Life Prolonged by Ten Years with Sinews Extended by One Inch
Why Should People Practice Sinews
The character “Jin” has a “Zhu” in upper part and an ancient “Rou” and “Li” in lower part, which suggests the sinews and collaterals, like fibers, connect bones, skins and muscle together and thus, human are endowed with strength. “Jin”, in a broad sense, refers to all the soft tissues except bones and joints of human body, including tendons, ligaments, fascia, nerves, blood vessels, etc. Sinews are to human body what collaterals are to a leaf, they have such functions as nutrition, transportation and support.
As a popular saying goes, “It is better for one to practice the sinews rather than to practice muscles”. The conduction exercises originated in ancient China placed stress on extending sinews and stretching bones and it is characterized by “leading qi to make it tranquil and stretching the body to make it flexible”. Modern sports in the Western focus on muscle exercises and aim at developing physique and strengthen muscles.
Practicing sinews, like maintaining veins, can strengthen the supply of nutrition for tissues all over the body and allow people to remain young. With thick muscles and brittle sinews, human body is more likely to get injured. The part that athletes are more likely to get injured is the Achilles tendon behind ankle. The injury in some basketball and short race athletes you have witnessed all occur in this part. The cause of this phenomenon lies in that muscle strength is too intense for the sinews to bear. Thus, laceration or rupture occurs.
We call “practicing sinews” “flexibility exercise” at present. Strength, speed, endurance and flexibility are four major indicators of fitness test. Interestingly, an investigation shows, 80% of females believe flexibility is the most important for them, because the soft and light body make them feel that they are younger and more confident. In the meanwhile, around 70% of males hold that the soft bodies of females are a kind of strong stimulation to them, because soft body nurtures the appeal of passion and tenderness, docility and gentle beauty as is the property assumed by water.
Decrease in body flexibility is provided with another name in medicine, “contracted sinews”, i.e., the stretching scope of sinews is shortened. “Contracted sinews” make the scope of movement of joints contract, the rotation is restricted, bending becomes difficult, lifting legs and bending the knees is not as easy as before. When people are young, they feel their bodies are like rubber band, soft and flexible. When they come to a certain age, they feel themselves are like ropes, hard and rigid. “Contracted sinews” is often accompanied by fibrosis, adhesion, etc. It is commonly called “sinews knot”. This “sinews knot” will compress the nerves and blood vessels, which results in cardiac insufficiency and malnutrition of sinews and channels. Hence, a series of diseases such as pain, numbness, etc. appear.
An old saying goes like this, “Life will be prolonged by ten years if sinews are extended by one inch”. It conveys that flexibility degree decides the ageing degree of people. The softer the sinews are, the vigorous the vitality will be. You can observe the children: They have their feet at the height of their shoulders just by lifting their legs lightly. They are soft and flexible over all the body, their qi and blood are circulated smoothly. Like fresh willow branches with tender buds in early spring, they are filled with the spirit of vitality all over their bodies. Soft and flexible sinews not only nourish the bones but also supplement internal organs and promote longevity.
Explanations on the Phenomenon of Blue Veins
Changes in sinews also reflect the health status of the body. Sometimes, we notice obvious blue vein on body surface. These blue veins are actually the vein vascular of human body. Under normal circumstances, blood flows back to the heart through the reflow of venous blood. However, in case a certain system of the body breaks down, various physiological wastes accumulated in human body cannot be discharged and the reflow of venous blood is blocked. Thus, varicosity occurs on body surface. The varicosity in different parts give hints to different symptoms, especially for the reflecting area concentrated parts such as hand, face, abdomen, etc., the manifestation will be more obvious.
Blue veins on hands. The reflecting area on hands is like an inverted person. The blue veins on the back of hands suggest there is stagnation in the waist. People with this manifestation is likely to have such symptoms as ache and pain in the waist and back, lacking strength in the waist, injury of lumbar muscles, etc. Blue veins on the fingers reflect that the micro circulation of blood vessel on the head is poor. People with such manifestation are likely to have such symptoms as dizziness, headache, cardiac insufficiency, etc.
Blue veins on the cheek. The reflecting area on the cheek reflects the functions of different viscera. In case blue veins bulges and gets deformed around the temples, people may have a headache accompanied with the risk of arteriosclerosis. In case blue veins appear around mouth corner and the cheek, it suggests symptoms of gynecopathy such as severe dampness in white vaginal discharge, etc. In case blue veins appear in the bridge of the nose, it suggests stagnation in stomach and intestines and indigestion. People with such manifestation are likely to have stomachache and abdomen distension.
Blue veins in the chest and abdomen. In case of blue veins in the chest, especially around the breast, people are advised to attach more attention to prevent cyclomastopathy and mastadenitis. Blue veins in the abdomen, commonly known as “blue vein creeps over the belly”, which suggests comparably severe stagnation and diseases that are usually difficult to treat, for instance : hepatic cirrhosis and abdominal dropsy, etc.
Blue veins occurring in any part of human body not only impairs the appearance but also suggests stasis of metabolites in human body. Thus, people shall keep a good health-preserving habit and pay more attention to changes in their own bodies in daily life.
Why Is Practicing Sinews Also Called “Changing Sinews”
In ancient times, people also call practicing sinews “changing sinews”. The original meaning of “Yi” refers to lizard, which is commonly known as chameleon. The character “Yi” in oracle bone script is like a lizard crawls on the wall. Since this animal takes on many colors in one day, the character “Yi” implies changes. “Changing sinews” not only includes sinews exercises but also suggest the change of status of sinews from weakness to powerfulness.
Since people’s innate constitution is different, their sinews also manifest different states. Even though they eat the same food, their sinews and bones still belong to different class in terms of strength and their blood vessels are also categorized as being firm and brittle. The people in ancient times also describe different sinews states as muscular spasm, loose sinews, weak sinews, shortening of sinews, etc. Changing sinews rightly aims at easing the sinews of those people with muscular spasm, strengthening the sinews of those with weak sinews and those with loose sinews and extending the sinews of those with contracted sinews, so as to eventually achieve the health-preserving purpose of making the sinews soft, long, coordinated and healthy.
“Moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet to strengthen the kidneys” - one method for practicing and changing all sinews
“Moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet to strengthen the kidneys” is one set of movements in Ba Duan Jin. Ba Duan Jin is a kind of body-strengthening disease-preventing conduction method composed of eight sets of movements. It holds an important position in the history of health preservation by conduction. Ba Duan Jin takes its origin from the Southern and Northern Dynasty (AD 420-589). Over the development of more than one thousand years, it has developed into two major branches, namely: standing form and sitting form. Its formulas and postures also are relatively settled. Every posture in Ba Duan Jin has unique health-preservation function. People can do the exercise either in an independent routine or in a complete set.
“Moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet to strengthen the kidneys”, can both allow people to stretch the sinews all over the body, practice the exterior part and the internal organs, and strengthen their waist and kidney. People can practice it by either standing or sitting.
Let us see the practice for standing form
Stand naturally with both feet apart in distance equal to shoulder width. Raise two arms slowly before the body and stretch them upwards. After a brief pause, keep two palm faces downwards, with both fingertips opposite to each other and naturally sag in front of the abdomen. Spin both palms backwards and rest them at the posteriors of both legs. Bend the upper body forwards, keep both legs straight and meanwhile rub both palms downwards along the legs until reaching the insteps. After a while, lead the upper body to rise slowly with arms. Repeat the movements for ten times.
When practicing “moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet”, the trunk is highly folded and stretched. Then, how is “conducting the limbs outwards” and “guiding breath inwards” coordinated? Here is a rhymed formula: “The posture goes on in accordance with the breathing. Bend, exhale and touch the legs and feet. Stretch the body and inhale, one exhalation alternates with inhalation. All shall be done in accordance with breathing and all should be natural.” This formula tells us, the degree of bending shall be matched well with the breathing. It depends on specific cases. When bending downwards, people exhale all turbid air; when arising and stretching the body, people inhale all clear air. In this way, after one rise and one fall, one exhalation and one inhalation, people will breathe naturally. The breathing inside the body and the movements of the limbs can be coordinated more naturally.
Let us see the exercise method for sitting form
Since “moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet” involves many movements like folding, stretching, bending the neck, raising the head, etc. Thus, at the very beginning, the number of movements shall not be too much. Patients with hypertension, cervical spondylopathy and those patients with lumbar disease that are not expected to do anteflexion movement can do the exercise by sitting on the bed. The sitting form of “moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet” evokes relatively less stimulation to the head and the spine. In the meanwhile, it has the function of pulling and stretching all sinews all over the body. Specific practice is as follows:
Sit on the bed, stretch both legs straight, extend both hands forwards, try to use them grasp the soles of the feet. In case it is impossible to grasp the feet, grasping the shank is OK. Hook the tiptoes slowly. Then, relax the waist and raise the head. The sensation of relaxing the waist is as lower abdomen leans against the thigh. Take a brief pause and then stretch the tiptoes slowly and keep the body pulled and stretched. Several seconds later, loosen both hands, adjust the breathing, relax the whole body, draw both arms in and then extend and stretch them around the waist. Then, stretch them forwards to grasp the insteps. Repeat the aforesaid movements.
Health-preserving characteristics of “moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet to strengthen the kidneys”
Test body flexibility. When practicing “moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet”, what are pulled and stretched are the sinews at such parts as shoulder, neck, trunk, leg, etc. The distance between hands and insteps also reflects the flexibility degree of your body. The shorter the distance is, the better the flexibility degree of your body will be and the younger you will be. Vice versa, the longer the distance is, the poorer the flexibility degree of your body will be. It suggests that different joints or the surrounding soft tissues of your body may go through degeneration, contracture and even adhesion, which restricts the scope of movements of joints and also reminds you from a minor aspect that you should do some exercise.
Ease lumbar muscle to prevent strain. Lumbar muscle strain harasses many people and makes them restless in daily life. The fiber of lumbar muscle under strain is like the hairs that have not been combed for a long time, messy, brittle and entangled. As a result, the circulation of qi and blood is blocked. When practicing “moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet”, like combing the hairs, the lumbar muscles are provided with a sorting, extending and freeing. Consequently, the muscle fiber become pliable and the purpose of “free circulation without pain” is achieved.
Pull and stretch the body forwards and backwards to strengthen the kidney and the waist. When practicing “moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet”, extending and stretching the trunk forwards and backwards in a dramatic manner is conductive to stimulating the spine, governor vessel, the gate of life, and such acupuncture points as Yangguan Weizhong, etc. At the same time, it has a counter-traction function towards such organs as kidney above the waist, adrenal gland, ureter, etc., which can improve the function of these organs and strengthen the kidney and the waist.
Patting Weizhong can relieve lumbago. It is advised to pat Weizhong after practicing “moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet”. In this way, both purpose of relaxation and health preservation are achieved. Weizhong acupuncture point is rightly in the center of the popliteal fossa, i.e., the posterior fossa of the knee. It is the place where the morbid qi of the kidney is likely to accumulate. As is stated in the Song of Four Principal Acupoint, “It is advised to find out Weizhong to treat the waist and the back”. What the Song conveys is that Weizhong is the important point for treating diseases of the waist and back. When practicing the patting, it is advised to clench the fist with both hands, strike the posterior fossa with the fist rhythmically and repeat the movement for dozens of times.
Precautions in Practicing Sinews
Practicing the sinews in spring will save a lot of efforts and obtain better effect. It is suitable for practicing the sinews in all seasons of the year. The effect of practicing sinews in spring is the best. The optimal temperature for the sinews is around 18℃. In case the temperature is too high or too low, the resistance for muscles and ligaments will increase. As a result, they are likely to get injured and the stretching of sinews will be affected. The temperature in spring fluctuates around 18℃, plus the warm breeze and the resuscitation of all things in spring, human body also complies with this law of the Great Nature. Different tissues and organs of the organism are in vigorous metabolism. Appropriate stretching of the sinews will result in the exercise effect of “achieving good result by only putting in half efforts”.
The body is sure to become soft and flexible only if you persist in practicing the exercise. We can rarely see the senior participate in the 100m running race. However, we often notice that many old people still can have their foot lifted over their head easily by stretching their legs. This is because the flexibility degree of human body is different from strength and speed. When people get into 35 years old or older, their metabolism slows down and their muscle fiber will undergo some physiological changes: fiber substances decrease and lipid materials relatively increase. Even though people put in great efforts in doing exercises, they can never recover the shape and strength of muscle when they were young. Flexibility degree is different. No matter in which age group you start to exercise, only if you insist on correct method and persist in exercising, you are sure to make your body soft and flexible through exercises.
Pressing legs without extending legs is equal to futile efforts; extending legs without pressing legs makes one clumsy. This is an ancient proverb on exercising. “Press” means pressing the legs, it is also called leg practicing; “extend” means extending the legs. This sentence stresses that it is advised to extend the legs after pressing them, so as to consolidate the effect of the extension; if people only extend their legs without pressing them, they will not only extend short but also are likely to get injured. This proverb points out that sinews can be more flexible if static and dynamic stretching is combined when practicing flexibility. This is why people often do some patting and massage after having finished the “moving the hands down the back and legs and touching the feet”.
(This article is a short excerpt from the book Daoyin Health Preservation Exercises which is written by the author of this article and published by People’s Sports Publishing House of China)