5. Tan Tien Chi Kung
Tan Tien Chi Kung is the art of chi accumulation and storage in the Lower Tan Tien, the energetic focus of the human being. In Taoist practice, attention is directed to this region to connect vitality and invigorating spirit. Physically, several Tan Tien are distinguished. The traditionally most important ones are the Shang Tan Tien above the root of the nose, in the middle between the eyebrows (3rd eye), the Zhong Tan Tien in the middle of the chest at about the level of the nipples, the Xia Tan Tien about 5 cm below the navel.
Healing, according to tradition, is to be done by working with the chi, which is to be brought back into flow and nurtured in order to restore one's balance. All three Tan Tiens are more than a point on a meridian, they are understood as a space, a zone, located in the centre of the body rather than on its surface. When speaking of the Tan Tien, the Lower Xia Tan Tien is usually meant. The Tan Tien is both the largest generator and repository of chi energy in the body and the centre of our consciousness. In all Taoist practices, students first learn to shift their consciousness from the Upper to the Lower Brain.
Students consciously train to use this second brain so that the Upper Brain, which uses much more energy than the Lower, can rest when it is not really in use. The Lower Tan Tien is called both "medicine field" and "elixir field" because it can attract and store healing forces, such as origin chi; also called pre-natal, prenatal chi. The Tan Tien is also called the ocean, sea of chi, vermilion field, cauldron or navel centre.The use of the terms "ocean" or "sea" refer to the wave-like quality of the chi. The name "cauldron" arose from the lower Tan Tien's mode of action as the main laboratory and centre of inner alchemy, where energy frequencies can be adjusted to suit the body. Through it we can learn to accept and embrace ourselves and the world around us. It helps us to understand our negative energies as intermediate waste that we can recycle and reuse as raw material for our positive energies.
This recycling process strengthens our inner power, thus the pressure from outside also decreases and we come more and more into balance. As a result, we feel more at ease, our Lower Tan Tien is decompressed, which is considered in all texts to be the most important technical requirement for maintaining chi pressure.
At the same time, this is also the repository for all the chi we can absorb and collect during Tan Tien Chi Kung &UUML;bungen and Taoist Inner Alchemy meditation practice.
In Tan Tien Chi Kung we use a special breathing technique through which we can direct the chi we have gained into the eight directions. By learning tiger and dragon breathing we can control the chi and move it around the body to increase the pressure in the Tan Tien more and more. In doing so, we use the muscles enclosing the Tan Tien, pelvic floor diaphragm, solar plexus back muscles and the lateral muscles between the lower ribs and hip crest to build up the Tan Tien pressure. The ancient Taoists first learned Tan Tien Chi Kung in order to then be able to move enough chi in the body for practice in Tai Chi Chi Kung, Iron Shirt Chi Kung and meditation practice.
From my own experience I can report strong heat development in the area of the perineum during and after Tan Tien Chi Kung practice. The perineum is known in Chinese medicine as Hui-Yin, the 'gate of death and life'. The perineum is essentially made up of muscles that are part of the pelvic floor musculature. Three of the eight Extraordinary Meridians, Ren Mai, Du Mai and Chong Mai, meet there. Chi stored in the Tan Tien can be retrieved at any time. Chi gained without this storage dissipates very quickly and can no longer be used.
This is exactly why the Tan Tien is called the "ocean of chi". Once this ocean of chi is full, it will overflow and pour into the eight extraordinary meridians. Once these are saturated, the chi will flow into the twelve normal meridians, each of which is assigned to specific organs.
While the tan tiens are understood to be the source and storehouse of chi, the mind acts more like a general that controls the tan tien processes. This allows us to quickly and effectively draw chi from this area to be used in another. A main aim of Taoist practice is to increase the chi pressure in the Tan Tien so that the chi acts on the organs and connective tissues from within, the counter pressure is created by our body sheath and the chi field that always surrounds us. The body cells are thus washed and nourished with chi. Increasing internal chi pressure is thus a disarmingly simple way of permanently maintaining the quantity and quality of our life force. In other words, increasing the chi pressure in our Tan Tien strengthens our health and improves our healing as well as our results in Tai Chi, meditation and the 'art of daily living'.
It is the chi pressure in the Tan Tien that roots us, it is our grounding. If the chi pressure is low, we will hardly be able to achieve rootedness. Chi and mind become unfocused and rise up quickly, becoming scattered. This usually leads to &UUML;overheating, headaches, heartaches and a distracted mind.
If you want to become a great tree, you need to be deeply rooted, which also means being able to have high chi pressure in the Tan Tien. This is one of the reasons why Tan Tien Chi Kung practice is essential as a foundation for Iron Shirt Chi Kung, Tai Chi Chi Kung and for our meditation practice. In the long run, we will regain our inner peace through this inner power in Tan Tien. This can restore our connection with our origin, the spirit of Tao.