Tantien or Dantian in China and Hara in Japan, is the center of our energy body and physical body.
It is located in the lower belly, more or less 2 cm lower than the navel, in the middle, inside.
It is the gravity center of the body and the inner energy pump.
Our heart is the blood pump in our body, and our tantien the chi energy pump.
This center can be used as a tool, as an inner hand, to make the chi or life energy flow in the body, to concentrate your chi energy, to protect yourself, and to find the right posture.
My Master Vlady Stevanovitch , describes in one of his books how being centered in his Tantien, saved his life during the second world war.
In his book he describes a scene that can give an image on how being centered can change events in sometimes miraculous ways.
Before leaving his Master to go and join the resistance, his master wanted to check if he is ready and asked him to stand and concentrate in his Tantien.
After a while his Master took a glass of water and threw the water in his direction.
At the same moment a violent wind opened the window and blew all the water aside, not even one drop of water touched him.
Centered in your Tantien
When someone is centered, he has a different light in his eyes, a different presence.
He is rooted, and connected to the earth and sky, powerfully anchored.
When you are centered, it feels as if you have an inner hand that holds the axis of the body between earth and sky.
The entire body organizes itself easily around this central axis, the muscles can be released of their tensions.
Imagine , a hand in your belly a little lower then the navel, in the middle inside, that you slowly close into a fist, hold it strongly.
It might feel as a contraction.
Open and close this hand a few times and listen to your sensations.
After a few times, you will start to feel a presence there, imagine it is a ball, a little heavy ball inside your belly, your Tantien!
Try to smile with your tantien.
Try to talk bringing up the sound from your Tantien, you will be astonished to hear it is a totally different voice.
When you cough or laugh, you can easily feel how it jumps in your belly.
If you are very sensitive, there is no need to contract it strongly in order to feel it, try to feel it by closing this inner hand softly.
I like to imagine that it is a Pearl held between two fingers.
I say strongly just to feel it for the first time.
Later you will be able to do it very softly and still control it.
As if it is a Pearl held between two fingers.
In fact it is enough to direct your attention there in order to feel it.
You can connect to it and control it with your intent, but the feeling is as if it is a muscle.
There are many ways to use it:
You can contract it with your exhale and release it with your inhale, when breathing in the lower belly.
You can contract it with your inhale and release it with your exhale, when breathing into your lungs.
You can contract it and hold it without connecting it to your breath.
In fact it is possible to have it slightly contracted all day long, you will feel rooted and it will keep you in the right posture.
When the Tantien is slightly contracted, the upper part of the body can lean on it and all the muscles around the shoulders, neck and upper back can be relaxed.
There are many different chi techniques with different variations, once you feel how to connect to your Tantien and use it to regulate your chi flow.
It is the center of control and regulation of chi or life energy in your body.
Any practice of martial art or work with energy requires the connection to the center and the ability to use it.
As for any skill, this can be acquired by regular exercise and attention.
The Tantien is the main and basic tool to all chi techniques.
The Chinese Masters also call it the “alchemical chaldron” because this is the place where the chi is purified before it is sent back to flow in the body.
If you are not connected to your Hara, working with chi energy can be dangerous.
The Tantien is the anchor, it is the only place in the body where it is safe to gather energy.
Accumulation or stagnation of chi anywhere else in the body is a result of resistance, and is painful.
As we already said, the chi must flow freely, and regularly, not too slow and not too fast.
Sometimes when you practice chi techniques it causes the chi to suddenly flow too fast, it can make you feel dizzy or give you headache.
Contracting your center will instantly slow the flow and balance it.
Each time you contract you Tantien, you bring back the chi energy there.
It is important to be able to do this easily before starting to practice any other chi technique or tantra.
Basic technique to connect and feel your Tantien
Place your fingers on your belly at the height of the hara, 2cm under the navel.
Breath in and push your fingers away from your belly with your muscles.
Breath out, the muscles that pushed your fingers out relax, and let the fingers go inside the soft muscles towards the center.
Let your exhales and the movement inside be longer than the inhale.
At the end of the long exhales, feel a contraction, in the center, inside your belly.
Stay there, a bit, until you feel the need to inhale again.
Then, with the next inhale, push your fingers away from the center again.
When you start to control the movement of the muscles, out and back in, you can remove your fingers.
Pushing your Tantien forward in your lower belly with the inhale and bringing it back to the center with the exhale, is the basic exercise for all the inner techniques of chi.
Practice this one as much as you can and your Tantien will become stronger and more present from day to day.
I suggest to practice relaxation techniques and to put your attention on your Tantien once your body is relaxed.
It will enhance your sensations and make it easier for you to feel the density of the Tantien and how it can create waves and easily fill a relaxed body with chi.
Just feel it is the center, and start breathing from there, let your Tantien fill your body with each inhale and take everything back to the center with each exhale.
After a few times you will notice your body has lost its borders, it has become a cloud that grows with each inhale and contracts with each exhale.
A breathing cell, expanding and contracting at the pace of the breath.
Always end the relaxation with a few long exhales, bringing back all your energy to your center, before coming back!
Here is another breathing technique to practice.
The most important is to always be conscious of your center, make it part of your life and attention, as your hands are.
It will take your presence away from your mind that most of the time disturbs more than helps.
It will bring you closer to a state called “no mind”, well known by all martial arts practitioners.
When you are connected and centered all your body organizes itself around it, it transforms your posture and your presence.
And it is the root for the flower to open at the heart level, your chest can be wide open because it has something strong to lean on.
Since it is your gravity center, it connects you to all gravity centers in the universe.
It opens the possibility to the body to be strong and efficient with a minimum of effort.
Makes you powerful, calm and rooted.
Brings you to the only place that really exists: here and now!
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Let your Tantien be your best friend!