The Microcosmic Orbit (xiaozhoutian) circulates energy through the Governor Vessel and the Conception Vessel channels plus 12 energy points, major organs, dantians, chakras, and the nervous system. Sexual energy, our primordial energy, also moves in this circuit and according to Taoism, it can be transformed into different forms, including for health and wellbeing.
Governing + Conception Meridians
The Governing Vessel (Du-mai) and the Conception Vessel (Ren-mai) are, respectively, the primary yang and yin channels of the body.
Both start in the pelvic cavity, with the Governing Vessel ascending the back and the Conception Vessel up the front.
The Governing Vessel emerges at the perineum, passes through the coccyx, up the spinal column to the top of the head and down to the face, ending inside of the upper gum and the palate.
The Conception Vessel also emerges at the perineum, goes forward across the pubic area and ascends the midline of the body to the throat and lower jaw, penetrating at the lips, ending in the tip of the tongue.
(note: Both of these meridians have different branches as well. This is a simplified overview.)
Once part of the eight Extra Meridians, the Governing Vessel and Conception Vessel have been included with the 12 Meridians since the treatise, Hua Shou’s Elaboration of the Fourteen Meridians (published 1341 CE).1
The energy circulates through numerous acupoints. Cyndi Dale notes that Ming-Men (Door of Life), opposite the navel, is an important energy point as “it holds the original energy (sometimes called genuine, ancestral, or prenatal) present at conception (some say birth) and serves as a gateway for our vital energy.”2
Why Do the Microcosmic Orbit?
Whether for fighting off an illness, answering a child’s question, painting, or making love, the energy that flows in the Microcosmic Orbit is available when we need it.
Mantak Chia, Healing Love Through the Tao3
In the womb, the energy pathway, fed by the umbilical cord, circulates from the perineum up the back and down the midline on the front of the body to the lower dantian. When the umbilical cord is cut at birth, this pathway is reorganized, separating into the Conception Vessel and the Governor Vessel channels.
The practice of the Microcosmic Orbit reconnects us to the energy flow like that experienced in the womb and creates an energetic circuit that links between two distinct meridians in an adult. It seals in the energy to revitalize mind body and spirit.
Mantak Chia, a teacher of Inner Alchemy, believes that profound shifts are possible when we maintain a Microcosmic Orbit practice. In his book, Healing Love Through the Tao, he writes that “the benefits of the Microcosmic Orbit extend beyond facilitating the flow of sexual energy. They also include the prevention of aging and the healing of many illnesses, from high blood pressure, insomnia, and headaches to arthritis.”
The benefits come from increasing, conserving, and recycling life force energy and storing it in the energy centre in the navel and refilling the reservoirs of the Conception Vessel and Governing Vessel channels.
Mastering the Microcosmic Orbit is also the foundation for more advanced Taoist practices, including techniques for storing chi in vital organs.
How to Do the Microcosmic Orbit?
Here we share three ways to approach the Microcosmic Orbit.
① Basic Way to do the Microcosmic Orbit
The most basic way to practice the Microcosmic Orbit is to sit quietly and move your awareness up the spine and down the front, with your tongue touching the palate to close the circuit. Simply allow your energy to flow.
You may experience some heat or tingling.
The direction of the energy flow reflects two different cycles, the Fire Cycle and the Water Cycle. Both are important, with specific purposes for different stages in life.
The Fire cycle, for greater awareness and containment/protection of the energy field, is breathing up the spine and down the front while the opposite direction (moving the energy up the front and down the spine) is the Water Cycle which relaxes spinal nerves and opens psychic abilities.4
You can try the audio downloads here on Universal Healing Tao.
② Two Breaths to One Breath5
- Inhale and bring the breath to the lower dantian, about 1 1/2 inches below the navel. Sink the energy into this area which is an energetic depository.
- Exhale and guide the chi from the dantian to the acupoint Weilu located at the tailbone.
- Inhale again. This time guide the chi up to the acupoint Shangbei at the top of the shoulders.
- Exhale and guide the chi over the head and down to the nostrils.
Gently breathe from the abdomen and practice this method until any energetic blockages are dissipated before using the one-breath method. You may experience heat as the energy works through blockages.
The one-breath method : Exhale and guide the chi from the dantian to the perineum and up the Conception Vessel on the front to the perineum again and on the inhale, bring the chi up the spine for the entire length of the Governing Vessel.
③ Using Light
- Fill the lower dantian with golden-white light and form the light into a sphere which gets charged with each inhale. Do for 10 inhalations.
- On an exhale, send the sphere of light to the first acupoint (Hui Yin) in the perineum and pelvic floor.
- Draw the sphere to the bottom of the spinal column on the next inhale and in one inhale, bring that energy all the way to the brain centre.
- On the next exhale, allow the energy flow down the mid-line of the body and back into the lower Dantian.
1 The Web That Has No Weaver: Understanding Chinese Medicine. Ted J. Kaptchuk. McGraw-Hill Books. 2000, p. 133 note 5.
2 Llewellyn’s Complete Book of Chakras by Cyndi Dale. Llewellyn Publications. 2016, p564.
3 Healing Love Through Tao by Mantak Chia.
4 Microcosmic Orbit, Circulation of the Light by Minka de Vos. Feminine Treasures.(extracted November 19 2016)
5 Tai Chi Microcosmic Orbit Energy Circulation: A Guide for Yogis by Neil Alexander on Elephant Journal. March 27, 2013. Retrieved November 20 2016.