The chakras are polarized. Recall, when we discussed the chakras in , we learned that Dr. Motoyama believes the chakras to be cones, with their roots on the spine and their open ends on the front of the body. Along with this third dimension, comes a yin and yang orientation to each chakra. The open end of the cone, on the front of the body, is the yin part of the chakra. The point on the spine is the yang part. So far, all the orbits of energy we have looked at were along the yang lines of the chakras. This touches only part of the chakras. The microcosmic orbit touches the yin and yang parts of the chakras, and circles the whole upper body.

The term “microcosmic orbit” is a translation of the Daoist term for a full orbiting of energy through the front and back body. In Japan, it is called “shoshuten,” which means a “circling of light.” The microcosmic orbit is a way to gather, and channel, all the stray energies in the body, and raise them up from the muladhara to the ajna. An orbit is followed, beginning in the lower belly, circling down under the spine, up the back and over the crown of the head, ending at the ajna. This is the inhalation half of the orbit. On exhalation, the orbit is completed, as energy descends along the front of the body, back down to the lower belly. This activation of energy is a key preparation for many advanced Daoist practices. Through activating the microcosmic orbit, the reservoirs of the Governing Vessel and Conception meridians are refilled, which means this energy is available to all other meridians and organs. This is perhaps the best way to cultivate health and long life, while at the same time preparing the way to a deep spiritual understanding.

In the 1930s, Richard Wilhelm [1] described the benefit of the circling of light in his translation of the Secret of the Golden Flower, a Chinese Book of Life. This ancient text was transmitted orally for centuries before being written down in the eighth century. Wilhelm, a friend of Carl Jung’s, wrote:

If the life forces flow downward, that is, without let or hindrance into the outer world, the anima is victorious over the animus;  no “spirit body” or “Golden Flower” is developed, and, at death, the ego is lost. If the life forces are led through the  “backward-flowing” process, that is, conserved, and made to “rise” instead of allowed to dissipate, the animus has been  victorious, and the ego persists after death. It is then possessed of shen, the revealing spirit. A man who holds to the way of conservation all through life may reach the stage of the “Golden Flower,” which then frees the ego from the conflict of the opposites, and it again becomes part of Tao, the undivided, Great One.

It was Wilhelm’s work that turned Jung in the direction of alchemy, which the Daoists had been practicing for thousands of year. The circling of light is an alchemical or transforming process. When the light circles long enough, it crystallizes and the body is transformed. We attain the natural spirit-body, and this body is formed “beyond all heavens.” The sages claim in the Secret of the Golden Flower that the only tool we need to master is this concentration of thought on the circling light.

Circulating energy through the microcosmic orbit can be done at any time: prior to asana practice, just before meditation, during the long holds in the yin poses, or even at the beginning of Shavasana as we lay on our backs.

In Shavasana, bring your awareness to the second chakra, on the front of the body. This is the svadhisthana, which is about halfway between your navel and pubic bone. Feel, or imagine you feel, energy there. Exhale completely. As you inhale, follow a flow of energy down the midline of your body, under the pubic bone to the tailbone, and then upward, along the spine, the back of the neck, over the top of your head, and right to the ajna point between the eyebrows. Pause here at the top of the inhalation for two or three seconds. As you exhale, slowly feel the energy descend inside the face and throat. Continue to follow the midline of the body down to the sternum, to the navel, and right back to the svadhisthana again. Pause here for two or three seconds before beginning a new orbit.

As you orbit the body, touch each chakra on both the yin and yang sides (front and back) of the body; feel the energy at those points. Two or three minutes of orbiting the energy should be sufficient. When you have finished, release the effort, and let the breath be whatever it wants to be. Watch closely how you feel, without reacting to anything.

There is an orbit beyond the microcosmic called the “macrocosmic orbit.” It is not considered as important as the microcosmic loop. The macrocosmic orbit extends the journey of energy down, and back up, the legs as well.



An orbit is a closed, circular path that is repeated over and over. The journey along an orbit never ends. Our journey together down the Yin River is nearing completion but it too is not ending. While the time has come to leave you, we leave you to continue on with your own journey perhaps with new guides who will help take you closer to the universal ocean.


  1. — Called the Marco Polo of the inner world of China.