Progress in Tai Chi can be enriched with a basic knowledge of the Eight Extraordinary Vessels and acupuncture.




Acupuncture Smackyoupuncture!  I barely got my head wrapped around the Chinese words and foreign concepts and now you are telling me that there are a series of routes that run through my body that I didn’t know about AND I need to know this for tai chi??

Daunting isn’t it?  Still drives me nuts.  But not because I am overwhelmed (anymore) but because the more I progress and have novel feelings inside, I want to know what is going on. We are going to spend a few minutes on the relationship between acupuncture and tai chi.  This text will serve as an introduction to some of you or offer robust search criteria if you are so inclined.

The Eight Extraordinary Vessels (Qi Jing Ba Mai)

So imagine you grew up living in New York City.  Driving, riding your bicycle, taxis, the whole lot.  Then one day someone says, “Have you ever taken the subway?”  And you say, “What’s a subway?”  You never heard of this subway thing and it sounds nice and all, but you have your bicycle and enjoy a good walk.  However, now you know about this subway thing and are curious.  You try it once and are now second guessing the taxi system.  You start to see its role in NYC and hope to benefit from it when you know how to use it to get somewhere.  You have even heard of people who now only use the subway.  Scary.

Welcome to the Eight Extraordinary Vessels

Most accept that chi, an energy, resides and moves throughout the body.  The eight extraordinary vessels are the canals that connect the meridians which emanate from our organs.   Let’s beat this transportation metaphor completely into the ground.  The organs are cities which each have a purpose.  The meridians are the highways and the vessels are intersections of meridians and places to rest and refuel.

extraordinary vesselsWhat are the Eight Extraordinary Vessels?

The vessels distribute energy throughout the body and influence metabolic activity.

  • 2 Motility Vessels: Yin and Yang (Qiao Mai): facilitate motion up the legs and balance of the right and left sides.
  • Conception Vessel (Ren Mai): is the source of energy and influences the endocrine and respiratory system.  Flows up the center of the body.
  • Governing Vessel (Du Mai): influences the central nervous system.  Flows up the spinal column into the brain.
  • Belt Vessel (Dai Mai): runs around the center. Influences flow through vertical meridians by constricting or loosening.
  • Penetrating Vessel (Chong Mai): flows throughout the body and returns chi to the source. Influences other systems for this reason.
  • 2 Linking Vessels: Yin and Yang (Wei Mai): preserves yin and yang energy and distributes internal and external chi.

How does this apply to Acupuncture?extraordinary vessels

Acupuncture uses needles to detect and correct imbalances of energy flow along the meridians.  If there is too much or an undesired amount of an energy, it is released.  If there is too little, acupuncture builds it up.

How does this apply to Tai Chi?

  • Nourishing the organs: the movements of taichi are designed to drive energy to and between the organs.
  • Purpose of relaxing: Your ability to relax correlates with increased flow.
  • Awareness of injury/blockage:  Injuries and tight muscles (knots) are messages from your system that blood and energy are not traveling right.  In any other sport you say: “Aw d@%m I hurt my shoulder again!”  In tai chi you say: “Thank you for showing me that old injury, now I can work to release it.”

Does this blow your mind?  It is obviously more complex than what is presented here.  But as a beginner, can you see how these movements account for that feeling of well-being?  This is how so many different ailments have improved from tai chi.  For internally directed practitioners, further study of the eight vessels reveals the roadmap needed to balance your energy and move it around.

Here is more reading:

book on eight extraordinary vessels

An Exposition on the Eight Extraordinary Vessels: Acupuncture, Alchemy, and Herbal Medicine


book on eight extraordinary vessels 2Extraordinary Vessels