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Qi is the Key: Acupuncture and the 12 Meridians

One of the most renowned ancient healing therapies is that of acupuncture and the flow of Qi energy along the meridians of the body. The foundation of present-day acupuncture dates back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) where The Great Compendium of Acupuncture and Moxibustion (1601) was the first medical treatise of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to note acupuncture as a healing method.2

Acupuncture didn’t gain awareness in the United States until centuries later after President Nixon learned about the practice during his visit to China in 1972. The modality was met with overwhelming skepticism by Western medical practitioners who suspected the healing benefit claims were conjured, inferior,3, or the result of a placebo effect.

Many years passed before acupuncture was accepted as medical therapy. It wasn’t until 1995 that acupuncture needles were categorized as medical instruments. In 1997, acupuncture needles were finally verified as healing utensils after being clinically proven to treat a wide range of maladies.4

Ancient Wisdom of Qi: The Three Energetic Levels

The theory of acupuncture accepts the idea that energy courses through the body in all areas. This energy, which is known as qi or chi (pronounced as “chee”), can be moved to a central point within the body to create health and balance while permitting the fulfillment of destiny. There are three energetic levels to qi. To properly understand acupuncture, it is necessary to have a grasp on Wei Qi, Ying Qi, and Yuan Qi.

  • Wei Qi is known as the Defensive Qi. Wei Qi is often misunderstood because agreement as to the location of its origination in the body varies. Leading sources such as the Ling Shu and the Su Wen mention the formation of Wei Qi as being centered around the spleen, which is in charge of defending the body.5 If Wei Qi is performing properly, then it protects the body from external pathogenic factors, such as wind, heat, and other causes of disease. According to Ancient Wisdom Healing Arts, Wei Qi is instinctual, unconscious, and has no cognitive aspect, but it represents the ability to adapt while acclimating to climates, situations, and threats.
  • Ying Qi, or Nutritive Qi, allows one to move forward and confront the day ahead. It also supports Wei Qi. Ying Qi supports progress by promoting survival, self-realizations, and the development of paradigms about life. Ying Qi is cognitive and can be learned.6 It is most active during sleep when the energy is being repaired and restored. Hence, resting is vital to its balance. Ying Qi strengthens the entire body and internal organs and is closely related to blood. Of note, Ying Qi is the qi that is stimulated when an acupuncture needle is applied to the body.7
  • Yuan Qi, or Constitutional Qi, is a combination of your Ancestral Qi (hereditary) and Cosmic Qi (environmental, spiritual, karmic) that is present during your conception. It is pre-destined and fate-oriented.8 This makes Yuan Qi very different from the qi that one develops over time, such as Wei Qi and Ying Qi, but it does directly support Ying Qi, which is the manifestation of fate.

The 12 Meridians of Ancient Chinese Medicine

In TCM, the channels that connect key organs and regulate the flow of the fundamental substances throughout the body are called meridians (Jing Luo). Every organ is represented on the skin surface by a specific meridian. There are 12 principal meridians in the body that support unique aspects of the three qi types, always allowing motion between them:

  1. Stomach Meridian
  2. Spleen Meridian
  3. Small Intestine Meridian
  4. Heart Meridian
  5. Bladder Meridian
  6. Kidney Meridian
  7. Pericardium (Heart Governor) Meridian
  8. Triple Warmer Meridian
  9. Gallbladder Meridian
  10. Liver Meridian
  11. Lung Meridian
  12. Large Intestine Meridian

A diagram of the Body Meridians for flow of Qi in Acupuncture

There are two types of organs: hollow (Yang) and solid (Yin).

Yang Organs

Hollow organs expand and contract, therefore they are considered more active (Yang). These include the stomach, bladder, gall bladder, small intestine, and large intestine. Yang organ meridians run downward along the back of the body and the outer side of arms and legs.

Yin Organs

Solid organs are considered more passive (Yin). These include the liver, spleen, lungs (a misconception is that lungs are hollow – they are not), kidneys, and the heart. Being solid, they do not contract as actively as the hollow organs. Yin organ meridians run upward along the front of the body and on the inner side of arms and legs.

It is important to note that meridians are non-physical and do not follow the precise paths of blood flow or nerves. Additionally, the meridians are mirrored on the entirety of the body, thus, the meridians on the left side will be the same for the right.

So Why Acupuncture?

There are over 350 acupoints (also called acupressure points, acupuncture points) along the meridian pathways which are specific locations where qi can be accessed. Acupuncturists stimulate these acupoints to help a patient achieve harmony, balance, and specific relief. This stimulation is often performed by using needles (acupuncture) or touch (acupressure).

The idea of being poked with lots of needles is not immediately appealing, but the acupuncture needle is known as the “painless needle” for a reason.9 They are customarily made of stainless steel, with sizes ranging from 26 to 40 gauge and lengths from 0.5 inches to 2.5. In conjunction with their thinness, acupuncture needles are less likely to cut the tissue compared to traditional needles.10  

Acupuncture is most commonly used to treat pain and stress, discomfort from disease, conditions such as toothaches, tonsillitis, common colds, allergies, induction of labor, infertility, and more. Acupuncture can also boost the immune system by heightening Wei Qi. According to Midland Acupuncture, acupuncture can help improve digestion, revamp mood, boost energy, and promote relaxation.

If you are apprehensive about visiting an acupuncturist, you can first try DIY acupressure. Before you begin, we always advise consulting with your doctor or medical professional for guidance, as this article is not intended to provide medical treatment or advice. If cleared, prep by setting aside several minutes to find a comfortable position (laying down or sitting up) and relax.

DIY Acupressure

Here a few tips that may aid in your discomfort:

  1. Shoulder pain and headaches can be eased by putting firm pressure on the web of the thumb and forefinger. Hold for five seconds and repeat three more times. Please note that it is not recommended to use this pressure point if you are pregnant.
  2. To ease lower back pain, grab your waist with both hands so that your thumbs wrap around behind your back. Firmly apply a circular motion for five seconds. Repeat three times.
  3. If you are having trouble with sinus pain, use your index finger or thumb to apply pressure to the area between your eyebrows. Use circular motions for five seconds. While utilizing the same gesture, you can also try massaging both of your temples.
  4. Stomach aches can be relieved by a pressure point on your wrist. It is 2 inches above the wrist joint, located on the palm side between two tendons. Press this area and hold for 3 minutes.

Licensed Professionals Know Best

By utilizing the service of a licensed acupuncturist, you’ll be assured that sterile needles are used and properly disposed. Additionally, the professionals are extensively trained to provide you with care based upon your maladies and pain.

Just like picking out a doctor, you should thoroughly research acupuncturists around you to find the best fit. Interviewing professionals to assess their credentials is an effective way to find your desired acupuncturist. Or you can ask people you trust for recommendations. When deciding to move forward with a licensed professional, make sure the acupuncturist can answer all your questions and put any worries you might have at ease.

References:

https://www.amcollege.edu/blog/history-of-acupuncture [1] [2] [5]]

https://www.amcollege.edu/blog/acupuncture-in-west [4]

https://www.acupuncturetoday.com/mpacms/at/article.php?id=28164 [6]

https://ancientwisdomhealingarts.com/classical-chinese-medicine/ [7] [8]

https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/nursing-and-health-professions/acupuncture-needle#:~:text=Commonly%20used%20acupuncture%20needles%20are,though%20it%20is%20very%20tiny. [9] [10]

What is a Sound Bath?

As we dive into new seasons for renewal and fresh starts, many of us would like to wash away aspects of our psyches that do not serve us. If you are looking for new methods to enhance your wellbeing in the new year, consider a sound bath.

Natural Sound Healing

The practice of sound therapy is as old as nature itself. Listening to natural sounds like the wind blowing, birds singing, leaves rustling, or water flowing can work wonders to lower blood pressure and reduce anxiety. More organized forms of sound healing such as music therapy dates back 40,000 years to when the Ancient Greeks played flutes, lyres and zitters to heal patients of digestion, mental and sleep disturbances. A sound bath is uniquely different from both. It is an immersive auditory healing session that is intended to help ‘cleanse the soul’ using sonic vibration and frequency.

Ancient Healing

In 500 BC, Pythagoras wrote, “Each celestial body, in fact each and every atom, produces a particular sound on account of its movement, its rhythm or vibration. All these sounds and vibrations form a universal harmony in which each element, while having its own function and character, contributes to the whole.” Even though many frequencies are too low to be heard by the human ear, we do have the technology to record them, and the frequencies for every healthy tissue, organ and bone in the human body has in fact been documented. So, when a body is healthy, it hums like a well-oiled machine. When it is not, the theory is that sound is one method that can be used to restore the body back to balance.

“If you want to find the secrets of the universe, think in terms of energy, frequency and vibration.” – Nikola Tesla

Sound Bath Instruments

Employing such instruments as singing bowls, chimes, gongs, didgeridoos, and tuning forks, sound bath practitioners will envelop their subjects with sound to induce a more meditative state. Once in this state, the subject may be able to experience mental and emotional blockage clearing, relaxation, restoration, even physical healing.

How Sound Baths Work

During a sound bath, sonic energy vibrates through both the ears and the body. The experience is heard, felt and perceived. In some cases, sounds are soft, ethereal, calming, and soothing. In other cases, sounds are sinister, threatening, thunderous and cacophonous. Depending on the type of healing you are looking for, you will want to be choiceful in selecting the type of sound bath best suited for your desired benefit.

Clinical Proof Sound Baths Work

A study from 2016 found that people reported significantly less tension, anger, fatigue and depression after doing sound meditation with a Tibetan singing bowl. Feelings of spiritual well-being also increased, and the effects were most notable among people who had never tried sound therapy or singing bowls before.

There’s also evidence that the singing bowls can lower blood pressure and heart rate due to the fact that certain sounds activate the parasympathetic nervous system — the part of the body that regulates rest —which is what induces muscles to relax, breathing to slow, blood pressure to decrease, and heart rate to lower.

My Own Experience Attending Sound Baths

Traditional Sound Baths

I have had the opportunity to attend many sound baths over the past several years. The most common type of sound bath I have experienced is for the practitioner to use crystal bowls to emanate a fluid set of tones. The sound may hold steady, ebb and flow, or undulate, depending on the intuition and intention of the session. There is much improvisation, bringing in other instruments to orchestrate various tones, strikes, crescendos and waveforms, creating a symphony of sound for the subjects. Practitioners may also align sound bath sessions to chakra therapy. For example, a grounding session is tuned to the note of C which aligns with the root chakra; a relationship healing session is tuned to the note of F which aligns with the heart chakra.

Gong Baths

Last year while in Singapore attending the Global Wellness Summit, I had the opportunity to attend two gong bath sessions, both which were incredibly cathartic. The gong therapist, Martha Collard, Founder of Red Doors Studio in Hong Kong, found her calling in serving others through ancient intuitive healing arts. I recall Martha explaining her first-hand experience with the gong’s extraordinary power to exorcise toxicity, blockages, and maladies from the human body, as if the sound would penetrate, latch, dissolve and dissipate the unwanted entities.

“The sound of a meditation gong induces a state of spontaneous meditation and relaxation, which facilitates the movement of chi or prana (positive life force) throughout the body,” notes gong teacher Mehtab Benton. “On a physical level, the vibrations eliminate tension, stimulate the circulation and glandular systems, and regenerate the parasympathetic nervous system. Listeners experience a sense of connectedness and peace. They are lulled from a Beta, or awake state, into a Theta, or lucid dream state; a state that allows our bodies to heal and rejuvenate. The sound waves gently clear blockages to restore inner harmony.” In my experience, the energy I felt from the gong’s vibration felt so powerful in each session, that my whole body felt like it was reverberating even hours later. It was if I had been lifted into a different dimension, one that felt lighter, airier, and freer.

What To Expect During a Sound Bath

When attending a sound bath in person, it is customary to be lying down flat on ones back with your head facing toward the sound source. Blankets, pillows, sheepskins or other comfort objects may be used. Lighting is often soft or dim. An eye mask is helpful for inward focus. Concentrating on the breath, letting go of the mind, and staying present in the moment without drifting into sleep help activate the therapeutic benefits.

Many people feel an immediate sense of stress relief, anxiety reduction and relaxation during a sound bath. Others feel overtaken by emotion and even cry. A sound bath is best not be used as a sole solution for healing. Rather, it is best used as a compliment to other modalities of healing.  Consult a physician before attending a sound bath if you have any head trauma such as a concussion or chronic migraines. When arising from a sound bath, it is typical to feel hyper-sensitive. Gentle movements, low sounds and light may help ease reintegration. Replenishing hydration, minimizing stimulation, and engendering gratitude help to perpetuate the work that has been started.

Virtual Sound Baths

Attending a live concert is a far better experience than listening or watching one online. Similarly, attending a live sound bath is a far richer an experience than listening or watching one online. That being said, there are many sound bath videos on YouTube that can give you a sample of what they’re like.

Have you attended a live sound bath before? If so, what was your experience? If not, would you try it? Let us know what you think!