Previous Issues
Search this Site
Connect With Us

Join Our Email List

Shaolin Stretches for Retreat

Guest Contributor Kris Krajewski

These powerful practices have been passed down to me through the Most Honorable Sifu Shi Yan Ming, the 34th generation Shaolin Monk who is the founder and Abbot of the USA Shaolin Temple in New York City, and the new temple in upstate New York. All praise and gratitude to Sifu for keeping the Dharma Wheel spinning in the West for the next generation of practitioners.


This is a traditional blessing shared by practitioners of Shaolin Chan and Kung Fu that refers to Amithaba, one of the three Paradise Buddhas. It also serves as a mantra for greeting others and bestowing goodwill upon them.

Shaolin Buddhism has spread throughout the world primarily through the power of its physical practices combined with Chan philosophy. Most people are familiar with the Shaolin through the practices of Kung Fu (or it’s proper name Chan Quan – meaning Chan Buddhism or martial arts), popularized through martial arts’ novels and films. But there is deep and profound meaning behind these practices and how the physical body and its movements affect the mind.

Chan Buddhism, which many know as Zen Buddhism through its Japanese counterpart, was founded at Shaolin Temple. Chan means meditation and is an all-encompassing practice and lifestyle, where the world is your Temple and all beings are able to realize their highest selves by awakening to their Buddha nature. All beings are connected through a spiritual life force called Chi. The physical/mental practices of Shaolin Kung Fu seek to master and use your Chi to help improve you and your world. The goal is to establish a heart-to-heart, mind-to-mind connection through your Chi, all of which are paths that lead to enlightenment.

These practices can be very helpful in a retreat setting, where they were originally created by the Indian monk Bodhidharma (in Chinese called Da Mo). He saw that the monks were stiff and out of shape from prolonged, seated meditation.  In order to have a healthy mind, one needs a healthy body. As Sifu says, “Stretch your body, stretch your mind.”

The following are several stretches and movements that can help you stimulate your Chi before you sit for meditation or throughout your meditative retreat. They’re simple practices for students of any level and do not require much space. While you are doing these movements, pay attention to your mind, see where pain arises and watch how when you breathe and focus on that pain it dissipates. 




  • Headstand: this is an advanced pose. If you are new to this posture, please consult a qualified yoga or martial arts teacher before practicing.
  • Wrist Rotation
  • Ankle Rotation
  • Neck Rotation
  • Eye Rotation
  • Shoulder Rotation
  • Arm Rotation
  • Open Chest
  • Open Arms
  • Waist Stretch
  • Upper Body Side Stretch
  • Upper Body Forward Stretch
  • Lower Back Forward Stretch
  • Seated Hamstring Stretch
  • Cross Seated Stretch


  • Gong Bu (Bow Stance)
  • Ma Bu (Horse Stance)
  • Xie Bu (Half-Crossed Seated Stance)
  • Zuopan (Crossed Seated Stance)
  • Ding Bu (T-Shaped Stance)
  • Pu Bu (Crouched Stance)

For more instruction, please read Sifu Shi Yan Ming’s training manual, “The Shaolin Workout” or visit the USA Shaolin Temple:

Kristopher Krajewski is a Dharma student of Venerable Sumati Marut in the Gelugpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism and a Shaolin Kung Fu disciple of Sifu Shi Yan Ming, 34th Generation Shaolin Monk, in the Ch'an Buddhist lineage. He lives in New York City and runs a music talent agency, while pursuing other practices such as retreat, surfing, yoga and inter-spiritual outreach.