Dantians collect, store and distribute energy, just like a water reservoir. The energy of the dantians also extends from the surface of the body outward, to create fields of energy around the body, known as Wei Qi or defensive Qi. Wei Qi are protective fields of energy that help defend against pathogens. There are three Dantians, upper, middle and lower - though the lower is the most significant and is often called the ‘Sea of Qi’ or energy centre.
In Chinese translation Dan means red, vermillion or cinnabar and Tian means field so Dantian = cinnabar field or field of elixir.
In ancient China, cinnabar was the most important mineral for Taoist alchemy, since it contained the ideal balance of yin and yang energies. Although toxic, it was used in alchemical elixirs in order to sedate the heart and calm the patient’s shen (mind/spirit). The deep red colour derived from cinnabar was used for ink, and used by emperors.
In internal alchemy (like Qigong) we can think of cinnabar as a metaphor for an internal elixir; a place where energy is stored, distributed and transformed.
The Lower Dantian (Jing)
Known as the vessel of jing, the lower dantian is believed to be one of the three treasures, or essences, vital to a person’s health and the root of our vitality. It’s said to be related to the wisdom of our genetic code, reproduction, and the gifts passed down to us from our parents (ancestral Qi).
The jing is closely related to the kidney organ system and adrenal glands and is also related to the survival response and gives a person physical life force, impetus and the will to survive.
In addition to being the centre of physical vitality, it also helps your grounding and stability, it houses the intelligence and intuition of the physical body and subconscious mind. In western terms, the lower dantian is known as the enteric nervous system and has its own ‘brain’ that is able to send and receive impulses, record experiences, learn and respond to emotions.
The location of the lower dantian is in the lower belly somewhere behind and below the navel and encompasses the space of the 1st and 2nd chakras. Unlike chakras which are like gates along the spine, dantians are more widespread internal energy reservoirs.
How is Jing energy lost?
Jing energy can deplete through excessive stress and worry, overwork, burning the candle at both ends, ageing, fear or taking part in adrenaline related sports. It can be replenished with regular Qigong practice, resting and eating well (no processed foods).
In the Shibashi set, the first movement fills the lower tantian. We always encourage you in our classes to connect and breathe into the lower belly because disconnecting from the belly, means disconnecting from your body’s intelligence.