Taoists see the abdomen as the core of the body. The stomach is an emotional centre referred to as ‘the second brain’ and the Tan Tien – just behind the navel – is an energy vortex, a chakra. Taoists believe that both negative and positive emotions are stored in the vital organs, accessible through the abdomen, and that we also ‘think’ with our stomach. Chi Nei Tsang is a Taoist holistic massage that treats the whole body through working mainly on the abdomen. That feeling in our gut is not imaginary; this part of the body contains a large quantity of neurotransmitters, making it a key source of body intelligence. Our Chi – energy – is depleted when we are angry or stressed and our ‘second brain’ get can get out of synch leaving us feeling out of sorts. The negative emotions of worry, anxiety, sadness, stress and impatience have most impact on our digestive system. (see Kindred Spirit article on meditations for cleansing out negative energy: http://www.kindredspirit.co.uk/articles/emotional-clearing-using-taoist-techniques)
For many, our tummies today show signs of suffering, reflecting the ills of our civilization, from the problems of overweight to digestive diseases or poor functioning. Our bodies used to tell us what we needed to eat, but many have lost their original wisdom and give us cravings for the wrong things. Looking for the perfect storm, we over-stimulate our taste buds, eat too much and too quickly, and confusion reigns.
Tan tien chi kung practices of breathing and movements will help re-dress this balance by improving chi pressure, and bringing internal strength back to the body. These traditional exercises are inspired by animals, which are in touch with their bodies’ instincts and wisdom.
Tan tien chi kung teaches us how to cultivate and condense chi in our lower abdomen. The breathing and movements empower the chi stored in the body to increase vitality, strengthen organs, and stimulate self-healing as Mantak Chia, the Taoist Grandmaster of Inner Alchemy, explains in his book ‘Tan Tien Chi Kung’. It is our mind that directs and guides our chi, but if the mind and body are out of balance or under stress, the mind cannot do this correctly. Re-balancing the tan tien is very important to restore the mind-body balance that is essential for spiritual growth and optimal well-being. We can increase the Chi pressure in the organs and body cavities, and stimulate the blood circulation, lymphatic, endocrine and nervous systems. Chi and blood will flow more easily and the tan tien’s internal power will help us root our body to the earth, thus providing a safe and effective method for receiving earth energies. This grounding or rooting, promotes our physical, mental and spiritual balance
Pi gu is an ancient Taoist form of energy fasting, practiced by adepts for thousands of years to increase their spiritual awareness. The Chinese term ‘pi gu’, literally means ‘no grains’. Our civilization has become very reliant on grains to feed us but recently many have started suffering from allergies or intolerances to gluten or to wheat, one of the most common grains used in the West. Pi gu is scarcely documented but some writings in old Chinese books refer to its secret of success being the ‘inner work’ that accompanies it: however their only solution to this is to ‘find a Taoist Master to teach you’. Mantak Chia, has researched pi gu and been using it in his well-known Tao Garden darkroom meditation retreats. He has simplified some of the inner alchemy practices and adapted pi gu to our era.
Although pi gu was traditionally used to enhance spiritual work, an interesting side effect is weight loss. Diets can be destructive and normal fasting can leave the body in a weak or unhealthy state. Shutting down our body’s factory often means creating imbalances and also slowing down its waste removal methods. Health problems can result from, e.g. overproduction of bile during a fast, plus the build up of toxins due to slow elimination.
However pi gu increases the body’s energy and improves its digestive and other circulatory systems. Pi gu chi kung includes exercises for reducing stomach size as it regains elasticity; and for eliminating our cravings for unhealthy food, helping to redefine our silhouette and eating habits.
Another important Taoist practice for improving abdominal health is Golden Elixir chi kung. It focuses on our relationship with our mouths, digestive systems and chewing. Chewing is also fundamental to pi gu chi kung practices as it increases the chi absorbed during eating, whilst greatly cutting down the actual amount eaten, both without our feeling very hungry. Golden elixir is saliva, enhanced with chi and our own hormones; it is produced through chi kung chewing and meditation techniques. Its release in our stomach will improve our digestion, and nutrients from food will be better absorbed. This will help our entire digestive tract to recover from unhealthy eating and the stress of modern living.
These chi kung practices will help reduce the size of our stomachs, firm up abdominal muscles, improve breathing and cut out cravings for unhealthy foods. This is an important part of letting our body recover, re-boot and re-set our second brain.
Be aware that this could result in a slimmer waistline!
Mantak Chia will be teaching these abdominal health practices soon in London; with a lecture on 10th October 2014 (7 – 9 pm). and a special 2-day workshop “Back to Body Wisdom – The Taoist Way” 15th & 16th October: teaching Tan Tien Chi Kung, Golden Elixir Chi Kung and giving us practical experience of Pi gu
During his visit 10th – 16th October 2014, Master Chia will also be teaching Taoist Basic Practices, see article http://www.kindredspirit.co.uk/articles/emotional-clearing-using-taoist-techniques and Healing Love (using our sexual energy to increase our vitality). There will be a free afternoon of Inner Alchemy talks and classes by local Taoist instructors (2.30 – 6pm) 10th October, all events will be at the Columbia Hotel, 95 -99 Lancaster Gate, London W2 3NS. Further info: http://taoyoga.co.uk/mantak-chia-london