In the Chinese tradition, the gentle arts of tai chi and qigong emphasize the lower abdomen as a major reservoir for life energy and health. The belly is considered the “dantian,” a key center for higher consciousness development.
In Chinese medicine, it is said that negative emotions get processed through the digestive organs the same way food does. Unresolved emotions linger in the organs as an unprocessed charge. When the body accumulates enough unprocessed “garbage,” it reaches its breaking point (different for everyone). As a result, the body and digestive health start to deteriorate.
Traditional Chinese medicine has been used to treat digestive problems for thousands of years. In fact, medical literature dating back to 3 a.d. details specific acupuncture points and herbal formulas for rumbling or gurgling in the intestines.
According to Chinese medical theory, most digestive disorders are due to disharmony in the spleen and stomach. A study published in the American Journal of Physiology—Gastrointestinal and Liver indicates that stimulation of certain acupuncture points inhibits esophageal sphincter relaxations by as much as 40 percent.
There are over 10,000 different natural substances catalogued in the Chinese herbal pharmacy. These substances, known as “herbs,” consist of thousands of plant species from all over the world. Mineral and animal materials are often used as well. As a general rule, Chinese herbs are usually taken in a formula, or combination, rather than singly.
The art of tai chi is thought to have been created when a monk named Chang-San-Feng back in the thirteenth century was walking through the forest one day. Returning from the Shaolin Temple, he came across a fight between two animals, a crane and a snake. After watching this encounter, he created a set of exercises now known as tai chi chuan, or “meditation in motion.”
Tai chi, sometimes referred to as an internal martial art, began as a practice for fighting or self-defense, usually without weapons. Over time, people began to use tai chi for health purposes as well. The benefits of tai chi are reported to be massaging the internal organs, aiding the exchange of gases in the lungs, helping the digestive system work better, increasing calmness and awareness, and improving balance.
One particular form, tai chi chuan, stimulates the central nervous system, lowers blood pressure, relieves stress, and gently tones muscles without strain. It also enhances digestion, elimination of wastes, and circulation of blood.