Storing Qi in the Dantian
While all forms of meditation can provide a state of quiescence, standing meditation offers the mutual benefit of calming the spirit and augmenting qi to strengthen physical constitution. Ancient Chinese masters developed specific meditations to effectively promote the movement of qi. Once qi is stimulated and meridians are cleared from stagnations, the opportunity for further qi cultivation and storage arises by storing it in the lower dantian (field of elixir).
The dantians are energetic spheres of qi, and through standing meditation and qigong training, one can develop and integrate more qi. The lower dantian is regarded as the root of life that unites the kidneys with the mingmen (gate of destiny) located at acupuncture location du-4. Not only does cultivation of the lower dantian rekindle primordial qi, it also regulates the liver and chong meridians.
Under further magnification, the Three Treasures: earth, man and heaven, are understood with the earth representing yin, the heavens representing yang and man being the conduit of both. In parallel to jing (essence), qi (energy), shen, (spirit), the jing is associated with the lower dantian, the qi is associated with middle dantian, and the shen is associated with the upper dantian. With qi being the instrument for integration of jing and shen, a practitioner can be a means of expression for earth and heavenly qi.
Uniqueness of Standing Meditation
The concept of standing meditation stems from primordial Daoist philosophy. The idiom, "as above, so below" illustrates an individual as a microcosmic reflection of heaven. With standing meditation, practitioners can root into the earth and draw qi into and through their feet. Simultaneously, qi from the heavens filters down and enters through the bai hui (du-20) at the top of the head.
One goal of standing meditation offers the ability to enhance the flow and assimilation of yin and yang qi. Heaven, the cosmos, is considered yang. The earth is considered yin. By drawing up the earth qi from the feet and attracting heaven qi from the stars, moon, sun and planets via the bai hui (du-20), an amalgam of universal qi is gathered and stored within the lower dantian.
With standing meditation, a practitioner can optimally augment the current of qi because the entire length of the person can be capitalized to harness the most flow of qi from the feet to the head. This standing position "takes maximum advantage of an energy factor called 'potent gradient', which determines the strength of the polar field in the human energy system between the Yang pole at the crown of the head and the Yin pole at the soles of the feet."1 In other words, the more distance between two opposite forces of energy, the more likely qi can be cultivated.
The gateways for these two opposite poles of energy are bai hui and yong kuan (k-1). Bai hui, a significant portal, is an area in qigong used for connecting with the qi of the cosmos. Yong kuan (k-1), the acupuncture location on the bottom of the foot, is another noteworthy qigong location used for allowing qi from the earth to enter and exit.
Proper Posture, Breath and Visualization
Qi can be activated via three essential foundations: proper posture, conscientious breath, and guided visualization. In China, many of the Medical Qigong masters and doctors have a solid foundation in martial arts, specifically nei gong, meaning "inward training". It is no coincidence that proper posture, thorough breath, and clear mental focus remain fundamental training techniques in martial arts, taiji and medical qigong. During standing meditation, incorporation of these basics permits the practitioner to optimize the confluence of qi from the heavens and the earth.
Proper posture provides the foundation for optimal flow of qi. Accurate alignment of bones, muscles, tendons and facia allows the most advantageous way for qi to move.
Increased movement of qi frees energy obstructions; this may manifest in sudden jerking or spiraling of the body, head, arms, legs or spine as congestion of qi is cleared from the meridians.
Correct body structure, from the feet upward, pave the way for maximum benefit from standing meditation. The human body is like a tuning fork, therefore, proper posture begins at the foundation with the feet shoulder-width apart and parallel to each other. Become aware of yong kuan, (k-1), one can imagine and ultimately feel a slight tingling or sensation of heat as yong kuan begins to open and receive the earth qi.
Breath is used to coordinate the individual with his or her jing and shen. Breathing should be even and full, yet without force. By means of proper breath and attunement within oneself, a practitioner can then direct the breath to harmonize with the environs. This integration provides further cultivation of qi to be stored in the lower dantian.
Inhalation and exhalation is through the nose. The breath needs to be smooth, gentle, and deep, inhaling all the way down to the lower dantian. During standing meditation, one uses the breath to direct the qi to projected dantians, organs, or meridians.
Standing meditation is complete with focused intention. Intention bestows clarity of purpose and direction. Imagination provides the mind to lead the qi. Intention merged with proper breath and posture culminates in optimal refinement of qi.
The mind should be rooted to the heart, with the heart as the emperor. A practitioner can utilize focused thought to direct the qi during meditation. Guided visualization gathers more qi, "intent, will, thought, and reflection are all written with the radical for the heart"2; thus the old adage that qi follows thought prevails. Purposeful vivid imagery ultimately directs the qi through standing meditation.
Start standing meditation with the awareness that one is a conduit of heavenly and earthly qi. Have the intention of sinking deeply into the earth, drawing the earthly qi up through yong kuan (k-1): "the deeper into the earth you go, the more the energy will come up"3. The more your body relaxes down into the earth, an equal and opposite energetic response will occur with the earth's qi pushing upward while a sensation of lengthening the spine should occur as the head is considered to be a beautiful pearl being suspended by a string from the heavens above.
The knees, slightly bent, should be aligned over the feet. If knees are locked with legs completely straight, the qi tends to bog around the knees. Hindering free flow, this "tension in any area of the body restricts the structural system as a whole."4 Also, the knees should not bend beyond the plane of the tips of the toes.
The hips are relaxed with the coccyx dropping downward to straighten the curvature of the spine. The slight tucking of the buttocks lets the qi flow better through the ming men area of the lower lumber. This is a common area for qi to stagnate.
To further prevent leaking of refined qi, the anal sphincter, known as the po men (gateway of the po) is gently contracted to seal the qi within the lower dantian. The abdomen should be relaxed and prepared to receive the gentle even inhalation. The shoulders and elbows should feel loose and heavy to allow the qi to clear any energy obstructions.
The eyes are closed to keep the cultivation of qi inwards. The tongue rests on the upper palate behind the teeth to connect the ren and du meridians. The shoulders should be relaxed as the qi draws up the base of the occiput, this important region is know as the jade pillow. To improve fluidity of qi movement, the chin should be slightly tucked to allow the qi to flow smoothly up the du meridian.
After the qi is drawn up and over the head along the du meridian, upon exhalation the qi is guided down the ren meridian. The qi cascades down the front of the body, ultimately filling the lower dantian. To further supplement and tonify the lower dantian, swallow any excess saliva down to the lower dantian. In closing the standing meditation, place both hands with laogong (p-8) onto the lower dantian.
Precautions for Medical Qigong Standing Meditation
Some basic guidelines for standing meditation are used to avoid qi deviations and leakage. Prevent exposure to wind, as it scatters the qi. Also beginners should not practice standing meditation during weather extremes—thunderstorms, earthquakes, typhoons, hurricanes and heat-waves, as the receptivity to extreme imbalances in nature can occur during meditation. Avoid loud and startling noises because they can disperse the shen. Allow adequate space before and after standing meditation from eating, intercourse, or bathing. Women can either take time off during menstruation, or store the qi in the middle dantian, as the lower dantian is within the realm of the uterus and purgation is naturally occurring. And finally, do not practice when ill or fatigued.
Professor L. Francesca Ferrari is a Licensed Acupuncturist, Department Chair of Medical Qigong at Five Branches University, and an initiated 80th generation disciple at Maoshan Daoist Temple in China. Her medical clinic on the Monterey Peninsula, California combines Chinese medicine with orthomolecular medicine providing clients the best of integrative medicine. Professor Ferrari meets the challenge of difficult and complex differential diagnosis, especially in areas associated with digestive disorders such as SIBO, candidiasis, microbiome dysbiosis, mycotoxic infections, sinusitis, and chloramphenicol poisoning. www.francescaferrari.com.
- Daniel Reid. A Complete Guide to Chi-Gung. Boston, Massachusetts: Shambala Publications, Inc., 1998 p 59
- Claude Larre, S.J. & Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallee. Rooted in Spirit. Barrytown, New York: Station Hill Press, Inc., 1995. p 155
- Jerry Alan Johnson. The Essence of Internal Martial Arts Energy Theory and Cultivation. Pacific Grove, California: Ching Lien Healing Arts Center, 1994 p 25
- Professor Jerry Alan Johnson. Chinese Medical Qigong Therapy Volume 2: Energetic Alchemy, Dao Yin Therapy and Qi Deviations. Pacific Grove, California: International Institute of Medical Qigong, 2006 p 218
Reprinted from Qi Journal, Summer 2007