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Nov 21, 2011

Tendon Transformation: Yi Jin Jing Qigong

Centuries ago when the monk Da Mo traveled to China from India, the monks at the Shaolin monastery were weak and sickly.  Spending all of their time in seated meditation, they neglected, and in some cases eschewed physical exercise.  When Da Mo saw their extreme state, he retreated to a cave for 9 years to consider the problem.  When he emerged, he had written two amazing texts: The Book of Muscle and Tendon Changing (“Yi Jin Jing”) and The Book of Marrow and Mind Cleaning (“Ni Xue Jing”).  Together, the exercises in these two books transformed the weak, sickly Shaolin monks into the legendary warriors, healers and spiritual masters that we know them as today. 

The first book is far more accessible and applicable to those of us who wish to increase our strength, flexibility, and overall health and fitness.  The Qigong sets contained within the text show methods of movement that generate and direct the Qi (energy) to vitalize and strengthen our tendons, thus increasing strength.  What few realize is that our strength is dependent on the strength of our tendons, not the size of our muscles.  Most humans of average strength actually have the muscular power to lift a car.  What stops us is a protective reflex called the myotactic reflex.  This is where the term “knee jerk” response comes from- when organelles inside our tendons called “golgi bodies” and similar structures in our muscles called “muscle spindles” sense the tendon is nearing the limits of its tensile strength, they signal the muscle to forcefully contract.  This limits us to the inherent strength of our tendons. 

The Yi Jin Jing Qigong focuses on first building qi in our limbs, and then directing it to our dan tien, or navel center.  In doing so, the tendons are both lengthened and strengthened, providing many benefits.  These include greater resistance to injury, increased flexibility and range of motion, enhanced strength and faster reflexes.  The qigong is considered wai dan (Lit. “external energy”) because it focuses on building energy from the outside in.  The exercises are done standing, and involve stretching and bending of the trunk and arms.  The intention and breathing is coordinated to lead the qi to the desired location.  A set normally takes between 10-15 minutes.

We are all looking for ways to enhance our strength and health- using Da Mo’s priceless qigong knowledge, we can all achieve this!

To learn more about Yi Jin Jing Qigong, contact Acupuncturist Dustin Bergman at 970-926-7606 or email

Dustin Bergman, L.Ac