Posted by: Mike Ferruggia | May 12, 2009

Dantien rotation in Tai Chi

In the practice of tai chi, many books speak of rotating the dantien, the sphere located in the center of the body, about three inches below the belly button, but none of the books go further really to explain. Most teachers suggest the best route is to practice tai chi correctly, focusing on the postures, and letting things like dan tien rotation happen by themselves.  I agree for the most part, but here are some thoughts. I’ve dialogued with wujimon who has written about it in his blog, so if you want to read what he wrote, check out the link to the right.

First, emphasis in tai chi is on slow, relaxed breathing. This breathing is what gets the dan tien going, rotating. So, if we are breathing steadily, the dan tien will rotate. Also, the movements of the form are an outer expression of what’s going on in the dan tien. The most obvous example of this is in Yang style Cloud Hands, as we step to the left three times in succession, turning the waist from corner to corner, we rotate an imaginary ball with our hands, over under, over under. This is what’s happening in the dan tien.

There also seems to be a relationship to the concept of a gyroscope and what’s going on with the dan tien. A gyroscope, because it has mas and is spinning, tries to maintain its orientation. I believe something similar is happening in tai chi. Also, there is the image of a car tire spinning at a high rate and a stone being thrown at it, The stone just bounces off and away. So, I am exploring whether the dan tien should rotate that fast, can it, and should we consciously try to effect it, or again, let it happen on its own. I don’t have an answer yet, so if anyone has some ideas, please comment.  I also believe the dantien can be rotated in any direction, and is also intimately tied to the expression of the silk reeling exercises, or chan ssu chin.

In seated meditation, I often do practice visualizing rotating the sphere, and then visualizing the microcosmic orbit, up the spine and down the front, steam up, condensation down, but this is a slow, flowing movement.

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Responses

  1. As an addendum, I wanted to mention a book by Waysun Liao called Tai Chi Classics in which he mentions the breath down to the dantien which will cause a turning of the dantien clockwise in the direction of the spine and down the front. After practicing this breathing for a while, he says a natural turbine like rotation will occur, so I think incorporating this in your practice is worth doing.


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