If you’ve ever gotten acupuncture or pressed on an acupressure point, you know how much of an overwhelming release you can get throughout your body by targeting certain points. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, your body is made up of 12 main meridians that are pathways within the body, explains Bethany Lee, yoga instructor and certified TCM expert. “There are acupuncture points that correlate to your organs, so when the needle is placed in these points along the meridian pathways, you’re stimulating that certain section on the pathway to feel relief,” she says. And the same can be said for meridian exercises, which are like acupressure in fitness form.
Meridian exercise are often achieved via Yin Yoga, a slow style of yoga where you hold poses rather than flow through them quickly. “We’re stretching that entire [meridian] band,” says Lee. “When you’re in the pose, you’re targeting that entire meridian line, so it’s the same effect as stimulating it with your thumb on an acupressure point.” Practicing this kind of yoga is meant to help you relax and to create mobility in the body, says Lee. Ready to get started? Keep scrolling for all you need to know.
Meridian exercises to try for yourself
1. Cat pose: According to Elizabeth Martin, licensed acupuncturist and Traditional Chinese Medicine expert, this pose works the kidney meridian, which purportedly helps decompress the lower back. In quadruped position, tuck your head down and pull your navel towards your spine as you arch your back like a cat.
2. Cow pose: From cat pose, you can move into cow, which involves your head pointing towards the ceiling and your back arched, chest forward. “In this pose, you are stretching the stomach meridian, which can help with cramping and improve digestion,” says Martin.
3. Seated wide leg pose: Lee recommends this pose to work with the kidney meridian. “This is really good if you’re dealing with something like shock or fear, or if your adrenals are taxed and you’ve been feeling completely exhausted,” she says. On your mat, widen your legs out on each side as far as you comfortably can, then fold your torso forward as you breathe.
4. Pigeon pose: The much-loved hip opener, according to Lee, tackles the kidney and liver meridians. Bring one knee towards your wrist on the same side with your ankle in front of the opposite hip. Slide your other leg back behind you and keep your hips straight and square. Breathe, and bend your torso forward more with each exhale.
5. Butterfly pose on back: Lie down on your back with a yoga block between your shoulder blades on the thoracic spine—this helps to open up your chest. “This works the lungs, large intestine, and your heart,” says Lee. “You can activate deeper into your liver by splaying the knees open into a butterfly position.” If this is uncomfortable, you can place blocks underneath the knees.
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