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Chi Nei Tsang: Taoist Abdominal Massage

The ancient Taoist practice of chi nei tsang (CNT) combines abdominal massage, acupressure, breathing techniques, meditation, and sound and color therapies to clear energy blockages in the body. 

Abdominal Massage | Chi Nei Tsang

The Gut-Brain Connection

Why focus on massaging the abdomen? The theory underlying CNT is that a clear and direct connection exists between your abdomen and your health.

Western medicine agrees that the brain and gastrointestinal (GI) system communicate directly with each other and calls that communication the gut-brain connection. In fact, Harvard Health Publications states that the brain and GI system are connected "so intimately that they should be viewed as one system, rather than two."

An underlying theory of CNT is health problems often show up first in the navel area. When that area is out of balance, the navel becomes tight or twisted with lines of stress that reach out and affect the other organs. Thus, massaging the area around the navel can address issues in other parts of your body.

According to Gilles Marin, founder and director of the Chi Nei Tsang Institute in Oakland, California, "The navel is the root of the fascia in the body where the meridian system circulates. Every pattern of tension in the body will be represented here in the form of a hard knot, a sensitive or painful sport, a pull or a swelling the tissues under the skin."*

CNT Intent

At the start of a CNT session, the practitioner visually examines and palpates (examines with touch) your navel. The position and shape of the navel indicate your tension patterns and energy blockages. Massage begins around the rim of the navel and gradually moves out to cover the entire abdomen.

The intent of CNT massage is to unravel the deep-seated patterns of tension and start a general detoxifying process throughout your body. That is, like many techniques, CNT does not try to fix anything but to create conditions that let the body heal itself.

Video: Chi Nei Tsang With Mantak Chia

Mantak Chia of Thailand introduced CNT to the West in the 1980s.

More information: books by Mantak Chia.


*Gilles Marin, "Restore and Rejuvenate with CNT," Massage Magazine, May/June 2001.

Jill Ruttenberg, CNT: Digesting Emotions for Better HealthMassage & Bodywork, August/September 2002.

Mouna Alia, "Look Me in the Navel and Tell Me Who I Am," The New Times, November 1996. 

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