Tai Chi and Qi Meridain Theory have only been studied scientifically in recent years. Of course more research is needed but most evidence suggests that tai chi offers numerous benefits beyond stress reduction improving balance and muscle strength.
The following is excerpted from research by Mark K. Frobb, MD as published at
One of the most difficult tasks for therapists and patients to achieve in the rehabilitation process following back and neck injuries is the reintroducing normal postural balance at rest and with movement…..
The rehabilitation therapy invariably includes elements of “core strengthening” exercises, ….
All of the physical routines have… focus on balance, utilizing slow postural shifts from the weighted to the unweighted leg. Thus, the individual must adopt correct pelvic and shoulder girdle postures necessary to retain upright stance without falling out of the pose.
In pursuit of this rediscovery of postural balance, …the patient is encouraged to place a conscious awareness in movement and position, and sensations of force and heaviness, as well as timing of muscular contractions….
POSTURE AND MARTIAL ARTS
Few athletic pursuits have had as much work, research, and understanding in the theory of “rootedness” and posture as those related to Chinese martial arts. The study and theoretical contributions of the great Qigong masters date back some 3,000 years. Many of the classical treatises have survived into modern literature with English translation (that) have introduced Eastern martial arts into Western cultures….
The theory of rootedness and posture is taught to martial arts students… through the illustration of Qi meridian theory.(Qi is pronounced “key” or “chi“.) The student is encouraged… to experience the Qi energy as it flows through the meridians and energy … of the powerful stances required to carry out the actions required ,,,(doing Tai Chi).
Neutral Position of Wuji
Erect postural stance study first begins with the position of rest and point of neutrality. In Chinese martial arts, this theoretical concept is referred to as Wuji. Described in Chinese literature as “the great emptiness” or “the great nothingness,” Wuji describes a midpoint between the 2 polarities of Yin and Yang. Wuji can be discussed in terms of the physical as well as the mental state. The philosophical duality of Yin/Yang describes that theoretical point of balance, comprising an almost indivisible point where the differentiation between Yin and Yang becomes infinitesimal.
WUJI IN QIGONG MEDITATION
Wuji in Qigong meditation describes a learned meditation state and a transition point in the education of the Qigong student. Having achieved this meditative state, the Qigong practitioner has attained the ability to keep thoughts pure and harmonious without emotional disturbance. Using meditative techniques and the movement of Qi, the student then can facilitate the simultaneous downward migration of the Shen (Spirit) from the Mud Pill Palace (Ni Wan Gong) residing in the Great Spiritual Valley (Shen Gu) of the Upper Dan Tian, and the Qi moving upward from where it retains residence in the Lower Dan Tian. Both will meet at the furnace of the Huang Ting, an intermediate point representing the ultimate polarity position of Yin and Yang. It is here that the Embryonic Spiritual Being (Shen Tai) will be conceived by advanced Qigong practitioners on the path of advancement to Enlightenment and the gift of absolute awareness with the opening of The Third Eye (Yintang).
Wuji in Chinese martial arts refers to an erect posture of equilibrium, which may be described as the most balanced and relaxed posture that can exist midway between the states of Yin and Yang (Figure 1). Although relaxed, this position is also charged with anticipation, with the full capability of moving with commitment to either a Yin or Yang position. This pivotal state of balance is so delicate that it has been described by martial arts masters as a state of balance within the body so fine that “if a butterfly were to alight on the person, it would be enough to set the body in motion towards either a Yin or Yang posture.”
Triple Warmer Meridian Contribution to Posture
To fully understand the kinesthetic experience of the Wuji posture, one must first have an understanding of the 3 centers of energy of the Triple Warmer Meridian since they play a critical role in the conceptualization of stability of spinal posture. In modern texts of Qigong theory, the Triple Warmer energy centers are documented as true physical energy depots, and the energy centers labeled Upper, Middle, and Lower Dan Tians are distinguished as discrete bioelectric storage centers.
Qigong texts refer to supportive studies that demonstrate measurable characteristics of Qi fields. Studies suggest that they hold physical, electrical, thermic, magnetic, and luminescent properties, and therefore imply that at least in part, Qi emulates an electromotive force.1,2 As storage capacitors of this bioelectric energy, the Middle and Lower Dan Tian centers are believed to function like batteries composed of discontinuous layers of efficient and inefficient electrical conductors as reflected by the differentiated bioelectric properties of peritoneal membrane, fat, fascia, and muscle. The brain, which serves as the house of the Upper Dan Tian, is characterized by high levels of electrical conductivity and is separated by layers of differentiating nonconductive structures including the arachnoid mater, pia mater, and dura mater, in addition to the supportive nonconducting glial histological substructure.1
In the description of the kinesthetic experience of the Wuji posture, it is perhaps best to perceive the body in 2 parts. The lower part forms the root and is composed of the pelvic girdle housing the Lower Dan Tian connecting to the lower extremities. The Lower Dan Tian, located in the lower abdomen and pelvis, is suspended at the upper pole between GV 4 and CV 7 and reaches deep into the pelvis forming a mass of bioelectric energy that supports the entire Qi apparatus. The Girdle Vessel, the only vessel that exists in the horizontal plane, further supports the Lower Dan Tian. As a critical contributor of Guardian Qi, the Girdle Vessel serves to strengthen the immune system. During movement, it is best experienced kinesthetically by visualizing the pelvis brimming full as a cup, with care taken to keep the pelvis level without tipping or spilling its contents during rest or movement. As the student applies this kinesthetic experience, the sacrum becomes more upright, lifting the front of the pelvis and the knees take a slight bend to facilitate the leveling of the pelvic brim.3
The Lower Dan Tian is rooted inferiorly through CV 1 (Huiyin). In martial arts texts, CV 1 (Huiyin) describes the meeting point of the 4 Yin vessels supporting and rooting the body: Yin Linking, Yin Heel, Thrusting (Chong Mai), and Conception Vessels. In addition, the 4 vessels of the lower extremity, Yin Heel, Yang Heel, Yin Linking, and Yang Linking Vessels, will come together inferiorly at the ankle to form a base, channeling the Qi stream through KI 1 (Yongquan), rooting deeply into the earth providing the steadfast stance sought by martial artists. Ancient texts describe Taijiquan Masters capable of profound rootedness, with descriptions of their feet creating furrows on paths as they walked and a capability of fracturing tile when walking across courtyards.
The upper half of the body, although physically functioning as a single entity, in Qigong theory, is composed of 2 interrelated energy centers, the Upper and Middle Dan Tians. The Middle Dan Tian, physically existing at the diaphragmatic level, is influenced significantly by the heart, which provides the emotional spirit (Xin). The Upper Dan Tian, anatomically located in the sulcus separating the 2 cerebral hemispheres, comprises the home of the Spirit (Shen) and provides the wisdom (Yi) to stabilize the emotional spirit (Xin) of the heart.
The position of the head and neck is described as remaining poised above the torso, as if suspended by a string at GV 20 (Baihui) at the top of the Thrusting Vessel (Chong Mai) at the level of the nasopharynx. The eyes, marking the energy axis of GV 24.5-GV 17 (Yintang-Qiangjian), are directed level with the horizon, and the tongue gently touches the roof of the mouth closing the Qi circuit of the Governing and Conception Vessel meridians.
The Small Circulation and Supporting Axes
Several energy axes in support of the structural unit comprise the torso and head. Most important of these are the Governing and Conception Vessels. The circulation of Qi in this combined vessel of energy, described in Qigong meditation as the Small Circulation, forms the underlying critical pathway of energy circulation. Great care is taken in the training of movement of Qi in this pathway, both by martial artists and Qigong meditation practitioners alike, because it is the primary method in strengthening the Qi in the Lower Dan Tian.
In Qigong and Taijiquan theory, the circulation of Qi in the Small Circulation has a total of 7 major pairs of corresponding Qi Gates through which the body’s Qi circulation can interact with the surrounding environs. These gates can be strengthened to formidable levels. At least 1 great martial arts master in modern times was able to demonstrate the power of these gates by pulling opponents close to his chest and abdomen, knocking them unconscious without any conspicuous or obvious movement of the chest or abdominal wall.4
Find more on the 14 Qi Gates, 8 main portals of Qi entry and exit explained at the following URL:
…From the Taijiquan martial arts viewpoint, these 4 minor gates therefore control the Qi manifestation in the body.5
The Yin posture illustrated by the “snake creeps down” diagram is an extreme defensive position as the martial artist avoids the attack by crouching beneath the flurry of strikes, but remains ready to instantly retaliate as the opponent expends the assault. One can observe the solidity of the root and the substance of the torso positioning as it gathers Yin from the Earth in preparation for the natural return to Wuji and an opportunity to move to a Yang stance.
The Yang posture represented by the “single whip” diagram illustrates the end point of a committed Yang attack. Again, the root is solid, but now there is a committed strike through the outstretched arm. In this powerful stance, the martial artist is encouraged to focus intention and force through the interosseous space of the thumb and forefinger (LI 4 Hegu), known as the Tiger’s Mouth. The nonattacking hand is held in the Lotus position, providing further stability by directing the Jingwell end meridian points to the Earth.
Postural rehabilitation remains a challenge for both therapist and patient in the recovery process following axial skeletal spinal injuries. The key to this progress is the adoption of proper postural alignment of both shoulder and pelvic girdles. Translating this kinesthetic experience in a meaningful way to patients requires creative application. Understanding Qi Meridian theory as applied in Taijiquan and Qigong provides an additional tool and enables the therapist to communicate and instruct the patient in correct postural stance using a unique learning environment.
ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS and REFERENCES are list on Dr. Frobb’s web site:
Dr Mark Frobb’s specialty is Pain Management with a special focus on Orthopedic Medicine. He is a certified acupuncturist with certification in Family Medicine and Osteopathic studies which he has incorporated in his pain management practice for 25 years.
Mark Frobb, MD, CCFP, CAFCI*
Surrey, BC, Canada V4A 3V2