Standing this way is designed to create physical heat by bending the knees, which creates heat in the lower torso, said to be the receptacle of the lower tan-tien. The lower tan-tien literally means "elixir field," and is a term derived from the ancient Taoist alchemical experiments that resulted in gunpowder, liquid mercury, and a variety of metal alloys.
Their original goal in such research was to create potions and pills that could be used to create precious metals and bring physical immortality. Some potions ended up causing madness (one of the by-products of lead or mercury poisoning) and eventual death in many of the alchemists, as well as at least one Chinese Emperor (which led to the first major persecution of Taoists in China, but that is another story).
During their meditative practices, these Taoists also experienced an altered state of consciousness accompanied by sensations of warmth and movement in one or all of three tan-tien regions of the body: the upper, spiritual, centre behind and between the eyes, which coincides with the "extra" acupuncture point Yintang; the middle, emotional, centre in the centre of the sternum, which coincides with the point Conceptor Vessel #17; and the lower, physical, centre inside the torso, just above the pelvic basin, which corresponds with the point Thrusting Vessel #2.
The latter region is also commonly identified with Qihai (Conceptor Vessel #6), or "Sea of Qi," which is about three fingers width below the navel. This, of the three, is the most important as it also holds the internal organs and is the hub of many energy rivers. The lower tan-tien also said to be the root of the tree of life. And, if you don't take care of the roots, your tree is liable to be rotten inside, no matter how healthy it looks on the outside.
Heating the lower tan-tien by working the leg muscles causes chemical changes to happen in the body—like lighting a fire under a cauldron of liquids to cause steam to rise. You can think of it as a process similar to distilling liquids. The various liquids are blended in a pot and boiled to produce steam which condenses after rising to produce a purer substance, which falls back down to be boiled again and further refined before being consumed, stored, or used immediately as fuel.
As an analogy to your personal practice, try to feel the circulation from the tan-tien through the arms and in and out of the fingers or palms while doing this qigong. I agree with those who say that what we have done in our modern life is forgot how to listen to our bodies, the processes which should be natural. This is not the same as being obsessed with our inner workings as is common in Western society, where self-absorbtion and obsession are so commonplace as to be seen as the norm, e.g., the Me generation.
Practising Standing While Holding the Eight Mother Palms can, in the long run, make you a better person and/or a better martial artist. To see long-term benefits, you need to practise daily from 15—30 minutes at a time for at least one year before moving on to one of the moving methods of qigong. The methods that Erle Montaigue recommends are safe, simple, and effective—and magical in the best sense of that word—if you work at them with any regularity and diligence.
Details of Practice
• Stepping into a shoulder-width Horse Stance with the left foot, assume a double-weighted stance, with your feet parallel to one another;
• the legs should be bent with the knees aligned over the toes, which are lightly contracted, as if you were starting to pick a pencil off the floor with them;
• the fingers are stretched apart with a slight tension, so that the palms are concave and the finger tips are slightly clawed;
• the wrists, with the exception of two postures, are normally held straight in relation to the fingertips and forearms;
• the tongue is pressed lightly onto the upper palate, with the chin pulled slightly in to help lift the top of the back of the head;
• the shoulders are rounded and the elbows hang;
• the spine, from crown to coccyx, has an elongated feel and a slight "C" shape.
Hold each palm for one to five minutes. (You can rest for up to a minute between palms by keeping the hands in the lower position before moving onto the next when doing longer amounts of each consecutively.) Inhale and imagine the Qi coming in through the fingertips and descending to the lower tan-tien. Exhale and imagine it being expelled from the abdominal area up and out the fingertips while doing so. With time you will find that your breathing slows somewhat and eventually each breath will take about ten seconds each. However, never try to force your breathing to be slower than normal; just relax and be patient.
Symbolism of Each Palm: While holding each shape, it is wise to have a mental image to correspond with each posture. It is often said in the traditional arts that the intention leads the Qi, and the Qi leads the physical effort. At least for the first few months that you practise, I would recommend repeating the following description in quotations to yourself as you begin holding each of the eight palms.
Heaven Palm "This heals the head," including the mind and spirit, as well as the physical structure.
Earth Palm "This heals the left side of the torso," including the organs on that side of the body, the skin, bones, and muscles tissues.
Fire Palm "This heals the eyes," (considered the windows of the Soul in both
Western and Eastern spirituality).
Thunder Palm "This heals the middle of the torso," (particularly, but not exclusively, the digestive system).
Wind Palm "This heals the lower spine and ming-men."
Water Palm "This heals the kidneys." It is important to remember that in Tra ditional Chinese Medicine, the kidneys are thought to regulate and be linked to sexual functioning as well as the strength of the legs.
Mountain Palm "This heals the neck and upper part of the spine."
Cloud Palm "This heals the right side of the torso," including the organs on that side of the body, the skin, bones, and muscle tissues.
Was this article helpful?