Tiger's Mouth - Hu Kou

If you’re a practitioner of Tai Chi, Kung Fu or another martial art, you’re perhaps already familiar with the Tiger’s Mouth: the arc formed by the thumb and first finger of the hand. The Tiger’s Mouth – whose Chinese name is Hu Kou – includes the acupuncture point He Gu (Large Intestine 4), which is located on the fleshy mound between the thumb and first finger. I’ve previously written about He Gu as an Acupressure Treasure.

If you extend your hand, with the area between the thumb and first finger stretched open, you can see how it gets its name – with the slightly-curved space being reminiscent of the mouth of a tiger, in full growl. Among its martial arts applications is the forceful Tiger’s Mouth strike -- applied to the neck/throat of ones opponent.

But you don’t have to be a martial artist per se to benefit from Tiger’s Mouth technology. Practitioners of qigong and yoga asana can also experiment with opening, activating and anchoring the arc between the thumb and first finger – both in standing poses/movements, as well as those in which the body’s weight is borne by the hands themselves (as in partial or complete inversions).

In my experience, the effect of gently anchoring the Tiger’s Mouth area is to draw and consolidate the qi (chi) more clearly into the central channel: the Chong Mai / Sushumna Nadi. In other words, activating the Tiger’s Mouth tends to energize and “center” the bodymind.

Experimenting With Tiger's Mouth

To explore this a bit on your own, bring the palms of your hands together, into “prayer position.” Keeping the palms in gentle contact with one another, allow the five fingers to separate slightly. Then allow the first fingers and thumbs, except for their tips, to float away from each other – so there’s just a little bit of space between the two thumbs, and between the two first fingers, with the tips still touching.

Notice how this feels.

Now, to activate the Tiger’s Mouth, press the two thumbs and two first fingers firmly together, particularly at their base (where they join the main part of the hand). Notice how this feels. Toggle back and forth between relaxing the contact and activating it, to get a sense of what happens, at a feeling level, when the Tiger opens its mouth and “roars.”

To continue the exploration, come onto your hands and knees, on the floor – with your hands placed directly under your shoulders, and the fingers open. Now, in the same way that you activated the Tiger’s Mouth with your hands in prayer position, do it again, but this time with each hand in contact with the floor. Stretch open the area between the thumb and first finger on each hand, and then gently press the roots and entire length of the thumb and finger into the floor. As you anchor the thumb/finger in this way, feel also that they are lengthening – as though the Tiger were opening his/her mouth just a little wider.

Particularly if you’re in the habit of collapsing the weight onto the outer (i.e. little-finger) edge of your hand, activating the Tiger’s mouth will likely have a sweetly consolidating effect, which will flow from the hands up into the shoulders and then into the core – the center-line -- of the torso.

Anyway, it’s something for you to play with, if so inspired …