Jiulong class.