The term Dao Yin can be translated as 'leading and guiding'. Where Qi Gong is concerned with regulating the energy in the body by looking inward and using gentle movements and breathing, Dao Yin exercises are concerned with purging the body with stronger stretching and outwardly focused intent or Yi. Dao Yins are said to be older than Qi Gong exercises and they may have had Shamanic links in ancient times.
If we use water as a metaphor for Qi as the Daoists did, then we can see that if it's not flowing naturally as possible 'pools' of stagnation can form, these can congregate in the joints and especially the spine, these areas are energy gates or Qi Men and need to be open to keep the body healthy. 'The riverbeds' are the Jing jin layers or Tendon Pathways of connective tissue, here the Qi flows through the meridian system like streams and rivers.
Pathogens or anything that causes disease can enter the body from the outside environment like pollution or viruses or start inside through stress and mental disturbances, tightness can also be seen in the physical body. The body can become ill when stagnation occurs through pathogens sitting deep in the body. The aim then of Dao Yin exercises is to clear these pathogens out through the energy body before they can take hold. Qi is a vibrational wave of information and if we can attach our mind to it we can influence it.
Firstly we stretch the body to tease open the joints and lengthen the tendons and tissues. Next we use breathing methods, especially 'reverse breathing' which is stronger. Lastly we use strong intent or Yi to place our mind out of our bodies and into the distance through exit points especially the Lao Gong points on the palms of the hand.
When all of these disciplines come together we are able to clear blockages. When we have successfully lead these out of our body we can feel tired and drained, this is when we regulate and tonify our energy system to replace lost Qi. But as well as feeling tired we will also feel lighter, and happier, I have a felt this on a number of occasions, like something has lifted from me.
Over time we can reach and release deeper levels in our body, one very important meridian is the Chong Mai or Thrusting meridian that travels through the centre of the body. This has a strong connection to the Shen or Consciousness body.
Dao Yins are physically more challenging than Qi Gong exercises that is why we need a strong core to work around and are not something that we usually do from day one if you're a beginner. We have a number of Dao Yin exercises that we use, each progressively aims to work on different areas of the body.
For a far greater explanation on the subject see Laoshr Damo Mitchell's book entitled, 'The Four Dragons'.
Main image: Me practising the Dragon Dao Yins. Top left; Daoyins in class. Top right; More Dao Yins. Middle left; Dragons in class. Middle right; Ancient drawings of Dao Yins. Bottom; Practising the Awakening Dragon sequence.