Energetically Engaged: Tan Tien Chi Kung
Tan Tien Chi Kung increases vitality, strengthens organs, and helps heal the body...
Date: 2/25/2006 10:53:15 PM ( 7 y ) ... viewed 1337 times
The seat of self-awareness is in your pants — or at least slightly below the belt. It’s a funny thought, but the practice of cultivating the body’s energy, chi (“chee,” also written as qi), for greater vitality and better health has a seriously long history: For the past 5,000 years, Chi Kung (also known as qigong) practitioners have used breath and body control to amp up their energy.
The space just behind and below the belly button is the center of the physical body, your physical strength, and your awareness. In the Universal Tao system, created by Mantak Chia in 1979, this space in the lower abdomen is called the lower Tan Tien — the lowest of the body’s three energy compartments. Tan Tien Chi Kung is the branch of Universal Tao dedicated to cultivating and condensing energy in the body.
A student of several Taoist masters, Chia is a teacher to tens of thousands of students himself. He treks to the United States yearly to give workshops and lectures, and he is the director of the Universal Tao Center in northern Thailand. Chia has also authored 25 books, most notably the bestselling The Multi-Orgasmic Man.
The following exercise is adapted from Chia’s newest book Tan Tien Chi Kung: Foundational Exercises for Empty Force and Perineum Power (Destiny Books, 2004). Tan Tien Chi Kung is a beautiful, sophisticated practice that increases vitality, strengthens your organs, and helps heal the body. Every day for the next two weeks, try the following basic warm-up movements to discover whether the practice fascinates you and gives you an energy boost. If it does, it’s best to work with a skilled instructor (see the resources box). Chia cautions that people with high blood pressure or heart disease, or those in poor physical condition, should consult a qualified medical practitioner before practicing.
This basic Tan Tien Chi Kung warm-up will begin to increase your capacity for chi by engaging your kua, the area that includes the sacrum, groin, hip joints, and hip flexors. Opening this space unblocks the nerves as well as the flow of chi, blood, and lymph fluid up and down the legs.
1. Stand with feet shoulder-width apart and parallel, both big toes turned slightly inward. Firmly ground the feet by pressing through nine key points: the bottom side of each toe, the ball of the foot on the big toe and pinky sides, the arch, and the center of the heel.
2. Gently rub the sacral area, the bony triangle at the base of your spine, with both hands to stimulate the sacrum. Then, holding your hands on the sacrum, move it back and forth.
3. With your hands at your sides, lightly twist and spiral the ankles and knees in an outward-turning direction. Exhale, pressing the heels firmly into the ground, with the big toes slightly inward. Press the legs firmly into the earth. Continue to rotate the leg bones to the outside. This creates tension in the tendons and it makes the feet and legs feel like one piece that attaches to the hipbones. This helps open the hips and slightly separates them from the sacrum. When you open the sacrum in this way, it feels like you are pulling the hips to the sides. At the same time, you are pushing the sacrum to the back, tucking the coccyx (the base of the spine), and opening the pelvis.
Tan Tien Chi Kung’s warm-up is typically followed by 11 animal postures. The powerful animal postures build on the skills practiced in the warm-up, significantly enhance chi pressure, and strengthen the perineum. Crane, for instance, develops the chi pressure in both sides of the lower Tan Tien. After each animal exercise, there’s a movement to energize your body and to collect the chi generated in the lower Tan Tien.
“In the Taoist tradition, the lower body and its organs and functions are associated with the earth, and the upper body and its organs and functions are associated with heaven,” explains Chia, who was named Qigong Master of the Year in 1990 by the International Congress of Chinese Medicine and Qigong (Chi Kung). “Yet the spiritual body cannot be born and grow without being nourished by an unceasing supply of fresh chi, generated in the lower body by the practice of Tan Tien Chi Kung.”
Through grounding, centering exercises like these, we become more skilled at reconnecting with our complete mind-body-spirit self, the world we live in, and the universe that contains us. And in that practice, we become a better blend of heaven and earth — shirt, pants, and all.
Jennifer Derryberry is a freelance writer and yoga teacher based in Geneva, Illinois. She is the former editor of Science & Spirit magazine.
For information on Mantak Chia and the Universal Tao system, see universal-tao.com. For a list of qualified teachers, visit taoinstructors.org.
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