Chinese Meridians, Channels and Yoga

Updated: Sep 18


In China there is a term called Jing-luo, and this double term suggests that it describe two type of things which belong or connect together. The term actually refers to " Channel" ( English Translation), or "meridian" ( when translated to french). The Chinese term Jing means " to go through", like a thread passing through a fabric. Similarly,the term Luo means " something that connects, attaches two things to each another.


In Chinese physiology, yogic, or medical theories jing-luo stands for an invisible ( to medical science) network which connects all organs. internal and external parts of the body. Chi, bio energy known as prana in yoga, and various other bodily substances are said to circulate through these meridians carrying strength and nourishment to all parts of the body. The old Chinese classic Nei Jing Su Wan says, " The channels allow chi and blood to move and moisten muscles, tendons and bones, to benefit the joints, and to regulate the yin and the yang balance in the body".


The concept of " blood" as mentioned in the traditional Chinese medicine ( T.C. M.) is very different from the red liquid known to Western science today. The traditional Chinese medicine defines blood as a bodily substance which is far subtler and encompassing in its scope than the red fluid flowing through the tangible blood vessels of defined by the present day medical science. The Chinese meridians are not the same as the blood vessels, though chi and blood also flow through the blood vessels.


The system of channels is also different from the nervous system, though their direction of passage, is more similar in the arms and legs than in other areas of the body. The behavior of the channels and the nerve paths also exhibit similarities.


Characteristics of Chinese Meridians


Lung Meridian

The Knowledge of the energy pathways is equally significant to both, the Chinese physician as well as the Yogi. Most acupressure points are known to affect the main channels and most of the Chinese medicinal herbs enter and affect directly one or more of the main channels. There are twelve major meridians present in the human body. The theory of these pathways is essential to understanding the functioning and relationship of the organs ans the vital substances of the body.


The understanding of the influences of the internal and external pathogenic factors on the body's physiological functions, along with the techniques of medical diagnosis and treatment of the related diseases is also based on the knowledge of the channels. The ancient Chinese classic Nei Ying Ling Shu ( or " spiritual axis") which dates back to 200 - 300 B.C. states that , " It is because of the twelve primary channels that people live, that disease is formed, that people are treated, that medicines work and diseases are overcome, and people die".


As per the meridians, channels theory the channels and the organs are not different entities but are one system working together. Both cannot be understood as separate units. Organs as per the T.C.M. are the gross anatomical energic functions located at a fixed point within the body. Thus,the heart isn't only considered as a blood pumping physical entity located within the chest, it also forms a part of the body-mind complex where the Shen -consciousness- is stored , generate certain emotions, like joy and is also connected with specific sense perception and much more.


Channels are actually flows of energy which flow through the clearly defined pathways over the body and the mind, and within the body. They are made of very subtle matter, their construct is very similar to the Nadis concept of Kundilini Yoga. are relatively non substantial, and are more active than the organs; organs are the more Yin in character and channels are more yang. The interior of the body, the organs, can communicate with the external environment ( climate) via these meridians ( channels) which help adjust the internal bodily functions as per the changes in the external climate.


Thus meridian channels not only keep the organs connected to each other but also keep them in harmony with the external energies, or connect the body to the cosmos. Like, low temperatures in winters first trigger constriction of the vessels on the surface of the skin, the energy from the skin moves into the interiors to protect the more vital organs. Each meridian is related to a particular organ. The meridians flow in the body along its path just below the skin, this is known as superficial pathway.


From the surface the meridians send branches deep into the body to energize and regulate the functions of their corresponding organs. This interior part of the meridian is known as the deeper pathway. The superficial pathway of each major meridians traverse a particular section of the body upon which it produces its effect. Thus it may or may not bear relationship with its name bearing organ, similarly each organ may be located near the deep branch of a channel which does not bear the name of the organ. Therefore, for the purpose of applying acupressure techniques the meridians available in the proximity of the organs to be impacted, even if these meridians do not directly link to that organ, can be utilized.


For this reason the points on the spleen meridian can be stimulated to produce an effect on the liver or the intestine due to the location of these organs near the spleen meridian. Due to this interwoven nature of the meridians and their relation the area, organs lying within their proximity the entire body system becomes related to each other in terms of the distribution, and movement of the energy, the life force. Health is the establishment of the harmony within the energy distribution present throughout the body, disease is the imbalance created within the equilibrium of these bodily energies.


Meridians are considered a part of the circulatory system of the body which includes the blood circulation and the nervous system within its gambit, though they don't resemble nerves or the blood vessels, but they behave like both. The ancient Chinese were more aware of the meridians and their flow than the blood vessels and the nerves, this was so because they were more concerned about the functions than the anatomy of the body. Though they knew about the location of the main arteries and veins as they needed to avoid puncturing them in an attempt to stimulate the acupoints with acupuncture needles.


Types of Major Chinese Meridians


The Chinese meridians are primarily of two principle types which cover the entire body by one type running horizontally and the other type running vertically into a web like arrangement. The two principle types are -


Jing - These are generally running vertically over the body and the limbs passing trough deep tissues and body cavities to connect with the organs.


Luo - These meridians, often called collaterals, run horizontally and superficially over the whole body. These join the Jing meridians to ech other and with the connective tissues and cutaneous regions.


All the channels except for the one which runs along the median line of the body, both front and back, are bilateral; duplicated on right and left side of the body. These meridians are grouped into six groups according to the functions they perform. These groups are -

12 Main Channels

12 Transverse Luo

15 Longitudinal Luo

12 Tendino - Muscular

8 Extra Channels

12 Divergent and extra Channels


Apart form these important meridians which are crucial to the clinical practice of the traditional Chinese medicine there is another group of channels known as Tiny Channels which connect the smallest and remotest parts of the body to the main channels. The Tiny channels are responsible for transporting the blood, vital energy Chi, and other substances to the remotest corners of the human body. As mentioned earlier too the its only the 12 main meridians which are significant to body functioning and application of therapy techniques, all other meridians are secondary to these main channels.


Only the 12 main channels and another two from the rest, exceptions, the Du Mai or the Governing meridian and the Ren Mai or conception meridian have their own acupuncture points, all the other meridians are indirectly influenced by the points on these 12 channels. A series of acupoints of each of the twelve main channels which run under the surface of the skin are shown on the surface of the body from where they connect to the deeper channels running inside the body. The point 13 on the liver meridian can be used to stimulate the spleen as though this point is located on the liver meridian but is linked to the spleen meridian with its inner connections.


The meridians are like tubes, or threads which link the various observable phenomena in the body to each other, both for the purpose of diagnosis and treatment. All the 12 main channels are connected into a circular closed circuit, each individual meridian joining the other two end to end to form a closed circle. Due to this these 12 main channels are always listed in a specific order: -

  1. Lung Channel or Lu

  2. Colon channel, or Co., also known as large intestine channel ( L.1.)

  3. Stomach Channel ( St.)

  4. Spleen Channel ( Sp.)

  5. Heart Channel ( He.)

  6. Small Intestine Channel( S. I.)

  7. Bladder Channel ( Bl. or B. Or U.B.)

  8. Kidney Channel ( Ki. or K.)

  9. Pericardium Channel ( pe. or P.)

  10. Three heater Channel ( T.H.) or Triple warmer Channel ( T.W.)

  11. Gall Bladder Channel ( G.B.)

  12. Liver Channel ( Liv.)

The names of these 12 main channels signify their close relationships to the function or malfunction of the respective organs, the Lung Channel is closely connected to the functions of the lung.


Chinese Acupuncture Meridian Clock


The vital energy Chi, and the blood ( subtle aspect of nutrition) circulate between the closed circuit formed by the 12 primary meridians in a cycle beginning with the lungs.

The lung organs and the lung meridian are at their maximum activity between 3 am and 5 am in the 24 hours cycle as the flow of energy through the associated channel is at its peek. Thus there is a tidal activity of energy flowing between the 12 meridians in a day's time cycle, each meridians reaches its peek of energy flow for 2 hours and again the same meridian reaches its lowest energy flow exactly 12 hours after its peek.


This sequence of periods of the increased energy & blood flow activity in the twelve regular meridians is known as the Chinese meridian clock. The organs are never without energy during the 24 hours time period of the day, it is only that the energy levels fluctuate within them from its maximum to the minimum during the course of the day. The period of increased activity for all the 12 primary meridians in given here.


Lung ( Lu) 3 am - 5am

Colon ( Co.) 5 am - 7am

Stomach ( St.) 7 am - 9 am

Spleen ( Sp.) 9 am - 11 am

Heart ( He.) 11 am - 1 pm

Small Intestine ( SI) 1 pm - 3 pm

Bladder ( Bl) 3 pm - 5 pm

Kidney ( ki) 5 pm - 7 pm

Perecardium ( Pe) 7 pm - 9 pm

Three Meater ( TM) 9 pm - 11 pm

Gall Bladder ( GB) 11 pm - 1 am

Liver ( Liv) 1 am - 3 am


Some of the concepts of yoga seem to perfectly overlap the Chinese meridian clock. Yoga recommends the best time for doing pranayamas as early morning between 3 am to 5 am, The Meridians clock also tells us that this is the exact time when the Lung meridian ( Lu) is at its maximum activity, or the lung organ is highly stimulated to receive the chi ( prana) from the air ( da chi which means clean chi) during that period, only if the lungs are healthy and functioning properly. In case they are unhealthy, doing pranayama during this peek activity duration of the lung meridian can create problems like triggering an attack of asthma or bronchitis.


Likewise the time for highest activity for the Colon meridian and the organ in a day is between 5 am and 7 am, the time when majority of the healthy people empty their bowels. A lot of women who have had multiple children have observed that generally they feel weak and lethargic between 5 pm to 7 pm. As per the Chinese thought the periods of pregnancy and child birth consume loads of kidney energy, since the mentioned period corresponds to the kidney's high activity time on the Chinese clock, Its deficiency is also felt more intensely during the same time span.


The healthy eating principles as outlined by the yoga diet concepts the heaviest meal of the day must be the breakfast, morning time, then comes the lunch, dinner can be missed out or should be the lightest of all the three meals in a day. Interestingly, the high energy time zones as per the Chinese clock for both the organs responsible for digestion, stomach and the spleen, fall in the morning hours only. The Western lifestyle goes completely against these concepts, there the dinner is the heaviest meal ( lowest activity time for the meridians associated with digestion) where as, the breakfast consists of a cup of hot coffee and a cigarette.


Western Breakfast and the Chinese Clock

How does the Vital Energy moves in the Meridian System?


The vital energy, chi, flows through the channels in a similar way as the water flows steadily through the irrigation channel, with one tidal wave moving along withit as it superimposed on the basic current with such a speed that it covers the whole circuit of channels within a 24 hour period. Their is a Chinese practice ( exercise) of Tai Chi Chuan the master of which is known as Chang Sau-Fong. As per the master during the practice of Tai Chi Chuan the Chi (energy) should be in an excited state and the Shen ( spirit, awareness) should be concentrated internally.


The English word " excited" as used in the context of the state of Chi during the Chinese exercise of Tai Chi Chaun has a special connotation: if all the waters in the oceans of the world was collected in a box, and the box is jiggled, the water will slosh back and forth. This is what the word excited means with respect to the state of vital energy during the mentioned Chinese practice. The term all the waters of the world exemplify the potential power of Chi when properly stimulated. Secondly the excited Chi ( prana) moves forward and backward and not move in one direction in this state of excitement, more like the flow of current in a A.C. circuit ( alternate current) than in a D.C. circuit ( Direct current). This movement of Chi is also known as oscillating or vibrating movement of the Prana.


The Oscillating Chi is also known as rebellious Chi a it can move opposite to the intended direction when in a rebellious mood, like the Chi of the stomach which should move downwards taking the food down the digestive track can rebel and move upwards instead causing belching and vomiting. Thus the Chi has two types of movement superimposed upon each other ; one in the same direction as in the form of a tidal wave the speed of which determines its movement across the entire length of the circularly connected twelve primary meridians in 24 hours, and second the to and forth oscillating, vibrating movement.


Reason for the Flow of Chi in the Channels


The master of Tai Chi Chian, Yu-Hsiang attempts to answer the question that why does the Chi move at all? in his exposition of insight: The mind mobilizes the Chi energy, the Chi mobilizes the body. The mind produce the "I" or the idea, thought or the will, the idea or the thought is nothing but Chi itself, chi and idea are conceptually interchangeable. The change in the production of thought in the mind impacts the function and movement of the body.


The smooth movement of the thoughts as in meditation impart excellence ( health) in movement and functioning of the body. This change in the functioning and movement of the body is brought about by the movement of the Chi (the vital energy, prana) driven by the thoughts emerging in the mind.


Conclusion: Chinese meridians are subtle, non substance pathways of the movement of Chi ( pran) within the body. These energy pathways or channels carry the prana to the various organ systems in order to keep them enervated for their proper functioning. Out of the many meridians present in the body twelve are the primary meridians which wraps the entire body into a network of criss-crossing energy channels. The meridians have a part of their pathways passing under the skin which makes it possible for the practitioners of acupuncture stimulate certain acupoints present along their length in order to regulate the flow of Chi to a particular organ.


it is the mind that moves the Chi in the body and more specifically in the channels, and Chi moves the rest, blood, fluids, muscles etc.


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