What is Tan Tien?

G. Wiesen

Tan tien is a term used to refer to a number of different things related to Chinese philosophy and holistic healing practices. In general, it refers to different points within the human body that are focuses of internal power, similar to the chakras of Hindu meditative practices. The different tan tiens within a person are important for meditation, martial arts, and healing exercises involving deep breathing and a focus on bringing the body and the tan tiens within into alignment. Tan tien can refer to the entire system of thought, or to the specific points within that system.

Deep breathing is important during meditation.
Deep breathing is important during meditation.

Also known as dan tien or dantian, this system for understanding the human body identifies a number of different tan tien points within a person. While different systems can recognize a different number of points, there are typically at least three locations of energy within a person. In some systems, there are five points: the top point at the top of the head, upper point in the middle of the forehead, the middle point located just below the navel, the lower point found below that, and a bottom point found at the soles of the feet. Tan tien systems with only three points usually indicate an upper point behind the middle of the forehead, a center point at the heart, and a lower point just below the navel.

Tan tiens are important for healing exercises involving deep breathing.
Tan tiens are important for healing exercises involving deep breathing.

In any tan tien system, the middle or lower point, whichever one is located below the navel, is often seen as the most important, or at least one of the most important. This tan tien point is often considered to be about 1.5 inches (about 3.1 cm), or three finger widths, below the navel inside of a person. The middle or lower point roughly corresponds with the navel or solar plexus chakra considered of great importance to practitioners of Kundalini yoga and other tantric practices.

The middle or lower tan tien, often referred to as the hara or belly, is considered to be the center of gravity for a person and the focal point of his or her energy. In martial arts, it is often taught that the energy and power of a person comes from this point, and a student learns to focus this energy and release it. There are also meditative and healing practices that involve deep breathing, focusing on the hara and breathing using the diaphragm. This tan tien point is thought to produce great amounts of heat and energy when properly focused upon, and releasing this energy is believed to help heal a person of illnesses and enable a martial artist to break bricks or boards with his or her bare hands.

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