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Muscle-Tendon Change, Marrow Washing & Fascial Training: Part 8 by Tom Bisio

Our Muscle Tendon Change and Marrow Washing  (Yi Jin Jing and Xi Sui Jing) Online Learning Program will launch on February 8th, 2024

Stay on the lookout for the email and facebook announcements. 

This article outlines the some of the theory behind Yi Jin Jing /Xi Sui Jing Practice.

Opening the Channels & Circulating Qi

One of the keys to correct practice of the Yi Jin Jing (Muscle-Tendon Change) and Xi Sui Jing (Marrow Washing) involves opening the channels and circulating the Qi, so that the physical movements and internal changes are initiated and guided by the Qi, not the reverse. Then Qi guides and leads the physical body changes. This is the inverse of most strength training, in which the physical exercises pull Qi and blood to the muscles, creating muscle hypertrophy, often at the expense of the health of the internal organs and membranes.

As the Qi circulates internally, the body gradually fills and becomes replete with Qi, which creates stronger circulation through the channels and collaterals that circulate through the membranes and the organs and also through the sinew channels, the lines of connective tissue that run through the body and wrap and knot at the joints. Yi Jin Jing/Xi Sui Jing practices are designed to fill up spaces that are relatively empty, increasing the circulation of Qi so that these areas expand and stretch. This expansion and stretching creates elastic strength in the tissues while simultaneously forging a close connection between every part of the internal network of bones, sinews, membranes, tendons, skin, flesh, channels and internal organs. A vibration or movement in any one part is then transmitted to all parts. This is not dissimilar to some modern ideas about fascia, which is said to be contiguous through all the structures of the body, from the plantar fascia of the feet to the inter-cranial membranes.

Practicing Muscle-Tendon Change & Marrow Washing

The devil, as they say, is in the details. When practicing Yi Jin Jing/Xi Sui Jing one must constantly monitor the application of strength, stretch, relaxation, and force, all the while maintaining even and balanced forces on both sides of the body. Is the weight evenly balanced on both legs and are the knees in line with the toes? In certain exercises acupuncture points are engaged, “opened” and/or “closed”; in other exercises Qi is guided to meridians or to the hands and feet. We clearly must engage with the tendons and muscles but if we practice the exercises with tension, or even just with the idea of using the tendons and muscles, then Qi goes to the external musculature and does not transform the internal membranes the sinews and the muscle striations.

In the massaging/patting part of the Yi Jin Jing, the circular rubbing must be at the speed and pressure that blends with the Qi and efficiently packs and moves the Qi – this is a very specific combination of firmness and softness that can only be arrived at by practice and willingness to experiment. In the Xi Sui Jing, the Mind-Intention must be applied precisely, without forcing things or being too slack, and although the imagination and ability to visualize is utilized, these elements of practice must be guided by an inner sensing and internal awareness of what is actually happening. Therefore these practices require a precise level of internal monitoring, while at the same time not regulating and controlling things too much.

Classically, Qi Gong is very concerned with balance and harmony, using gentle movements combined with clear and present Mind-Intention and regulated breathing. Yi Jin Jing exercises combine this approach with external movements that focus on fostering Qi, and strength that manifests internally and externally. Training is supposed to make the bones, tendons and tissues firm and powerful while at the same time promoting supple flexible power. To do this, the mind must be brought into a state of stillness and inner observation. What makes Yi Jin Jing and Xi Sui Jing unique is the integration of firm and supple, movement and stillness and internal and external, and all held within a delicate balance. These aspects should be present through each part and aspect of  Yi Jin Jing and Xi Sui Jin training for the training to naturally bear fruit and to internally and externally integrate.

The aim of the Yi Jin Jing/Xi Sui Jin is not only to change the body and strengthen the bones, organs, internal membranes, sinews, and muscles, but also to produce an internal Qi Dynamic that prepares the body for spiritual transformation. The body is transformed for the purpose of transforming the spirit. This is in line with Daoist thinking in which the body is a vessel for transformation and therefore it should be made robust and strong in order to provide a solid platform for transforming the spirit. I also feel it is important to keep in mind that on paper this kind of training sounds very linear – first do A, then B and then C. Life, however is so often not like this – transformation tends to manifest simultaneously on multiple levels and in multiple directions.

Components of Muscle-Tendon Change & Marrow Washing Training

In training, there are three basic training sections or components that form a triad: Yi Jin Jin Training contains both the 12 Exercise Sequence and An Mo Pai Da (massaging/patting). Marrow Washing (Xi Sui Jing) forms the third part of the triad.  To these three training sections a fourth may be added – the Supplemental Exercises for Yi Jin Jing/Xi Sui Jing Training. Each of these three parts are be practiced over time and in stages, and practiced over a period of 2-3 years to fully bear fruit.

1. Yi Jin Jing: 12 Exercises

2. Yi Jin Jing: Massaging/Patting – 6 Stages

3. Ba Gua Marrow Washing

Optional: Supplemental Yi Jin Jing Exercises

The Supplemental exercises combine seated Daoist Meditation and Internal Alchemy with upper body and arm postures that open meridians and circulate Qi to the internal organs and through the Macro-cosmic and Micro-cosmic orbits. Regular practice of this routine consolidates and augments the effects of the three interlinked practices mentioned above.