Our bodies are comprised of various channels that transport energy. These energy systems are known as body meridians and are the same pathways used in acupuncture. Meridian yoga poses use simple and basic asanas to stimulate and balance the body’s organs and internal systems.
What are Body Meridians?
The body meridians are energy channels that transport energy and life throughout our entire bodies, which affect how we feel, think, and our overall health. These energy channels have many different names including Qi, prana, life force, and healing energy. When our meridian pathways are blocked we will experience a variety of imbalances that affect our physical, mental, and emotional health. Energy blocks in our bodies caused by stress, injuries, trauma, unhealthy diets, and lack of exercise can be corrected by using the body meridians. When the meridian pathways are open and clear, our prana will flow through our bodies to give us positive energy and balance.
Our bodies have fourteen main meridians: twelve of these are paired and two are single meridians. Paired meridians are defined as either Yin (energy flowing up the body) or Yang (energy flowing down the body). Yin and yang represent duality and opposites coming together as one. The meridians are connected via a specific order:
- Lungs (yin) – Large Intestine (yang) to
- Stomach (yang) – Spleen (yin) to
- Heart (yin) – Small Intestine (yang) to
- Bladder (yang) – Kidneys (yin) to
- Pericardium (yin) – Triple Heater (yang) to
- Gall Bladder (yang) – Liver (yin)
- Conception Vessel (single meridian)
- Governing Vessel (single meridian)
Each paired body meridian is related to an element, except the pericardium-triple heater. The five elements of the meridian system are fire, earth, metal, water, and wood. Each element represents certain characteristics; as we grow and progress in our lives, we go through different phases that correspond to different elements:
- Water – represents winter and those who are enthusiastic and have a fresh spirit.
- Wood – represents spring and characteristics of strength, courage, and self-assurance.
- Fire – represents summer and people who act with empathy and exuberance.
- Earth – represents the late, summer harvest and those who are reliable, logical and patient.
- Metal – represents autumn and people who are serious and focused on high achievements and perfection.
Twelve Paired Meridians
- Lungs-large intestine (metal): Known as the starting point for the meridian circuit, the lung meridian runs down the outside of the arm and connects to the large intestine meridian that goes from the back of the arm to the side of the neck.
- Stomach-spleen (earth): The large intestine meridian connects to the stomach meridian, which goes from the face to the neck, down the front of the body, and ends at the foot. It connects to the spleen meridian, which goes up the front of the inner thigh and follows the front of the body along the outside of the stomach meridian.
- Heart-small intestine (fire): The spleen meridian connects to the heart meridian at the shoulder and runs down the front of the arm, connecting to the small intestine meridian at the fingers. From here, the small intestine meridian goes to the inside of the arm and up the side of the neck.
- Bladder-kidneys (water): The small intestine meridian joins the bladder meridian, which goes down the back of the neck, the back, and the legs. It joins the kidney meridian at the feet and runs up the inner thigh, following the front body.
- Pericardium-triple heater (no element association): The kidney meridian joins the pericardium meridian which goes down the center of the front of the arm. The triple heater meridian moves from the center of the back of the arm and runs up the side of the neck and the head.
- Gall bladder-liver (wood): The triple heater meridian joins the gallbladder meridian that runs down the side of the neck, and down the front of the shoulder, body, and leg. From here it connects to the liver meridian which going up the center of the inner thigh and the side body. Eventually, the meridian circuit completes itself by joining the lung meridian.
- Governing vessel: Located at the center of the back, the governing vessel meridian follows the spinal cord up the from the tailbone across the top of the head and ending inside the mouth.
- Conception vessel: The exact opposite of the governing vessel meridian, the conception vessel meridian runs up the front of the body from the pubic area to the mouth.
Symptoms of Blocked Meridians
Our life force energy, or Qi, flows continuously from one meridian to another. You may have even heard reference to your meridian clocks. Traditional Chinese Medicine states that each meridian has a peak time where it is strongest and this flow continues every 24 hours. Each meridian will provide symptoms of blockages, indicating that the energy flow to this area needs to increase.
- Lung meridian: The lungs manage respiration and intake and a blocked lung meridian may cause a bacterial or viral infection like colds or the flu. Symptoms include coughing, congestive problems, and issues with your nose and/or sense of smell.
- Large intestine meridian: Responsible for expelling our bodies of waste, abdominal pain can be a sign of a blocked large intestine meridian: cramping, diarrhea, and constipation.
- Stomach meridian: The stomach digests our food and uses energy to move food from the spleen to the intestines. Any digestive problems can be associated with a blocked stomach meridian.
- Spleen meridian: The spleen regulates digestion and controls blood flow, assisting in distributing nutrients from our food. A blocked spleen meridian can cause fatigue, bloating, stomach pain, or a lack of appetite.
- Heart meridian: Our heart is responsible for pumping blood throughout our body, therefore, a blocked heart meridian will manifest in many different ways. These may include fatigue, insomnia, dizziness, shortness of breath, and irritability.
- Small intestine meridian: The small intestine takes nutrients from our food to distribute to the body, before passing food to the large intestine. A blockage here is indicated by poor digestion, poor circulation, acne, stiff shoulders, or constantly feeling cold.
- Bladder meridian: The bladder removes all liquid waste from our bodies. Signs of a blocked bladder meridian include urinary infections, back pains, and headaches.
- Kidney meridian: The kidneys control our blood and production of bone marrow. A meridian blockage here reveals itself as backaches, urinary issues, or and asthma.
- Pericardium meridian: The pericardium is a muscular, fluid-filled sac that surrounds and protects the heart. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the pericardium is known as the King’s Bodyguard, with the king being our heart. A block pericardium meridian can manifest as a wide range of symptoms including heart, chest, and stomach disorders.
- Triple heater meridian: Different than other body meridians, the Triple Heater is actually our metabolic system that coordinates and controls the body’s heat and moisture balance. Made up of the upper, middle, and lower warmers, the triple heater meridian covers the entire body. A blocked triple heater meridian can have a range of symptoms including fatigue, breathing problems, and urinary disorders.
Meridian Yoga to Clear Blocked Meridians
Meridian blockages come in many forms and impact our physical, mental, and emotional health. Meridian yoga blends the ancient knowledge of our energy systems, stemming from Traditional Chinese Medicine, with modern techniques of yoga to stimulate the meridian pathways, releasing any blockages.
Meridian yoga poses target the various body meridians. This diagram from Daniel Orlanksy of Yoga Energy Flow is a great representation of the poses included in meridian yoga and how each one targets the various body meridians.
While different from meridian yoga, yin yoga is another popular yoga practice that targets the body meridians and focuses on stimulating our Qi. Yin yoga works the connective tissues in the body with the goal of balancing internal organs and removing blocks in body meridians. Yin yoga focuses on holding certain poses for about five minutes at a time, lengthening and strengthening the connective tissue.
- Supta Baddha Konasana – Reclining Butterfly Pose
- Salamba Bhujangasana – Sphinx Pose
- Bhujangasana Variation – Seal Pose
- Balasana – Child’s Pose
- Eka Pada Rajakapotasana – Sleeping Swan Pse
- Sucirandhrasana – Eye-of-the-Needle Pose
- Upavistha Konasana Variation – Dragonfly Pose
- Supta Matsyendrasana – Supine Spinal Twist Pose
- Savasana – Corpse Pose
Other methods to clear meridian blockages include:
- PNF/Resistance stretching to elongate muscles and increase range of motion
- Shiatsu and Thai massage techniques to increase circulation
- Acupuncture to follow the meridians through pressure points
- Pranayama breathing exercises to activate the meridian systems
- Chi Kung sequences to open the energy channels of the body.