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Bone, Tendon, Muscle

Here are five interesting things to know when trying to enhance the function of your musculoskeletal tissues. These Taoist cultivation methods aren’t found anywhere in our systems of medicine and rehabilitation. Yet the add fundamental value to our understanding.

Lightly connect teeth to help Bone

As our longevity increases strengthening bones is becoming more important in our culture. Osteoporosis means thinning bones and accompanies normal aging. It is a leading cause of disability due to fractures of the spine and hip. Use of certain medications and hormonal changes in the first decade after menopause accelerate bone loss.

In Chinese meditative healing traditions, when you lightly touch your teeth together you feel as though your bones light up around their marrow-filled cores. This is easiest to feel in the long bones of your arms at first. Continued practice of lightly resting the teeth together when practicing Meditative-Exercises causes the bones to feel heavier and denser. This is well-known in East Asian cultures. In kung fu movies the master’s steps crater the earth under his feet and his strikes shatters the bones of his opponents. You can feel something like this when you study the internal martial arts. The senior students and especially the teacher can make their bones feel heavy and it is extremely uncomfortable to make contact with them in training. Their arms feel like metal fence posts. Over many years I have come to believe that there is great value to the health of our bones in these practices. Recurrent fractures have stopped in several patients with thinning bones who took up the exercise.

The standing meditation is the most effective. Work through your skeleton until you reach the more difficult bones like those of the spine and clavicles.

You will notice after a few weeks that your teeth do not rest comfortably lightly touching for very long. Practice of taiji or standing meditation seems to cause your mouth to fly open at intervals. This comes from tightness in your spine. Whenever you change to certain postures or the tension naturally accumulates around the stiff spinal areas it yanks your head back, the chin rises and mouth flops open. You need the Meditative-Exercise protocols to overcome this in a timely manner.

Lightly touch the tongue to the palate to help muscle

The Taoist and taiji quan classics advise to touch the tip of the tongue lightly to the ridgeline behind the upper front teeth when practicing. This is to cultivate pure yang qi, or cosmic energy and allow it to recirculate within a body circuit of channels known as the microcosmic orbit. Pure yang qi can be described as a species of energy conferring lightness of being. Pure Yang Qi is found within the body and without. It is close to the idea of an animating life principle. Within our energetic anatomy it is possible to identify how it enters the body and ways to cultivate and express it. The most well-known involves a practice of re-circulating it in the midline back and front channels of the trunk.

Another important concept of touching tongue to palate involves the effect it has on the muscular system as a whole. In traditional Chinese medicine and the 5-element theory the muscles are controlled by the earth element whose organs are the spleen and stomach. In the head the earth element includes the jaws. The bones and teeth fall within the water element with kidney and bladder. This is a way to access your muscular system as a whole.

The kind of muscular activation accrued by Meditative-Exercise and especially the standing meditation is unknown in the West. It has the peculiar ability to train the postural muscles that bind our skeleton together- closer to the ligaments as opposed to the prime movers we think of as generating big movements. They are anti-gravity mechanisms and have the kind of strength to hold us upright all day. They are also necessary to maintain the kind of corrections made by osteopathic physicians, chiropractors and acupuncturists. When well-trained the body becomes a powerful spring acting from its’ true center.

Again, one will recognize that the tongue will not be able to continuously touch the palate. In fact, almost everyone without training in these matters will experience the head yanked back with the mouth wanting to gape open as your sensitivity improves. And again, you must clear your spine to avoid this reaction which negates the benefits of practice.

Point the fingers to help tendons

The fingers convey beneficial effects to the tendons as a whole when held in a straightened position. This is part of the how the mudras work. Tendons in this sense is synonymous with how fascia is spoken of today. Imbalance in myofascial or tendonous tension is the origin of much chronic pain that confuses modern medicine. Managing your fascial tension through posture holding combined with various mudras, or hand gestures is fundamental to Meditative-Exercise. This is much more effective than massage and much less expensive than chiropractors!

The easiest way to experience this is to assume the wuji or void posture. This is the simplest standing meditation in which we basically stand straight with hands hanging down. Point the fingers to the center of the earth. Better yet, touch the middle finger pads to the outer thighs. This is along the gall bladder meridian. Liver and gall bladder fall under the wood element and control the tendons. Various imbalances will manifest. Relax and continue.

In Chinese cultivation traditions this concept is called the 5 Needles. Needles refer to terminal aspects of the body where we can activate entire classes of tissues.

1. The teeth are the needles of the bone tissue

2. The tongue is the needle of the muscle tissue

3. The fingers are the needles of the tendonous (fascia or connective) tissue

4. The Bai Hui acupuncture point at the top of the head, is the needle of the blood vessels

5. The Hui Yin acupuncture point at the center of the pelvic floor, is the spiritual gate which must remain closed for cultivation

Although this post is about our musculoskeletal system holding the head erect so as to open the Bai Hui and normalize the vasculature and closing the Hui Yin at the pelvic floor is certainly no less important (if not more) to our health than the other needles.

The principle is to configure the terminal extremities of the body and hold them still including the head, which allows the center to shift or adjust itself.

Wherever you find your teeth and tongue suddenly lose contact, and wherever you lose tension in your fingers your head will also lose its essential erectness. In other words, as you move imbalance will constantly manifest. We are talking about maintaining contact with the 5 Needles in a relaxed manner.

Can you do taiji, the Movement as Medicine routines or any yoga with relaxation maintaining relaxed contact with the 5 Needles? It is futile and counterproductive to use force. The only way to proceed is to slow down. Better yet, assume a few predetermined postures and observe how your body and mind react.

Do not attempt to always maintain your dental occlusion or tongue against the palate. That would make as little sense as trying to keep your fingers straight all the time! This is a function of your cultivation practice. When all the elements come together including your full attention, the full effect on our bones, muscles and tendons.

Beginners sometimes experience shaking with postural meditation. Shaking can be a manifestation of healing. The 5 Needles is a way of centralizing the force and motion to focus the change into the dantien or body center. The opposite approach would be to disconnect from the 5 Needles and allow for spontaneous motion of the periphery away from the body center. This is the qigong of encouraging spontaneous motion. Both moving the center and moving from the center approaches are completely natural. Yet it is important to control spontaneous motion in qigong and Meditative-Exercise. As Master Sam Tam says, “you must control your qi, and not the other way around”.


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