18 Feb When Energy Gets Trapped In The Body: Qi & The Meridian System
Your body is a fluid, dynamic structure of bones, blood vessels, tissues, and other organic matter. Just think for a minute about what an incredible experience it is to live within your body. You’re made up of genes coded with clues about your ancestors, as well as millions of microscopic bacteria that influence everything from your mood to how well last night’s pizza digested.
But our miraculous bodies also contain a more subtle system. You can’t see, touch, or feel it, though it is alive, active, and has major implications for physical and emotional health: the energy meridians, or channels.
Energy meridians are the subtle undercurrents of every function, mechanism, and structure within your body. If you’re struggling with low energy, repeated illness, or just feel heavy or stiff, check in with your meridians. There may be some stagnant energy trapped somewhere in your body that needs release.
But wait––can energy actually get stuck in the body, like a blood clot in a vein? While it’s more subtle than that and the consequences less grave, energy blockages can manifest into more serious conditions if not treated.
To start, we’ll look at what energy meridians are and the main channels throughout the body. Then we’ll get into what causes blockages and what you can do about them.
What Are Energy Meridians?
You might imagine meridians like a network of highways appearing on the surface of the skin. It’s a helpful way to envision them to recognize their anatomical pathways. But they are subtle channels occurring deep within the body; they don’t have a physical structure, and as you’ve noticed, they don’t reside on the surface of your skin either!
So, how do you know they’re there? Some scientific studies have discovered evidence that these meridians exist (1). And much like Western doctors work with our anatomy and physiology, for thousands of years, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) doctors have been working with these energy pathways.
According to TCM, the meridians are a process rather than a structure. They channel the distribution of energy throughout the body, much like veins and arteries support the flow of blood. Any disruption to a meridian can block the flow of energy and result in ill health.
If you’ve ever had acupuncture, you might have noticed that needles are inserted in a linear manner. They meet specific energy points along a meridian, depending on the condition you’re looking to treat. Thai massage also works with the energy meridians by compressing body tissues along invisible lines.
To better know what the meridians are and how they function, we need to understand the body’s vital energy.
What Is Qi?
Qi (chee) is our life force energy that flows through the body’s meridians. It’s one of the three treasures in TCM, along with jing and shen. While qi is the source of all movement in the body, all three energies are essential to sustaining life. Jing is our essence, the basis of our growth and development. Shen translates to spirit or mind, and it’s responsible for our consciousness, cognition and emotion.
You’ve probably heard of qi before. Its yogic counterpart in Ayurvedic medicine is prana, the breath and source of all life. Qi is not like the energy we get from drinking coffee or eating food or getting enough sleep. Rather, it is the universal vital force that comprises, energizes, and nourishes all material and nonmaterial forms. According to TCM, life is simply a gathering of qi. This vital energy is never created or destroyed; it only changes form.
By nature, qi is constantly transforming to maintain a balance between the relative opposites of yin and yang. Yang is like an energetic vibration and yin is an object’s material substance. As qi shifts between yin and yang, it goes through five stages of transformation called wu xing. But sometimes, qi is disrupted.
Let’s break down the energy meridians first. Then we’ll take a look at what factors disrupt qi and cause blockages in the meridians, and how we can restore balance.
The Energy Meridians
Twelve meridians traverse the human body corresponding to the masculine and feminine sides (masculine on the right, our sun side; feminine on the left, our moon side). Ten of them relate to our visceral organs, and two relate to functions. Each meridian has a yin and yang pair. The yin meridians are located along the inside or medial side of the limbs, while the yang meridians are located along the lateral, or outside of the body. They function along the torso, head, arms, and legs.
The Twelve Primary Meridians
Lung Large Intestine
Heart Small Intestine
Pericardium Triple Warmer (Sao Jiao)
There are also two centerline meridians, the main channels of yin and yang energies. The conception vessel runs from the kidneys up the front midline of the body, ending at the mouth where it meets the governing vessel. This is where all yang channels converge. The duality of these two meridians joins at the head and perineum, forming a complete circle of energy.
Keep in mind, the meridians aren’t in the organs themselves. Rather, they’re channels through which different parts of the body communicate. See the image below:
These meridians have a timetable called the Horary Clock, which can help us detect and locate a block or imbalance. Over a 24 hour period, energy rises and falls throughout the body, and reaches a 2-hour peak in each meridian. If at a particular time during the day your energy lapses or you get headaches, you may have an issue with that particular meridian.
What Causes Energy To Become Blocked?
One of the primary things we seek to attain in life is balance. But, as you’ve probably realized, once we seem to have it––POOF––it’s gone again. That’s because the only thing permanent in life is change. Anything that is changing is naturally going to fall out of balance.
One of the greatest indicators of health is how well equipped our bodies are to re-establish equanimity. Understanding the meridians and why they get blocked can give us clues about what lies deep within our subconscious, such as trauma and repressed emotions. But they can also indicate physiological problems of which we may not be aware, or lifestyle behaviours that could use some clean up.
When the body is chronically imbalanced, the flow of qi is disrupted and may cause a block in one or more meridians. Sometimes those blocks result from stress, negative emotion, injury, or past trauma. Other contributors are poor diet, lack of exercise, improper breathing, and even poor posture. Negative or obsessive thinking may also obstruct energy flow. Other times there is an excess of a particular element, such as fire, in the body (this is a principle in Ayurvedic medicine).
A block in one area can upset another part of the body as the body attempts to regain balance. Physiologically too, our bodies try to compensate for an injury or limitation in an area, which can make one area work harder than it should to make up for its opposite counterpart. So how can we treat a block?
Treatment For Energy Blockages
Although meridians exist subtly, deep within the body, they can be manipulated superficially through therapies like acupuncture and massage. Working with the meridians can have a profound effect on whole body health. Therapies like reiki, acupressure, and blended modalities like the Black Pearl Technique can relieve stagnant blood and qi, balance energy, nourish body tissues, improve circulation, strengthen struggling organs, and restore a sense of overall wellness to your entire body.
A massage therapist must also have knowledge about the meridians, how to access them, and know how to work with them in a way that promotes a free flow of qi. If you haven’t experienced energy body work in the past, we highly recommend you give it a try. This type of therapy is commonplace in areas like Asia, whereas the West regards it more as a luxury than a panacea for health and wellbeing.
If you live in the Durham region, give Marnie a call today to find out more about our energy system and what therapies may give your body the boost it needs (the transition from winter to spring is a particularly good time to work on restoring the flow of qi).