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Yoga, Meridians and Chi...Oh My!

Posted by Laurie Hall on

All my friends and family know I'm hooked on Yin Yoga. If you haven't heard of Yin Yoga, it's a style of yoga that is slow paced where you hold poses (asanas) for 3-5 minutes. The poses focus mainly on the yin meridians, although they can affect yang meridians on a lower scale. We can think of meridians like a highway for chi, the flow of energy in our bodies. When there are blockages in our meridians, the highway has been blocked and imbalances occur in our energy flow. Blockages may come from stress, trauma, or unhealthy behavior (diets, lack of exercise, addictions).

I first learned about meridians from my yin yoga instructor. As I held my pose for what seemed like eons, she softly told us of the meridians that the pose was intended to affect.  I hadn't realized that there was so much to this practice. It wasn't just quiet long held poses, there actually was something much deeper going on.

So a little more about meridians, bear with me as there are many Chinese medicine sources which can contradict each other. That said, yin meridians flow up the front of the body from the inner part of our feet. Yang meridians flow downward from the backs of the arms and legs and to the bottom of our feet. Meridians are also known as acupuncture vessels. An acupuncturist detects imbalances in a patient's meridians and then stimulates points along the meridian to remove blockages. The treatment gets the flow of chi moving freely which is what is needed to alleviate the condition. To put it out there clearly, free flowing chi is the holy grail of good health!

The meridian system consists of twelve major channels, all of which fall into yin or yang type. The six yin type meridians are targeted when practicing Yin Yoga. Each meridian is paired to an organ:

  • Lung meridian
  • Heart meridian
  • Kidney meridian
  • Spleen meridian
  • Liver meridian
  • Pericardium meridian
Meridian Physical Imbalanced Balanced
Lungs controls breath and energy, assists heart with the circulation of blood disappointment, sadness, grief, despair, anxiety, shame and sorrow righteousness, dignity, integrity and high self-esteem
Spleen controls extraction and assimilation of nutrients from food and fluids by providing the digestive enzymes and energy required by the stomach and small intestine worry, excessive thinking, pensiveness, obsessiveness, remorse, regret, obsessions, and self-doubt trust, honesty, openness, acceptance, equanimity, balance, and impartiality
Heart controls the circulation and distribution of blood, and therefore all the other organs depend upon it for sustenance hate, guilt, shock, nervousness, longing and craving love, joy, peace, contentment, propriety, insight, wisdom, orderliness, forgiveness, and courtesy
Liver filters, detoxifies, nourishes, replenishes, and stores blood anger, irritability, frustration, resentment, jealousy, rage, and depression kindness, benevolence, compassion, and generosity.
Kidneys filters waste metabolites from the blood and moves them to the bladder fear, loneliness, insecurity, and shock wisdom, rationality, clear perception, gentleness, and self-understanding
Pericardium protects the heart, helps regulate circulation in major blood vessels coming in and out of the heart difficulty feeling and expressing emotions, depression, aversions, and phobias. joy, happiness and healthy relationships


Often my yin instructor will ask us which areas we'd like to target in the class. I am tempted to say, "All of them!", because I'm shooting for the holy grail! In all seriousness, using the chart above, you may want to see if any of the imbalances affect you. Then, take a yin class and tell the instructor what YOU want them to target.

If you'd like to delve deeper into meridians, below are some excellent resources I gathered while digging into traditional Chinese medicine and meridians.

Feel free to leave a comment!

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