The Point of Precision - Tracing Meridians and Optimising Qi Flow
The basic reason for practising Qigong is to produce life-enhancing or post-natal Qi – to top up the tank, as it were, in an attempt to avoid depleting our innate or pre-natal store of Qi. This practice in of itself is both logical, practical and very rewarding.
However, when we understand the relationship between Qigong movements and the corresponding Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) pressure points, we can optimise Qi production and elevate flow, and furthermore, we can use our Yi to stimulate and/or calm particular points that would affect health issues, enhance our immune systems and so on, and theoretically we can live forever! N.B. Correspondingly, in Martial Arts, certain points can be specifically targeted in order to inflict injury and pain.
As Taoist tradition states, where the Yi goes the Qi will follow. As practitioners, we can test this adage empirically by using Point Focus and by tracing out our meridians, which can boost circulation, vitality and balance by attuning and stimulating Qi flow.
The Energy Body
According to TCM, the body is mapped with a complex network of intersecting energy pathways or meridians that circulate Qi to specific organs and other areas around the body. Rather than physical anatomical structures, these meridians are invisible and dynamic and are fundamental to Qi circulation – and therefore to health and wellbeing.
There are 12 bilateral meridians and 8 extraordinary meridian vessels. They are usually identified by the first initials of the related organ or organs, although alternative naming systems are also used.
Of the 12 bilateral meridians, 6 are Yin, drawing up energy from the earth. The 6 other bilateral meridians are Yang, flowing down from the sky or heavens.
Of the 8 extraordinary meridian vessels, the 2 that principally concern us in our Shibashi practice are the central or midline Conception Vessel (CV) and the Governing Vessel (GV). They form 2 inseparable branches of the same source that balance and harmonise Yin (Yin organs) and Yang (Yang organs).
More than a thousand acupoints or pressure points punctuate the courses of the meridians on a human body, each with a different indication. The number of points sited per meridian varies according to each meridian’s pathway and function. Thus:
Lung Meridian (L), 11 points, arm
Heart Meridian (H), 9 points, arm
Pericardium Meridian (P), 9 points, arm
Spleen Meridian (Sp), 21 points, leg
Kidney Meridian (K), 27 points, leg
Liver Meridian (Li), 14 points, leg
Small Intestine Meridian (SI), 19 points, arm
Large Intestine Meridian (LI), 20 points, arm
Triple Burner Meridian, aka Triple Heater, Triple Warmer (TB), 23 points, arm
Gall Bladder Meridian (GB), 44 points, leg
Urinary Bladder Meridian (B), 67 points, leg
Stomach Meridian (S), 45 points, leg
Several of these points are part of the Qigong vernacular, such as the Gateways of Yong Quan (K1), Lao Gong (P8) and Bai Hui (GV20).
The Conception Vessel has 24 points and it starts at Hui Yin (CV1) at the centre of the pelvic floor, the lowest point of the torso, and flows up the front of the torso ending below the middle of the lower lip Cheng Jiang (CV24).
The Governing Vessel has 28 points and begins with Chang Qiang (GV1) midway between the tip of the coccyx bone and the anus and flows up the back, over the top of head, passing Bai Hui (GV20) and ending with Yin Jiao (GV28) at junction of gum and frenulum (tongue web) of upper lip.
It has been well-established that moving mindfully and observing the fundamental Tai Chi principles allows for a healing as well as nourishing Qigong practice, and that in order to maximise Qi enrichment, understanding the precision of movements is key. But how do we measure and map the energy body?
Clearly, each body is unique in form and relative in dimension, and therefore linear scales of measurement can be only approximate at best. Practitioners of TCM have long-used a traditional Chinese unit of length called Cun (pronounced Tsun).
Cun is a basic unit of measurement, a relative system of measurement and a system of proportional point location, which uses the practitioner’s own digits to divide up her or his body.
1 Cun the width of the middle phalanx of the middle finger, or
the width of a thumb at the knuckle
1.5 Cun the width of two fingers (index, middle)
2 Cun the width of three fingers (index, middle, ring)
3 Cun the width of four fingers
Cun Measurements (Image courtesy of TCM Strategies, Inc. ©2002)
It has become popular in some quarters to refer to Cun as anatomical inches, and I suspect this has led to some confusion with imperial inches and in turn about the location of the Lower Dantien. Though a power centre rather than a pressure point, we can employ Cun to locate the Lower Dantien 2-3 Cun below and behind the navel.
The Pericardium Meridian
While all the meridians are equally important, I have chosen to focus on a perhaps slightly-overlooked meridian in an attempt to demonstrate the efficacy of closer study.
Examination of 4 of the 9 points of Pericardium Meridian offers a useful opportunity to clarify some specific acupoints present in Qigong practice (simply put, the Pericardium corresponds to the pericardium sac that surrounds and protects the heart – it lubricates the heart and keeps it in place within your chest).
The 9 Points of the Pericardium Meridian
(Image courtesy of Med Ali. Atlas of Acupuncture Points: Point Locations, 2007)
P1 Tian Chi (Celestial Pool): Located 1 Cun lateral to the nipple in the fourth intercostal space. P1 is used to relieve and treat cough/phlegm, headache, blurred vision, chest distress and breast disorders.
P6 Nei Guan (Inner Frontier Gate): Located on the inner forearm, 2 Cun below the wrist and in between the 2 tendons. P6 is stimulated to ease high blood pressure, relieve nausea, upset stomach, motion sickness, carpal tunnel syndrome and headaches. This is the crossing point in Set 1’s Circling Arms and Scooping from the Sea.
P8 Lao Gong (Palace of Toil): The Inner Lao Gong is located on the palm of the hand, where the tip of the ring finger touches when a Tai Chi fist is made. P8 is an important Gateway and sensitive ‘access’ point through which energy can leave or enter the body and a key point in Qigong practice and healing work. It may be stimulated to ease anxiety and clear inflammation. Mindful synchronised hand movements are essential in all the Shibashi moves and especially potent during the ‘wipe’ practised in Set 1’s Twisting Waist Swinging Arm.
P9 Zhong Chong (Central Hub): Located at the centre of the tip of the middle finger, 0.1 Cun posterior lateral to the corner of the nail, ie, at the most distal/farthest point. P9 is believed to clear heat and is used torelieve stroke, coma, sore throat, heatstroke, fainting, convulsions in children, fever, swelling and pain under the tongue, night crying of babies/children, heartache and upset.
Location of Pericardium 9 (Image courtesy of PeakMassager, March 9, 2021)
I trust this brief example has highlighted the merits of accuracy, and I hope it will encourage further study of the energy body and closer attention to precise practice.
I’ll leave you with one of my favourite acupoints, Shan Zhong (CV17; Chest Centre, Middle of the Chest or Within the Breast). Located on the sternum level with the fourth intercostal space and midway between the nipples, CV17 is where Shen resides, and it is the point that activates Qi in the chest. It is regarded as beneficial for self-help and stress relief and feelings of love, joy, wellbeing, happiness, optimism, zest for life, heart-centred feelings of goodness and open communication.
Let it flow!