I just had the honor of spending time with one of the Abbots of my tradition- Dr. Thomas McCombs. He was teaching about the history of our Tao Tan Pai lineage but there was a particular aside that grabbed my attention. Being a doctor of Osteopathy, Dr. McCombs has extensive experience in both medicine and the Taoist esoteric arts.
He taught me about a particular network of veins called Batson’s Vertebral Plexus. I remember studying this in school but the implications did not strike me at the time. Batson’s plexus is a venous channel which directs blood flow from the pelvis/sacrum back up the spine and up to the brain.
“The plexus comprises the intracranial-cortical veins, dural sinuses, cavernous sinuses and ophthalmic veins and the vertebral venous plexuses which freely anastomose with the intracranial venous system.”
It is a blood pathway which rises up the spine and dumps into the brain- especially the pineal gland. What makes this particularly interesting is that this becomes the preferential pathway for blood’s return to the brain with abdominal pressure.
Where am I going with this? Taoist Alchemy of course.
If you look at the ancient traditions of Kundalini Yoga and Taoist Nei Gong, you see an emphasis on breathing to the low abdomen and the contraction of the pelvic floor. It is said that by increasing pressure in this region, we can draw our energy up the spine and into the spiritual centers of the brain…leading to self realization and enlightenment.
There are various techniques to do such a practice but the essential mechanism is the same, breathe low and draw the pelvic floor up- exactly what helps drive blood and energy from this region up the Batson’s Plexus and into the cerebro-spinal fluid of the brain. In fact, this is the same mechanism that is used in Cranio-Sacral Therapy which has reported miraculous results with patients over the years.
It appears that our ancient ancestors had figured this out and had developed yogic practices to enhance the vitality (and virility) of the system by using this pathway. Bringing blood and energy to the brain and pineal gland thus becomes an important part of the alchemical process.