In Chinese medicine, the meridian system is a network of channels through which our life-energy known as ‘Qi’ flows. If the network is disrupted, Qi cannot flow smoothly thus causing dysfunctions and imbalances in the body.
The Meridian System has 12 principal meridians that correspond to the yin and yang organs in the body. Although it is tempting to venture into the vast realm of Chinese medicine, for now, we will focus on the following meridians associated with our 5 main yin organs: Liver, Spleen, Heart, Lungs, and Kidneys.
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Yin Yoga is comprised of poses that specifically target each of these organs’ meridians. This article is the first of a 5-part series on how to apply the practice of Yin Yoga to our meridians to harmonize our body and mind.
First, let us explore the Liver Meridian,
The Liver meridian starts from the lateral side of the big toe and goes across the top of the foot. After crossing the inner ankle, it travels up the medial (inside) of the leg until it reaches the pubic region. From here, it swerves around external genitalia and goes into the lower abdomen. Afterward, it ascends the abdomen and reaches the lower chest to connect with the liver and gallbladder. Internally, The meridian continues to travel upward along the throat and connects with the eyes. Finally, it emerges from the forehead to reach the top of the head. One of its internal branches begins internally from the eye and descends to the cheek where it curves around the inner surface of the lips. Another branch starts from the liver and passes through the diaphragm to reach the lung where it connects with the Lung meridian.
In western medicine, organs are restricted to their structural and functional properties. However, in TCM, organs in addition to their structural and functional properties are also linked to our emotional wellbeing. According to the Daoist view, our organs possess different prenatal virtues, qualities that are endowed to our human form from the divine. As we come into the world, we begin to accumulate emotions that would conflict with our prenatal state. One of the many goals of yoga is to subdue these less-than-desirable acquired emotions and return to our divine form.
The prenatal virtues of the Liver are love, compassion, benevolence, patience, and unselfishness. After birth, the acquired Liver emotions are frustration, irritability, stubbornness, anger, blame, rage, resentment, rudeness, impatience, jealousy, and depression.
Yin poses that help restore Liver imbalances are those that target the inner legs. I have selected three easy-to-do poses that target this area. When you practice them, hold each posture for 3-5 minutes and rest for 1 minute in Child’s pose or Corpse pose (Shavasana) after each.
From a seated position, put the soles of your feet together. Allow your spine to round, fold forward, resting your hands on your feet or the floor in front of you. Relax your head toward your heels.
Note that the closer your feet are to the pubic region, the more intense the sensation in the groin region. As you slide your feet away from you, the sensation disperses along the inner thigh. Both are correct, so choose the one that you can sustain with ease.
Sciatica can be problematic in this pose. If you have sciatica, elevate your hips by sitting on a blanket or a block, until the hips are higher than the knees. As well, if you’re experiencing neck pain, avoid dropping the head by keeping it straight or resting your head on a block.
Getting into the pose:
From a sitting position, spread your legs apart as far as they can go. Sitting on a block or cushion will help rotate your hips forward. Start walking your hands in front and fold gently. Rest your weight on your hands or elbows, or rest your head on a block.
Sometimes, the hips are too stiff to rotate forward. An alternative option is to do it against the wall.
Getting into the pose:
Lying on your back, hug your knees to your chest. Grab the soles of the feet, the ankles or the back of the legs. Open your feet apart so that they’re directly above your knees. Gently pull the knees toward the floor, keeping the knees close to your armpits/chest. Relax your head and shoulders on the floor.
If it is too difficult to hold both feet at the same time, you can do Half Happy Baby, holding one foot at a time. You can also use a belt to hold your feet. Another variation is to do it against the wall.
Creator of Soulful Yin Yoga Method, Annie has been certifying yoga teachers since 2013. Through her own healing journey, Annie has become an expert in the emotional side of yin yoga and Chinese meridians. She calls for a heart to heart approach in her yin yoga classes through storytelling and genuine self-reflections.