Yong Quan & Walking Meditation
If you’ve practiced walking meditation, you may already be familiar with the practice of imagining that, with each step you take, you’re kissing the earth, through the sole of your foot. This is a beautiful practice, which works on many levels to awaken our connection to earth-energy, and to all of the beings who inhabit our shared planet. One way it works is to activate the first point on the Kidney meridian, called yong quan or “gushing spring,” which is located near the center of the sole of the foot. In relation to walking meditation practice, we could consider yong quan to be something like the “lips” of our foot-sole.
If we’re energetically sensitive, we might notice -- as we practice walking meditation -- a feeling of qi (life-force energy) bubbling up from the bottom of our feet, and then flowing upward through our legs and into the lower dantian, that foundational energy center in the lower abdomen. The Kidney meridian, in particular, from its starting-point at yong quan, continues upward along the inner edge of the leg, and then upward along the front of the abdomen and chest, near the center-line.
Yong Quan & The Five-Element System
In terms of the Five-Element System, the Kidney meridian belongs to the water element. The sole of the foot, being the lowest and so most Yin place on our body, is considered an aspect of the earth element. It makes perfect sense, then, that the place where the Kidney meridian emerges on the sole of the foot would be considered, metaphorically, to be a “spring” -- a place where water emerges from earth. The Chinese word “yong” translates as “gush” or “surge” or “well up.” The Chinese word “quan” translates as “a spring” (and also was the ancient term for “coin”). I’ve also heard this point named “Bubbling Spring” -- which I like quite a lot, though it may not be as precise a translation.
Location Of Kidney 1 - Yong Quan
According to Ellis, Wiseman & Boss -- the authors of Grasping The Wind -- the classical location (as recorded in an ancient text called Golden Mirror) of yong quan is: “In the depression in the heart of the sole, as felt when the leg is stretched, the foot bent and the toes curled.” In more modern lingo, the point is found in a slight depressions created, when the foot is in plantar flexion (i.e. slightly extended, so the arches activate), about 1/3 the distance from the toes to heel. In other words, it’s where you thumb will naturally fall, in the center of your foot near the base of the big toe.
Yong Quan In Qigong Practice
Yong quan is important not only in walking meditation, but also for most forms of qigong, as a place through which we connect deeply with earth-energy. We might imagine sending roots down through the soles of our feet, like a trees sending roots -- all the way to the center of the earth. As we connect in this way deeply with the earth, we feel both stable and energized.
Oftentimes this strongly grounded connection to earth-energy is balanced by, at the same time, imagining an opening and expansion through the crown of our head (at Bai Hui), up into the vast expanse of sky/heaven. As heaven-energy flows downward into our body, and earth-energy -- like sap being drawn through the roots of a tree -- is drawn upward into our body, our human body becomes the “meeting-place of heaven and earth.”
Yong Quan In Acupuncture
As an acupuncture point, yong quan is used to “open the sensory orifices” and to “calm the Spirit.” As such, it is called upon primarily to treat disorders that tend to manifest in the area of the head and neck (where most of the body’s “sensory orifices” are located), for instance: headache, blurry vision, dizziness, sore throat, or loss of voice. It’s also used to revive consciousness.
For most people, acupressure at yong quan feels incredibly relaxing and calming -- making it easy to understand why this point is used traditionally to “calm the Spirit,” by drawing excess energy in the head downward, into a grounded connection with the earth.
How To Apply Acupressure At Yong Quan (KD1)
To massage yong quan, sit in a straight-backed chair (or on the floor, though this tends to be more difficult), rest the ankle of your left leg over the knee or thigh of the right leg. Then, cradle your left foot in your right hand, while using your right thumb to massage -- with moderate to deep pressure -- yong quan. Continue for 2-3 minutes, and then switch sides.
It’s also quite nice to place the palm of your hand over the sole of your foot, in a way that connects Yong Quan with Lao Gong (PC8). This can support the activation of what’s known as the Kidney-Heart axis: an interface of water and fire energy, important in many qigong practices, e.g. Kan & Li forms.
Finally, it can be interesting to play with finding a connection between Yong Quan (KD1) -- in the soles of the feet -- and Hui Yin (CV1) -- in the center of the pelvic floor. Feel the energy of Yong Quan drawing up to nourish Hui Yin. From Hui Yin, play with the Microcosmic Orbit, which circulates qi through the Du and Ren meridians. Then, from Hui Yin, feel the energy flowing back down to Yong Quan in the soles of the feet. This kind of exercise sets the stage for the Macrocosmic Orbit -- an expansion of the Microcosmic Orbit to include the arms and legs.