For the first blog post by Dantian Health, it seems fitting to answer the question, what is the dantian?
The dantian, often translated as elixir or cinnabar field, is a core energy centre of our body. A dantian is seen to differ from a chakra as the dantian is seen as a storehouse of energy, whereas a chakra is seen as a gateway.
The lower dantian is located in the area a few fingers below your navel, and is known in Japanese traditions as the Hara. It is associated with your vital energy, power and sexual essence. The middle dantian is located around your solar plexus and is associated with your breath, mind, love and inner organs. The upper dantian is located in the forehead between your eyebrows or around your brain, and is associated with your Shen (spirit), intuition and spiritual life.
The lower dantian holds a primary importance as it is seen to nourish the other two, and is a central area of focus in meditation practices, marital arts and within Oriental medicine. In this dantian is found our reserves of Qi (energy), both our pre natal Qi which we have brought into this life inherited from our parents, and our post natal Qi which we draw from our diet and breath throughout our lives. It is seen as the centre of our body, both energetically and structurally, and we can tap into the strength we store here in various ways.
Weakness of the dantian
When our energy is not focused and centred in our lower dantian, it can float upwards where it can stagnate and harass our middle and upper dantian affecting our mental and emotional wellbeing. This can lead to distress and disease, with smaller afflictions and nuisances in life causing us more irritation than usual. By strengthening our dantian to build and hold our Qi, we can feel healthier, less stressed and happier. Having a stronger core means that you are less vulnerable to being pushed off balance, either physically or emotionally and mentally.
Strengthening the dantian
A simple meditative practice involves holding a still and erect posture, allowing the breath to be deep and to be drawn down to this area with the expansion of the lower abdomen on inhalation as the diaphragm expands. Whilst doing this one can allow the focus of the mind rest in this lower dantian, observing the Qi as warmth filling up in this vital centre with each breath. To assist your focus remaining in this area you can place your hands, on on top of the other, over the lower dantian. For males the left hand should be underneath, for females, the right. This can be practiced daily for 10-15 minutes, or longer if desired.
In martial arts such as Tai Chi or Aikido, the dantian is of primary focus. By keeping ones attention at the core it becomes easier to move, and indeed when your movements are initiated form this centre they become stronger, more purposeful and softer as less energy is required. By keeping your weight centred, and focusing on the dantian you also become more stable and grounded. To feel this you can stand with your feet shoulder width apart, knees slightly bent so they are not locked, pelvic floor pulled forward, spine straight, neck pulled back and head straight. You should be able to imagine a string passing directly down from the crown of your head, through your spine, passing through your perineum to the ground directly between your feet. Mastering the art of movement from your dantian does takes time and practice, and is best learnt from a teacher who can help correct your posture and guide you through this development process.
These exercises practiced at home can benefit your health and complement any treatment you may be receiving. Practicing breath work from the dantian during an acupuncture treatment can help your body relax deeper, allowing the body to take a greater hold of the instructions it is being given to deepen the therapeutic result.