The Meridians: Where and What are They?
But… where are the meridians? Good question. Although perhaps asking what the meridians are would be a better question.
When I initially began to be interested in these energy channels we work with during our Yin yoga practice, I understood them as some sort of pipeline. I imagined them located within the fascia or connective tissues that run throughout our body like a network. My Western mind needed to understand them “in positive”, as something empirical and tangible.
Practitioners of Yin yoga now have wonderful resources at our disposal and, as I’ve gone investigating further, I’ve begun to understand the meridians in a different light, mostly thanks to the work of Dr. Daniel Keown.
He defines the meridians as “the negative space between things”, as empty zones that exist within the body between the fascial planes. These are the same cavities surgeons use to insert their optical lenses during laparoscopic surgery, for example.
Ironically, Western anatomists and doctors have dissected bodies for years in search of the meridians of Traditional Chinese Medicine without finding proof of their existence. “It’s like looking for your glasses while you’re wearing them,” explains Dr. Keown.
In Yin yoga we use asanas to balance the flow of vital energy or chi through the energetic channels and to bring health to the internal organs associated with each channel. Knowing the map that TCM has drawn for the meridians is of enormous help. As we say in yoga, “energy flows where we our attention goes”. Paying attention to the areas covered by each meridian can magnify the effect of specific asanas.
I hope these drawings are useful to you. To learn more about this topic, I recommend Josh Summers’ Everyday Sublime podcast and his interviews to Dr. Daniel Keown, as well as the book The Spark in the Machine by Dr. Keown.
SPRING ORGANS AND THEIR MERIDIANS
Liver Meridian: It begins at the big toe, runs up the top of the foot, the ankle and the inside of the leg. It enters the torso at the pubic area to reach the liver and the gall bladder. Rising higher, one branch goes to the lung, the throat and the head where it enters the eyes. It branches again: one branch goes down across the cheeks and circles the lips; another branch goes across the forehead to the crown.
Gall Bladder Meridian: It begins at the outer corner of the eye and branches. One superficial branch goes down the side of the face and neck, outer shoulder and the side of the body to the outside of the hip. An internal branch goes through the cheek to reach the liver and gallbladder; it rejoins the first branch at the hip and together they go down the outer part of the thigh and knee to end at the fourth toe.
SUMMER ORGANS AND THEIR MERIDIANS
Heart Meridian: It has three branches and they all start in the heart. One branch flows down through the diaphragm and reaches the small intestine. Another branch goes up through the throat and tongue and reaches the eye. The third branch runs across the chest to reach the armpit, and then flows down the inner arm, through the wrist and the palm of the hand to end at the tip of the little finger (where it connects with the Small Intestine meridian).
Small Intestine Meridian: It begins on the outer side of the little finger and flows up the outer side of the hand, the wrist and the outside of the arm to reach the shoulder, where it connects with the Governing Vessel meridian and divides into three branches. A branch becomes internal and flows through the heart, diaphragm and stomach until it reaches the small intestine. Another branch flows up the neck to reach the face, eye and ear. A last small branch leaves the cheek and runs to the eye (where it connects to the Urinary Bladder meridian).
LATE SUMMER ORGANS AND THEIR MERIDIANS
Stomach Meridian: It begins at the side of the nose and goes down to the jaw, where it branches. A branch goes up to the forehead. Another branch descends to the diaphragm and reaches the stomach and spleen. A third branch goes down the torso to the groin and along the front of the leg to the top of the foot, where it branches again to finish in the second, third and first toes respectively.
Spleen Meridian: It begins at the inside of the big toe and goes up the inside of the ankle and leg. It enters the abdominal cavity through the groin to reach the spleen and stomach, where it branches. One branch comes to the surface and runs up the chest to the throat, where it becomes internal again and goes the root of the tongue. The other branch remains internal and reaches the heart.
AUTUMN ORGANS AND THEIR MERIDIANS
Lung Meridian: It begins in the abdomen, just above the navel, and goes down to the large intestine before going back up through the diaphragm to connect with the stomach and enter the lungs. Then it flows up the throat, under the collarbone and reaches the shoulder. From there it flows down the inner arm to end at the external tip of the thumb. A small branch goes from the wrist to the tip of the index finger, where it connects with the Large Intestine meridian.
Large Intestine Meridian: It starts at the tip of the index finger and passes between the thumb and forefinger, goes up the external lateral side of the arm, the shoulder and the back of the shoulder blades and reaches the spine. Here it splits in two. One branch descends through the lungs, the diaphragm and the large intestine. The other branch ascends through the neck and mouth to cross the nose and connect with the Stomach meridian.
WINTER ORGANS AND THEIR MERIDIANS
Kidney Meridian: It begins on the small toe of each foot, runs through the sole of the foot and the arch, up the inside of the leg and enters the torso near the tailbone. It moves up the lower spine and connects with the bladder and kidneys. It surfaces over the abdomen and chest to end at the clavicle. Internally it flows through the liver, diaphragm, lungs and throat to end at the root of the tongue.
Urinary Bladder Meridian: It starts at the inside of the eye, goes up the forehead and across the crown. A branch enters the brain to surface again near the scapula and descends along the back of the body on either side of the spine; it becomes internal in the lumbar spine and connects with the kidneys and the bladder. Another branch, parallel to the first, goes down the buttocks and the back of the legs to finish at the small toe.