Developing ChiFebruary 23, 2008
Methods for enhancing the development of chi
Tai Chi means grand ultimate. Just the name says it all. Chi is that primordial energy that runs the universe and ourselves (since we are attached to the universe). My teacher Lou Kleinsmith described chi as an energy intelligence that fills the universe. Chi (or prana as it is called in yoga or ki as it is called in Japan) is invisible. You cannot see it, however you can feel it. Chi comes from your parents (you are born with it). Chi also comes from your breath and from the food you metabolize. Western medicine has only recently with hesitation started to recognize the concept of chi, however they have a long way to go. The aim of this article is to familiarize the reader with the concept of chi and offer some methods that will enhance the chi flow in your body.
Chi in the art of Tai Chi is mostly used by the body to enhance the function of the organs and glands, which essentially run the body. Energy centers called chakras in yoga are located along the spine. When these energy centers are charged with chi, they stimulate the nearby glands and organs to function at a greater level. This is almost as if you plugged an electrical cord into a socket and connected it to a gland. The gland would be stimulated to produce more hormones, which in turn govern the performance of the body. The chi runs thru invisible meridians. Yoga philosophy states that there are 72,000 meridians crisscrossing at many chakras. However for purposes of practicing yoga we are only concerned with 7 chakras located along the spine from the base to the top of the head. Tai Chi is concerned with developing the tan tien (a major chakra located at your center of gravity which is located approximately 1-2 inches below your navel and 1/3 the way from the front of the body to the back of the body. In practicing the tai chi form (a systematic series of postures) the body is used as vehicle to liberate chi and move it thru various meridians.
Of primary importance is the degree of relaxation of the body. The meridians cannot open if the body is tense. Most of us can understand the concept of strength as measured by the contraction of muscles, however in tai chi we are looking for another kind of strength. That strength which comes from the tendons is much more effective than muscular strength. The only way to get in touch with strength from the tendons is to relax the body. The more you can entice the body to relax the greater the strength from the tendons and the greater flow of chi thru the meridians.
Tai Chi Chuan means grand ultimate fist or mind body boxing. The concept of boxing is used to further develop the chi, not for the primary purpose of fighting but in order to cultivate and develop chi. The main concept here is to move the chi thru the body with mental intention. If the mind is running the show and the chi is moved by the mind, you have a formidable weapon, however the real purpose of tai chi is to allow the chi to move up the spine to the top of the head where enlightenment occurs.
Yoga works a little differently. The body stretches into the yoga poses in a state of relaxation. This takes some time to experience. Little by little the whole body from the tip of the toes to the top of the head is opened up resulting in the unclogging of the meridians. When this occurs the energy (chi), which is called kundalini moves up the spine to the top of the head where enlightenment occurs.
In order to experience the phenomena of chi weather practicing tai chi or yoga, one must first throw open the entire body thru some form of slow motion exercise. There are many forms of internal exercises that you can choose from. Once the body is prepared thru long disciplined practice, one is prepared to sit in meditation. Meditation is the process of concentrating the mind on one point. The mind is slowly trained over a long period of time until it stills itself and realizes its connection with the universe.
The following suggestions will be of help to you.
1) Practice the primary chi-cultivating stance known as “standing like a tree.” The directions for this stance are given in the Q&A section of the site. The Way of Energy is a good text to purchase. Build up to at least 1hr practice. Soon you will feel the chi descending down to the tan tien where it will soon start to fill the lower abdominal area and move to the base of the spine.
2) Practice yoga poses or asana with emphasis on the breath. On expansion of the body inhale and on contraction of the body exhale. Practice a vinyasa flow sequence where one posture leads into another always emphasing the breath.
3) For yoga, tai chi and qigong practioners, sit in a meditation posture and concentrate on the tan tien. In time if your body is relaxed you will feel the energy in your center of gravity (tan tien).
4) Practice keeping your mind in the tan tien during your daily activities. As My instructor Lou Kleinsmith would say, “With your feet planted firmly on the ground, your head pointing up towards heaven, your mind in tan tien. What more could there be?” (Please bear in mind that the tan tien is also the seat of the intuition often called the second brain.)
5) Look upon your practice as a sacred act. Set aside daily practice time and make sure that you are not interrupted.
6) Eat foods that you are able to digest and metabolize easily with emphasis on a plant-based diet with some animal protein.
7) Before meditating, make sure your spine is straight and you are totally comfortable.
The above suggestions will help you on the road to chi development. Please bear in mind that daily practice and meditation enhance the body mind and spirit connection. Spiritual growth and healing is what its all about. Chi is always within. It is in your power to cultivate it leading to a higher state of consciousness.