Enhancing Dan Tien Qi - Going Beyond Techniques
Shaolin Grandmaster - Wong Kiew Kit emphasised differentiating techniques and skills. "It's one of the reasons why many Qigong practitioners do not get the reported benefits or outcomes", he said.
It's one thing to practise a technique like abdominal breathing for the benefit of relaxation - and another to have the skill to develop a pearl of energy at the lower Dan Tien by cultivating and refining your internal energy, transforming it into a concentrated, potent essence likened to a golden pearl or elixir.
A Traditional Qigong Perspective
From a traditional Qigong perspective, the Golden Elixir represents the culmination of the alchemical and spiritual practices, where the practitioner refines and purifies their inner energies, thoughts, and emotions to achieve spiritual enlightenment, immortality, and harmony with the Tao (the fundamental principle that is the source, pattern, and substance of everything that exists).
A Practical Perspective
On a practical everyday level, we can view spiritual development as 'lightness, fun and joy' - a place where the right things happen - a state where we experience physical, mental and emotional ease - a state where we create positives for ourselves and others.
While enhancing energy at your Dan Tiens is integral to various traditional Chinese practices such as Qigong, Tai Chi, and meditation, it is believed to have several practical physical, mental, and spiritual benefits. Here's how training the Dan Tiens can help:
1. Physical Health:
- Stress Reduction: Dan Tien training often involves deep breathing, relaxation, and slow, controlled movements. These practices can reduce stress and promote relaxation, which, in turn, supports overall physical health.
- Enhanced Balance and Coordination: Practicing movements that focus on the Dan Tiens can improve balance and coordination, which is especially beneficial for older adults in preventing falls and injuries.
- Improved Posture: Training the Lower Dan Tien can help with posture, emphasising the alignment of the body's centre of gravity. Proper posture can alleviate back pain and musculoskeletal issues.
2. Energy Cultivation:
- Qi (Vital Energy) Cultivation: The Dan Tiens are considered energy centres in traditional Chinese medicine. Training and focusing on these areas enhance the flow and balance of Qi throughout the body, supporting overall vitality and well-being.
- Increased Stamina: By cultivating and storing Qi energy, practitioners often experience increased stamina and reduced fatigue.
3. Emotional and Mental Well-being:
- Emotional Balance: Practicing mindfulness and meditation on the Middle Dan Tien can help regulate emotions, reduce anxiety, and promote emotional balance.
- Enhanced Focus/Attention: Training the Upper Dan Tien is associated with mental clarity and enhanced focus and attention. Focusing on this area can improve focus, memory, and cognitive function.
4. Spiritual Development:
- Heightened Awareness: Some practitioners experience heightened spiritual awareness and intuition by focusing on the Dan Tiens.
- Connection to Higher Consciousness: Training the Upper Dan Tien is often associated with connecting to higher consciousness, leading to spiritual growth and enlightenment in various spiritual traditions.
5. Self-awareness and Mindfulness:
- Increased Self-awareness: Practicing awareness of the Dan Tiens encourages self-reflection and self-awareness, fostering a deeper understanding of one's body and mind.
- Mindfulness: Focusing on Dan Tiens promotes mindfulness, helping individuals stay present and engaged in the current moment.
Chinese Medicine and Taoist Philosophy
In traditional Chinese medicine and Taoist philosophy, the golden pearl of energy at the lower Dantian is often referred to as the "Golden Elixir" or "Golden Pill" (金丹 in Chinese, pronounced as jīndān). This concept represents the refined and purified essence of Qi (energy) that is cultivated and stored in the lower Dantian, which is located in the abdomen, roughly two inches below the navel and at the body's centre of gravity.
Cultivating the golden pearl of energy involves various meditation, breathing, and movement exercises designed to enhance the flow of Qi, balance the body's energy centres, and purify the mind and body.
Internal Strength and Martial Arts:
If you practice martial arts, including Shaolin Kung Fu and Tai Chi Chuan, it is essential to cultivate and harness Dan Tien energy properly. It provides a source of power, balance, and stability during physical movements and combat. As a martial artist, you will be able to generate internal power and maintain balance in your techniques as a result of Dan Tien training.
Balanced Dan Tien energy helps facilitate the body's natural healing abilities. It is often used in traditional Chinese medicine and other holistic healing practices to promote recovery from illnesses and injuries.
Cultivating the pearl of energy stored at the lower Dan Tien is essential for enhancing and consolidating energy.
In our school, the practice is in alignment with the inner transformative processes within the practitioner. Various practices include Dan Tien Breathing, Three Centres Merge and Shaolin Cosmos Qigong exercises.
The benefits of Dan Tien training can vary from person to person, and individual experiences may differ. As with any exercise or meditation, learning from a qualified instructor is advisable to gain the most benefit and avoid potential injury.
If you would like to enhance your Dan Tien Qi, click here for more information on a 4-week course.
Why do we need to synergise our body, energy and mind? (Jing, Qi, Shen).
The simple answer is to create a balanced and harmonious state of well-being that supports physical health, emotional stability, and spiritual growth.
But if that sounds like woo-woo or unachievable, given daily stresses and demands, how about enjoying life with a smooth energy flow? This Qigong ideal may be challenging if we don't break old habits and form healthier ones.
So why in Qigong, do we practice harmonising our Jing (Body), Qi (Energy) and Mind (Shen)?
The answer to this lies in the problems we create when going against our nature - what we may call chronic stress, anxiety, worry, over-working and depletion, to name a few.
It has been known for many centuries that negative thoughts and emotions can significantly impact mental and physical health, including energy levels. The mind and body are interconnected, and what affects one can often influence the other.
The practice of Qigong helps to harmonise our mind, emotions and actions so that energy can flow smoothly. In other words, it helps our body systems function as designed.
Here are some examples of how we become impacted by disharmony:
1. Stress Response: Negative emotions, such as chronic stress, anxiety, and anger, trigger the body's stress response. This response releases stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, contributing to various health issues, including elevated blood pressure, weakened immune function, and increased risk of heart disease.
2. Immune System Suppression: Prolonged negative emotions can weaken the immune system, making the body more susceptible to infections, illnesses, and chronic conditions. This occurs because stress hormones can suppress immune cell activity.
3. Inflammation: Negative emotions have been linked to chronic inflammation in the body. Inflammation is associated with a wide range of health problems, including autoimmune disorders, cardiovascular disease, and certain types of cancer.
4. Sleep Disturbances: Negative thoughts and emotions can lead to sleep disturbances, including insomnia. Poor sleep can negatively impact physical health by weakening the immune system, impairing cognitive function, and increasing the risk of chronic diseases.
5. Digestive Issues: Stress and negative emotions can affect the digestive system, leading to irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), indigestion, and even inflammatory bowel diseases. The gut-brain connection means emotional distress can manifest as physical symptoms in the digestive tract.
6. Cardiovascular Health: Negative emotions can contribute to the development of cardiovascular issues. Chronic stress, for instance, increases the risk of hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, and stroke.
7. Mental Health Disorders: Prolonged negative thoughts and emotions are associated with an increased risk of mental health disorders such as depression, anxiety, and mood disorders. These conditions can further impact overall well-being and physical health.
8. Pain Perception: Negative emotions can amplify the perception of pain and discomfort. This can lead to a reduced pain threshold and greater sensitivity to physical sensations.
9. Energy Depletion: Constant negative thoughts and emotions can drain mental and physical energy, leading to fatigue, lack of motivation, and decreased productivity.
10. Behavioral Impact: Negative emotions can lead to unhealthy coping mechanisms, such as overeating, substance abuse, or social isolation, further exacerbating health issues.
Negative emotions are natural. It is coping mechanisms that matter.
It's important to note that negative emotions are a natural part of life, and experiencing them from time to time is expected. However, chronic and unmanaged negative emotions can lead to serious health consequences. Developing healthy coping mechanisms, practising stress reduction techniques, seeking support from friends, family, or professionals, and maintaining a positive outlook can all contribute to better emotional and physical well-being.
Qigong is a holistic practice that aims to harmonise the mind, body, and emotions by utilising various techniques such as movement, breath control, meditation, and focused intention.
The fundamental principles and practices of Qigong contribute to this harmonisation in the following ways:
1. Awareness and Mindfulness: Qigong encourages practitioners to become more aware of their bodies, thoughts, and emotions. By cultivating mindfulness during Qigong practice, individuals can better understand their internal states and begin recognising tension, stress, or emotional imbalance patterns.
2. Breath Control: Conscious control of the breath is a central aspect of Qigong. Deep and intentional breathing patterns help regulate the body's physiological responses, such as heart rate and blood pressure. Proper breathing can calm the mind and relax the body, reducing stress and promoting emotional balance.
3. Movement and Physical Exercise: Qigong involves gentle, flowing movements that promote flexibility, balance, and energy flow throughout the body. These movements stimulate blood circulation and energy (qi) and can release physical tension. The mind tends to follow suit as the body becomes more relaxed and flexible.
4. Energy Flow and Balance: Qigong aims to balance the body's energy (qi) by promoting smooth flow through the energy channels (meridians). This balance contributes to physical health and can positively impact mental and emotional well-being. Emotions are less likely to become stuck or overwhelming when energy flows smoothly.
5. Meditation and Visualisation: Qigong often incorporates meditation and visualisation techniques. Practitioners may focus their attention on specific body parts, energy centres, or visualisations of nature. This enhances mental clarity, cultivates calmness, and nurtures emotional resilience.
6. Intention and Mind-Body Connection: Qigong emphasises the power of intention. By focusing the mind on positive intentions and affirmations, practitioners can influence their mental and emotional states. This mind-body connection can lead to a sense of empowerment and greater emotional control.
7. Stress Reduction: Regular Qigong practice has been shown to reduce stress and anxiety. The relaxation response triggered by Qigong techniques counteracts the fight-or-flight response associated with stress. This stress reduction directly contributes to emotional well-being.
8. Harmonising Emotions: Through Qigong, individuals can learn to acknowledge and process their emotions without becoming overwhelmed by them. The meditative and mindful aspects of the practice create a space where one can observe and accept emotions without judgment, leading to emotional balance.
Overall, the combination of movement, breath control, meditation, energy flow, and intention in Qigong creates a comprehensive approach to harmonising the mind, body, and emotions. Regular practice of Qigong can help individuals develop a deeper understanding of themselves, enhance their emotional resilience, and promote a sense of well-being and balance in their daily lives.
Synergising Jing, Qi, Shen
In the context of Qigong (also spelled as "chi kung" or "qi gong"), "jing" refers to one of the three essential energies or components that make up the foundation of the human body and the universe. The three energies are often referred to as "San Bao" or the "Three Treasures."
These treasures are Jing (essence), Qi (vital energy), and Shen (spirit or mind).
'Synergising Jing, Qi, Shen' means that two or more aspects of self collaborate to produce a combined effect more significant than the sum of their separate effects.
Qigong practices aim to cultivate, balance, and harmonise these three treasures to achieve optimal health, longevity, and spiritual growth.
We can use the understanding and practices of Jing, Qi, and Shen to help prevent or slow down dis-ease and dysfunction and help deal with or overcome existing conditions and challenges.
Here are some principles and practices to help you synergise Jing, Qi, and Shen:
1. Understanding Jing, Qi, and Shen:
Jing (Essence): Jing is often associated with the physical body and its vital substances, including reproductive fluids and essence. It represents the material and foundational aspect of life force. In human beings, jing is closely linked to growth, development, and reproduction. It is considered the root energy from which the other energies arise.
Qi (Vital Energy): Qi is the life force or vital energy flowing through the body's meridians or channels. It is responsible for maintaining health, vitality, and overall well-being. Practising Qigong aims to enhance the flow and balance of qi within the body.
Shen (Spirit/Mind): Shen refers to a person's spiritual and mental aspects. It encompasses consciousness, emotions, and the mind. Cultivating shen involves achieving a state of mental clarity, emotional balance, and spiritual awareness.
Synergising them involves promoting balance and harmony among these elements to enhance overall well-being.
2. Balanced Lifestyle:
- Maintain a healthy lifestyle with proper nutrition, regular exercise, and adequate sleep to support the physical body (Jing). Exercise may be the single and most powerful agent we have freely available to combat illness and disease.
- Practice stress management techniques like Qigong, meditation, mindfulness, or yoga to calm the mind and nurture emotional balance (Shen).
- Cultivate mindfulness in your daily activities to stay present and aware of your Qi and Shen.
3. Mind-Body Practices:
- Engage in mind-body practices like Qigong or Tai Chi to cultivate and balance your Qi. These practices involve gentle movements, breath control, and meditation to harmonise the flow of energy in the body.
- Explore qigong, meditation and mindfulness techniques to enhance your Shen. These practices can help improve mental clarity, emotional stability, and a deeper connection to your spiritual self.
4. Herbal Medicine and Diet:
- Consider consulting a traditional Chinese medicine practitioner for herbal remedies or dietary recommendations tailored to your specific imbalances in Jing, Qi, or Shen.
5. Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM):
- Consider acupuncture or other TCM modalities to address imbalances in your energy (Qi) and overall vitality (Jing and Shen). These therapies are aimed at restoring the free flow of energy throughout the body.
6. Self-Care and Self-Reflection:
- Regularly engage in self-reflection, journaling, or spiritual practices to nurture your Shen and promote a deeper understanding of your inner self.
- Create a daily routine that supports your physical, mental, and spiritual health, allowing for balance and harmony among Jing, Qi, and Shen.
7. Seek Guidance:
- If you're unsure about how to balance and synergise Jing, Qi, and Shen, consider consulting with a qualified practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, a Qigong or Tai Chi instructor, or a meditation and mindfulness teacher.
Remember that the process of harmonising Jing, Qi, and Shen is a personal journey, and it may require patience and ongoing effort. The goal is to create a balanced and harmonious state of well-being that supports physical health, emotional stability, and spiritual growth.
For more information on practising synergising Jing, Qi and Shen see: https://fully-alive.co.uk/online-classes/energy-mastery/
Question: I have a chi reaction after practising Qigong, and now I am worried; what should I do?
It's natural to receive a physical and emotional response to your Qigong that may seem negative. It's how we respond to these that can help us.
The secondary reaction is the issue here, not the primary body response. The primary body response through practising Qigong is releasing and clearing things naturally. It happens all the time when you practise Qigong at different levels.
If a clearing is powerful, it can be more uncomfortable, so regulating the amount or volume of energy flow is a good idea. It was described to me that if you imagine treading on a hose with a lot of force pushing through, it will build up. And as soon as you release this, it rushes through with a tremendous force - This is what happens to the body; the sudden release of energy can be quite shocking.
So gentle progressive energy work or chi flow can help with this primary part of the clearing, which is less shocking for the body. The secondary component, the mind, the fears, and the emotional responses, becomes more complicated.
At a simple level, as my sifu (teacher) would say all the time- as aggravating as it was true- don't worry. Enjoy your practice. And people would get frustrated and say, you don't understand!
But he would smile and say yes. I understand perfectly.
The practice is not to worry; enjoy the practice. The secondary mind part, which may have a lot of cognitive things underlying it, may seem alarming, or our association with it catastrophises at some level. We can intensify the thought or worry and give it more energy, or we shift our focus back to what is actually going on: Not what we think is going on, but what is it that I'm noticing?
It is helpful to describe what you're feeling. You're noticing heat; you're noticing coolness. Perhaps you're feeling a vibration or like water flowing; sometimes, people describe an itching, tingling, or something like that. Bringing back your attention to what you are experiencing, naming it and not what we think, is a helpful way of de-catastrophising.
But this emotional noise is quite common as well, part of the mental aspect of Qigong. A lot will happen, a lot will shift, and many old physical, emotional, and energetic things will come up. And then the mind will do what it has learned to do around that, which we may think is helpful but is unhelpful.
So what can we do?
Can we unhook those things temporarily, even if they're chatting in the background?
Ajahn Chah writes:
The sound is just the sound. It's me who's going out to annoy it. If I leave the sound alone, it won't annoy me. If I don't go out and bother the sound, it's not going to bother me.
This is what he learned when trying to meditate while a festival was going on.
We can see the similarities if we relate that to what we're talking about. What do we do with the noise?
Grandmaster Wong Kiew-Kit and my Zen teacher Daizan Skinner say the same thing: You don't need to do anything with the noise, be with it and notice it's there. You don't even have to try to get rid of it but shift the focus again.
These sensations will inevitably come up, so regulating the amount and volume of chi flow is a good idea. Managing energy flow is often missed in Qigong practices, where there are no dials of regulation, causing cleansing to happen too quickly or too much energy pushing through. When we cleanse too fast, it can be uncomfortable, so we dial down the chi flow.
Three things constitute the Qigong 'dials'.
- There's the rate at which energy flows,
- The volume of the chi flow
- And the amount in which your body moves.
Each of these dials can be adjusted: If you move vigorously, you're more likely to clear things in the body, but it can be more comfortable than standing still when there's a massive volume of energy trying to push through a blockage. It can be more challenging to deal with the clearing standing still, so we allow the body to move, as in gentle breeze, swaying willow.
Movement moves chi and blood and releases the physical structure, where many tensions can be bound up: at the mind level, at the emotional level, the physical level, or all of these things.
So there are two factors to take care of:
1. How can you practise Qigong in a way that feels more comfortable for you while still cleansing, building, and nourishing, and
2. How do you shift your awareness back?
It is simple but not necessarily easy. The simple thing is to move your awareness back to breathing or movement. And every time it goes, accept it and gently come back. Movement and breath. Simple.
And then you can let the energy flow take care of itself, but if it gets too uncomfortable, the best thing to do is give a gentle thought of energy slowing down, and where the mind goes, energy flows or follows. There's a lower rate of energy and a lower level of cleansing.
Level One of fully alive Qigong is about generating energy flow for health and happiness.
Level Two is conscious flow, which is about regulating the dials.
Level Three is building energy, so it assumes that the channels are clearer now to handle an increased volume of energy.
Level Four nourishes and refines that energy and life has a sweeter and softer experience. We can move more easily through the challenges and become more responsive than reactionary.
And this is how it goes for whoever's practising Qigong, whether or not you're a week into Qigong, a year into Qigong, ten years or twenty years: it's not a linear process of the cleansing, building, nourishing. It's a cyclic process.
As you go through the stages of your Qigong, where everything feels perfect, another layer will emerge. And then again, you're in bliss. You feel energised; you feel strong; you feel calm. And another layer comes out, and we get deeper from the physical to the emotional, the mind, and the spiritual - this is how the energy flows.
Clearing blockages or stuckness isn't harmful; how we handle and relate to these changes is meaningful. If we recognise our reactions as helpful and constructive, we change the relationship with what we're noticing and come to accept it.
When we change our relationship with ourselves, we change our relationship with the world around us. In essence, Qigong helps us improve our understanding, connection and experience.
When we experience pain, a common reaction is to wince or flinch. Flinching is the nervous system's way of moving away from the pain to protect the part of your body at risk. But does it help?
In a recent session with a client, it was noticeable that when they flinched in response to shoulder pain, other body parts, including their breath, tightened. In tightening up, their pain did not lessen but increased.
We explored what it would be like to breathe out and relax when they noticed a pain signal instead of holding their breath and tensing.
The results were instant. The pain reduced, and they felt at more ease.
It may sound obvious to breathe out and relax when we are in pain, but we don't. The automatic reaction is to tighten up rather than relax, unless you train the opposite.
In Kungfu training and other fighting systems, we learn to relax and release held tensions, especially when receiving a blow. Admittedly, it takes time and training.
Qigong breathing is much easier, and you don't need to be hit to test it out it's effectiveness.
The breathing method to release tension and pain is simple; gently open your mouth and exhale with a quiet 'haa' sound. Similar to the sound you make when you sigh.
Sighing is a learned behaviour that helps regulate breathing and homestasis under psychological and pathological conditions.
Practice exhaling with a quiet and gentle 'haa' as you count to six, then slowly inhale through the nose to the count of four. Once you become more relaxed you may find your exhale is naturally longer. Don't force the breath, just gently focus on the breath, and imagine the place of pain, and surrounding area relax.
If the six/four count is too long for you, at the moment, simply breathe out for as long is comfortable for you and then build up to a longer, natural exhale. You don't really need to count, but it may help you focus more on the breath.
Shifting your focus is a helpful way to relieve pain and stress.
- Is this breathing simple? Yes.
- Is it easy? not always. It may take some regular practice. So be patient and keep practicing.
- Is it effective? Definately.
This type of breathing is common in Cosmos Qigong and helps relax the nervous system, your mind, and helps release tension, stress and pain.
The best thing to do is give it a try.
Hi, I am Tim Franklin, a Shaolin Arts teacher, mind/body/energy therapist and Qigong Healer, with over 20 years experience in helping people reduce pain, stress, anxiety and tension.