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In past articles, I’ve covered
acupuncture points that are useful for at-home acupressure to treat pain,
stress and anxiety. Today, I broaden the focus to some concepts of Chinese
medicine that may be useful in self-care generally.
There are many points that
are used quite commonly in acupuncture sessions every day, but also have a
rich history in the arts of cultivation, such as Tai Qi, Qi Gong and
meditation. The points I’ll illustrate today are Du-20, Ren 17, the Ren mai
points on the lower belly, and Kidney 1. Together, these points represent the
three major “fields” of energy and are used to reinforce the strength
of these areas.
From the tradition
of Daoism comes the concept of the Dān Tián, considered to be major energy
centers in the body. In English, these areas are sometimes called the Upper,
Middle and Lower Burners, and are “anatomically non-verifiable areas in
the body.” In other words, these are conceptual representations of function,
rather than physical organs. Like much of Chinese medicine, the concept of the
three dan tian show how the nature of our bodies reflects the laws of the world
around us. These three Burners successively reflect the sky or heavens in the
upper, humanity in the middle, and the earth below. Keeping the three
burners open and functional is considered crucial for optimal health.
For the Upper Dān Tián, I
choose “Bai Hui,” Du-20, located at the very top of the head. This
point is used quite often in acupuncture and can be calming and subduing to
excessive energies in the upper body. Are our minds racing with anxious
thoughts and worries or anger? Are we subjected to the rattling and
“windy” issues such as headaches, tinnitus, spasms, paralysis or even
seizures or confusion? In Confucian terms, we may think of this
point as a marshal to “quell the chaos.” Bai Hui is said to affect
the brain, which from a Daoist perspective, is the convergence of experiences
and accumulations of life.
Bai Hui translates
as “A Hundred Convergences,” and here we can reconnect with the world
around us, opening the senses, waking and brightening the mind, or calming the
noise from the outside. There are many points on the head to affect these
issues, but Bai Hui is a point we can focus on in meditation, spiritual
practices and visualization. It is at the very top of the head, at a flat
place. You only need to do some tapping on this point with your fingertips to
stimulate a wakeful feeling, which one of my teachers in acupuncture school had
us do when we began to look glassy-eyed. In visualization, we can envision this
point as an opening to connect us with inspiration from the universe, the
celestial, something outside of us, and clear perception.
For the Middle Dan Tian, we
can press firmly on Ren-17 in the middle of the breastbone. Ren-17 is named Dan
Zhong, or “chest center,” and governs the energy of the heart and
lungs, both physically and metaphorically. The middle Dan Tian relates to the Qi we bring
in from the air around us, and our ability to be inspired and connect with
often translated as “energy,” and can be pictured like a spark or a
light, but truly has components of both energy as well as the finest matter. Qi
refers to function, or a transfer, even relationships. We can think of it as
having a proper movement, with an easiness and regularity about it when working
correctly. In visualization or meditation, picture warmth, light radiating
within us, the intake of energy with our breath that feeds our whole body, and
experiences that nourish us. If you are feeling overwhelmed because you have obligations
to others you are afraid you can’t fulfill, or if you are feeling a desire to
pull inward, but you need to give a presentation or enter a difficult social
situation, you can press on Ren 17 for 1-3 minutes while focusing on taking
deep, slow breaths. You may soon find your heart stops racing and your
breathing becomes even. You can then feel confident in moving forward.
For the lower Dān Tián, we
can focus on the belly points of the Ren mai, the meridian that runs up and
down our front midline. Together, Ren 6 (Qi Hai “Sea of Qi”) and Ren
4 (guan yuan “origin pass”) nourish both the yin and yang of the
body. Pressure, warmth or even focused attention of the mind to this area below
the navel, helps to stimulate our mingmen or internal fire which nourishes the
body’s overall functioning.
we can picture warmth, light radiating within us, the intake of energy with our
breath that feeds our whole body, and experiences that nourish us. This energy
can spread to all points of our body, bringing rejuvenation and regeneration.
Attention to these points is especially important for issues related to
digestion, menstruation, reproduction and sexual function. Pressure and warmth
(like a hot water bottle or moxa) at these points can also help strengthen the
back and calm anxious thoughts. Please consult with your practitioner before
stimulating these points during pregnancy.
In order to further ground
ourselves and connect all three Dan Tian, we can use Kidney-1 or “Yong
Quan.” Since Ki-1 is on the sole of the feet. This is a point of
grounding, of stabilization, the point where our body contacts the earth, and
can draw upon its influence. The energies of the earth are deep, strong, and
tap into pure and cool underground water, exemplified by Ki-1, also known as
the “Bubbling Spring.” Using this point in acupuncture can enliven a
person’s Qì, as well as descend Qì which has risen excessively in symptoms such
as agitation, anxiety, dizziness or headache. Kid
1 can produce a sense of calm, and is often stimulated during labor as a way to
calm anxiety and fear in the new mother.
When we focus on this point in our
standing meditation or other activities such as walking or just being outside,
we can draw upon the invigorating Qì of the earth, up through our feet, and
into the Dān Tián. In visualization, we can also see this place as an outlet
for energies we do not need; we can visualize anything in our lives we care to
let go, that the expanse of the deep earth can take and transform, like roots
that expand from our feet and tap into the deep cool and watery places
There are many more
points that tap into the energies of the Dān Tián areas of the body, but Du-20,
Ren 17, the belly points of the Ren mai and Kidney-1 are very accessible for
meditation and self-cultivation at home.
Resources for more information:
Unschuld, Paul, Chinese Life Sciences
Hicks, Hicks & Mole, Five Element Constitutional Acupuncture