Chakras & Dantians
By Elizabeth Reninger
What is the relationship between the chakras of Hindu yoga systems and the dantians of Taoist yoga systems? Chakras and dantians share a similar function. Both are spaces within the subtle body where energy (prana or qi) gathers. Taoist yogis – practitioners of qigong and inner alchemy – use the lower, middle and upper dantians to gather, refine and circulate qi (also spelled “chi”). Hindu and Buddhist yogis tend to use the seven chakra system to accomplish the same.
Does it matter which map we use to access the terrain of our subtle bodies? I tend to think not, but others might disagree. Many have speculated about ways in which the two systems relate to each other. In the neidan practice of the “Microcosmic Orbit”, we circulate energy/awareness in a way that traverses the dantians as well as the chakras. There are acupuncture points along this pathway that can be used also to activate these centers.
The following description of the chakra system – by the Hindu Master Sai Maa – provides a glimpse of the importance of our subtle body to every aspect of our lives. To translate this into the language of Taoist Yoga, simply think “dantian” each time Sai Maa writes “chakra,” and think “meridian” each time she writes “nadi.”
“If our understanding is that consciousness is primary and matter is secondary, then consciousness, the Divine, is transforming itself into matter at every point in the universe. However, at certain points, this transformation is more intense, more active. On the planet we refer to such a point as a vortex. On the human body, they are called Chakras. The word Chakras literally means wheel, so a Chakra is where the Unmanifest spins itself into the manifest. There are many Chakras in the human body but we usually focus on the seven major ones, located along the spine. Each Chakra has its own qualities which influence our physical and emotional well-being. Past karmas relating to those qualities are also stored at the level of the Chakras. In an Enlightened body, the Chakras spin freely, allowing for an effortless process of transformation and the unimpeded flow of energy throughout the body. However, for most of us, there are blockages in these areas leading to a loss of Wholeness in the quality of life.
Surrounding the physical body are the layers of subtle bodies, often collectively referred to as the aura. These subtle bodies completely mirror the physical body, and everything we experience in the physical body is first experienced in the subtle body. By keeping the subtle bodies perfectly aligned with the physical body, we can maintain balance and harmony in life. The subtle bodies also act as a kind of protective shield to the physical body, so keeping them strong and healthy is important to our well-being.
Running through all of this is a network of energy channels, known in Ayurveda as nadis. According to Ayurveda, we have 72,000 nadis in our physiology. The nadis radiate out from the Chakras, acting as the lines of communication to all parts of our physiology. Keeping these channels clear is important to the free flow of energy and information throughout the physiology. There are three major nadis in the body. The Ida Nadi is on the left side of the spine. It is cooling, feminine and purifying. The Pingala Nadi runs along the right side of the spine. It is heating, masculine and cleansing in the way fire cleanses. Balance between these two nadis creates balance in our lives. The Sushumna Nadi is located in the center of the spine and is the channel through which the spiritual energy or Kundalini Shakti will eventually rise from the Root Chakra at the base of the spine to the Crown Chakra, opening the door to Freedom.”