A lot of really great questions were asked on Tuesday’s TCM discussion, so I wanted to share this with you all. I’ve removed everyone’s names and inserted their initials. Any additional comments I’ve added are in brackets . Thanks everyone for coming!
Chraeloos: Last week we ended with a description of the spleen, I do believe.
NT: was there a simplified conclusion/summary?
Chraeloos: NT, I can do a quick summary if you’d like.
BT: hi glad to sit in
Chraeloos: first off, though, lets start with a short qi gong exercise.
Chraeloos: You can do this standing or sitting, whatever is more comfortable for you. Straighten your spine – pretend as though there is a string someone has attached to it with a rod and is pulling up from the top of your spine. Make it tall and straight. Next, relax your joints.
Chraeloos: Let your shoulders relax, your elbows, wrists, hips, knees, ankles, everything; just let it all relax. You should almost feel heavier, as though there is more gravity pulling on you. Now, breathe deeply, bring the breath all the way through your body.
Chraeloos: Fill your meridians with the air, all the way to your toes and finger tips. Stay like this for a few minutes, breathing deeply and steadily, and try to clear your mind. Listen to the music stream if you want something to focus on. Just sit or stand and breathe, joints relaxed, and spine straight.
Chraeloos: Lets rest here for a minute or two
Chraeloos: Alright, take some deep breathes, and lets begin
Chraeloos: If you’d like to try staying this way for the discussion, by all means feel free. Make sure you stop if at any point it hurts or you feel dizzy. Any movements from this position should be slow and done in time with your breathing. Drink some water to help bring yourself back to center when you stop.
Chraeloos: So, last week we went over the three of the five zang viscera: the heart, lung, and spleen. Today we will continue with the liver and kidney, but lets do a brief summary first.
Chraeloos: The heart is the lord of all the systems in the body. It is the home of the spirit, and controls all the vital functions of the body
Chraeloos: Both Qi and blood run through it.
Chraeloos: The heart is surrounded by the pericardium, which is a sac type tissue that holds it in place and acts as a shield for this vital organ.
Chraeloos: The lung is an extremely sensitive organ that regulates respiration and movement of qi throughout the body.
Chraeloos: By breathing naturally (deep into the abdomen, not shallowly in the chest) one can optimize the function of the lungs. Also, breathing through the nose is best as the nose cleans the air before it reaches the lungs.
Chraeloos: The lungs also ensure that the heart functions properly
Chraeloos: The spleen works with the stomach and small intestine by storing fluids processed by the stomach, and sending them to all parts of the body to be used, and then sending them down as waste.
Chraeloos: It sends fluids to tissues, muscles, ligaments, organs, and everything else you can imagine. It is also considered the source of qi and blood because no process of digestions or absorption of essential substances would be possible without it.
Chraeloos: Any questions about that?
Chraeloos: ok, great. Feel free to ask questions at any time. And if you want to get my attention stick the @ symbol in local and I’ll pause
Chraeloos: So, this week we’ll start with the liver.
Chraeloos: The liver is located underneath the diaphragm, on the right side behind the ribs. It is connected to the gallbladder via the meridians, and is part of the wood element. “Its main functions are storage of blood, regulation of the total quantity of circulating blood, regulation of the emotions, promotion of the circulation of qi and blood, promotion of the metabolism of fluids and regulation of menses.”
Chraeloos: In general, the amount of blood circulating is constant, but depending on your physical activity, such as running or sleeping, and emotional state, the amounts needed by the viscera will vary. If the liver is damaged it will not send out enough blood, causing dizziness, blurred vision, night blindness, numbness of the limbs, etc. If damaged, it will also not store unneeded blood, which could cause vomiting of blood, coughing up blood, nosebleeds, uterine bleeding, etc.
Chraeloos: The blood and qi both flow through the body in the same way, so the liver not only stores the blood but the qi. If the mental outlook is optimistic, the mind at ease, then the qi and blood will be harmonious and therefore all the viscera will function properly, and vice versa.
Chraeloos: The liver has its main manifestation in the tendons, nails, and eyes. “The liver controlling the tendons means that the relaxation or contraction of all the tendons in the body is related to liver function.” The liver is the source of nutrients for the tendons. Lack of this source will cause tremors in the hands and feet and reduced ability to flex or extend.
Chraeloos: “All syndromes of shaking, dizziness and vertigo belong to the liver.” – Plain Questions.
Chraeloos: In CM the nails are external portions of the tendons. When liver-blood is adequate the nails are well nourished and strong, bright, and lustrous.
Chraeloos: The eyes require blood to see, and therefore the liver is directly linked to them. If there is a deficiency of liver-Yin, for instance, there could be blurred or impaired vision, dry and screechy eyes, and night blindness. The eyes are also connected to the other zang and fu viscera, so not all signs of the eyes would link to the liver.
Chraeloos: scratchy*, not screechy, lol
Chraeloos: So, the nails are a good sign for practitioners of Chinese medicine to diagnose the patient.
Chraeloos: Each nail on the hands relates to a specific organ.
H: cool 😮
Chraeloos: The pinky nail is the heart and small intestine, ring finger the triple heater, and thyroid, the middle finger the pericardium and reproductive system, the pointer finger the large intestine and the thumb the lungs.
Chraeloos: the nails on the toes also have a direct link to systems
Chraeloos: The pinky toe is the bladder, ring toe is the gallbladder, middle toe doesn’t have one, the pointer toe is the stomach, and the big toe is the liver and spleen.
BT: @is it the same for left and right hand fingers?
Chraeloos: So if you notice a specific finger or toe nail grows more than the rest perhaps you have an abundance of that organs qi or yin/yang
Chraeloos: yes it is Bhang
Chraeloos: if you massage these toes, you’ll also be able to affect the organs
NT: my right big toe has issues
Chraeloos: what kind of issues, if you don’t mind me asking
NT: well a little gout, and dry skin cracking
NT: toe nail is alittle off color
NT: in a sexy way thoug, lol
Chraeloos: I’d say then that the liver and/or spleen are not functioning properly, likely a deficiency of spleen-yin.
NT: ok i will try to nurse it and see what happens
Chraeloos: As they deal with transport of fluids, sounds like they aren’t transporting enough
NT: lol, not nurse it
NT: i will tend to it
Chraeloos: try cool herbs, to calm down the yang. But honestly, there are many more signs to look for to give a proper diagnosis
NT: cool herbs?
Chraeloos: so I recommend talking to someone about it first, a doctor who can actually see you in person, etc.
NT: yes ok
NT: good idea
NT: <<not that worried about it
Chraeloos: Well, some examples of cool foods would be apples, barley, raw celery, cucumber, green tea, lemons, lettuce, pears, radish, spinach, tofu, tomato, watercress, and whole wheat.
Chraeloos: Yeah, if it’s just your toe and not a bigger issue, just keep your eye on it and make sure it doesn’t spread or get worse
Chraeloos: Alright, any other questions so far?
Chraeloos: ok, lets continue.
Chraeloos: Kidney (including the vital gate)
Chraeloos: The two kidneys are located in the posterior part of the abdomen, one on each side of the spinal column. The kidney is linked to the urinary bladder by the meridians, and is part of the water element. “Because the kidney houses the innate essence, it is the foundation of the Yin-Yang of the viscera and the source of life.” It is also known as the “innate foundation.”
Chraeloos: The kidney stores and preserves essence. Essence has two meanings in CM: a) the basic substance which constitutes the body and maintains all vital activities, ie. qi, blood and fluids, and nutritive substances, and b) specifically the generative essence, both the prenatal and postnatal qi.
Chraeloos: (Remembering here that everyone has prenatal qi – ie qi that they don’t have to acquire, but only a limited amount. If the kidney’s don’t function properly, you may run out prenatal qi, especially if you don’t maintain your postnatal qi)
Chraeloos: To maintain qi you can eat a healthy diet, practice qi gong (exercises, meditations, etc), among many other things. Again this is the Chinese view of preventing disease rather than fighting it once its already there.
Chraeloos: The kidney’s control reproduction, through both sexual functionality and reproductive capacity. They provide the original substance for the embryo and are the material foundation of the vital activities. The kidney’s also promote growth and envelopment through all stages of life. They also have an important part in resisting disease and delaying senescence. The last thing they do is facilitate the production of blood.
Chraeloos: development, not envelopment, lol sorry again typos
Chraeloos: Since the kidney holds both yin and yang, it is known as the “house of Water and Fire.”
Chraeloos: You may come across this term both metaphorically and literally, in medical texts
Chraeloos: If the kidney’s are out of balance you will get signs such as hotness in the palms, afternoon fever, night sweats, wet dreams in males, and sexual dreams in females.
Chraeloos: Of course, these things occur naturally as well
Chraeloos: The kidney provides the basic motive power of the water and fluid metabolism due to its warming and evaporating functions. It controls the opening and closing of the bladder, which lets the urine flow or be retained.
Chraeloos: This is why if you get a bladder infection, common in females, it can very quickly progress up into a kidney infection, and then a blood infection, at which point you’re likely hospitalized.
Chraeloos: So, ladies, if you get a bladder infection, don’t ignore it!
Chraeloos: The kidney’s also accept the Qi that has been inhaled by the lung. “Although the lung controls respiration, it is the kidney that maintains its regularity.” Specifically, the depth, smoothness, and evenness of respiratory movement can be maintained only if Qi inhaled by the lung has descended into and has been accepted by the kidney.
HS: heh, ignore shooting pains; yeah, I do that all the time
Chraeloos: oh, and the itch!
Chraeloos: NT, lol, we aren’t at all trying to sound sexy here, so dont worry hahaha
Chraeloos: This is why we practice qi gong breathing, pulling the air all the way into our lower abdomens (this is called “natural breathing”, since all animals and babies breath like this). Most adults have constricted themselves and breath shallowly into their chests. Based on CM theory, this is not good, as it stagnates the air and qi, and doesn’t allow it to reach all the viscera to complete their vital functions. Bronchitis, pulmonary emphysema and lung-induced heart disease often show symptoms of the kidney failing to accept Qi.
HS: The itch is impossible to ignore. I don’t even try
Chraeloos: In CM, kidney stores essence and essence engenders marrow. This promotes bone growth and therefore growth of the body. There are three kinds of marrow: bone marrow, spinal cord, and brain. All three are derived from the kidney’s essential qi.
Chraeloos: “Bone” includes the teeth. The kidney’s are also manifest in the hair. If your hair is fast growing and healthy then your kidney’s are likely healthy. The ears are also closely related to the state of the kidneys. If kidney-essence is strong, hearing will be acute; if it is weak, it may be as extreme as deafness.
H: @So i’m supposed to breathe like this all the time?
Chraeloos: H, ideally, yes
Chraeloos: its what most natural for your body, although as we age it becomes harder to do because of habits
HS: No, not all the time, just when you feel you need it; you have to be sensitive to your body’s needs
Chraeloos: So you can see why the chinese see the body as a whole system, not just individual organs
H: are there any situations when it’s not recommended? like, i don’t know, air in some places is too polluted and i might get too much toxins by breathing deeply?
Chraeloos: H, definitely. You’re body will react as it should if you let it. Being relaxed is key to breathing properly
Chraeloos: and breathing properly is key to being relaxed
Chraeloos: OK, here’s a good example for you all…
H: being relaxed – hard stuff o______O
BT: my tai chi instructor talked about focusing on the breath
Chraeloos: In WWII, a qi gong teacher was walking through a field with his student. They were chatting about something, likely a lesson was being taught. The teacher was so relaxed and natural that when he stepped on the mine he felt it before any pressure was applied, and was able to jump back and push the student away – all without the mine ever exploding. This method of breathing is a major way of how the teacher was able to do that.
Chraeloos: H, it sure is. But it really shouldn’t be. It is our natural state
Chraeloos: BT, yes tai chi is part of this system as well
BT: i like to practice after coffee is that bad?
BT: hard on the liver and kidney?
HS: Bhang, not necessarily bad, but you are putting an obstacle in the way. lol I do it all the time
Chraeloos: Bhang, yes, lol. Ideally you should practice on an empty stomach, as anything in the stomach restricts the amount of movement of blood and qi and other vital functions – as well as restricting the expansion of the body with breathe.
H: so i should try deeper breathing during the day spontaneously? or just once/twice as exercise?
Chraeloos: Coffee in general is hard on the liver and kidney as its so acidic and as we buy it has many chemicals added.
HS: Well, that’s like asking when should I take a crap during the day? Whenever you need to, ideally.
Chraeloos: H, whatever you feel comfortable with.
Chraeloos: I practice it whenever I think of it – all day every day
Chraeloos: Hunt, exactly lol
Chraeloos: and after even just a week my body became used to it, and started doing it naturally again
Chraeloos: it is something that should become habit, you shouldn’t have to think about it after a while.
Chraeloos: As babies and children we all do it
Chraeloos: but as the stresses of this modern world affect us more and more we breath more and more shallow, until when we are adults most people breathe into their chests all the time.
Chraeloos: alright, well lets talk about the vital gate for a few minutes
Chraeloos: The Vital Gate
Chraeloos: “The left is the kidney and the right is the vital gate. The vital gate is the house of essence, spirit and vitality. in the male it stores essence; in the female it maintains the uterus. Its qi communicates with the kidney.” – Classic on Medical Problems.
Chraeloos: The vital gate has also been said to reside between the kidneys, in both kidneys, and it was the motive force of qi (residing between the two kidneys). Most importantly, is that the vital gate is the source of genuine qi, the birthplace of the body’s warmth and energy, and it plays a part in the reproductive and sexual functions of the body.
Chraeloos: No school of TCM seems to agree where exactly it is located, but we could say its in the middle section of our abdomen, where the kidney’s are either way.
Chraeloos: the vital gate can be compared to the chakras of reiki and ayurveda.
Chraeloos: it is a center of energy within the body
BT: dan tien?
Chraeloos: the vital gate is the center dan tien
Chraeloos: there are three, according to some, essentially compared to the root chakra, or located in the pelvis, the middle compared to the solar plexus chakra, and the third compared to the third eye chakra, in the head
Chraeloos: The three dan tiens are the humans centers of energy in the body, or even qi. These are utilized in meditation and all energy work, and tcm practitioners will also use them, although they are more oriented towards qi gong and are not used as diagnostics as in reiki or chakra healing
Chraeloos: But of course, that also depends on which practitioner you go to, as they all have their own styles and strong points.
Chraeloos: So, last but not least for today…
Chraeloos: As a whole, the all the zang viscera take part in the metabolism of water and fluids. The process is completed with the dispersing and lowering function of the lung, the transporting and transforming function of the spleen, the conducting and facilitating function of the liver, the water-passage dredging function of the sanjiao, as well as the transforming function of the kidney.
Chraeloos: That is the end of the notes for today. Please feel free to leave a donation in the tip jar if you want to support this event and ones like it! Thank you all for coming! Please feel free to stick around and ask any questions or just chat 🙂
BT: @would qi be comparable to fire and blood to water?
Chraeloos: BT, that depends. Everything is relative to what you are comparing it to
Chraeloos: I’d say the other way around when comparing blood and qi, qi would be more water like and blood fire
Chraeloos: But when comparing the blood to the skin, or to something else, it could take on another element
H: would changing my breathing habits help with that dust allergy i asked about week ago?
Chraeloos: H, likely yes.
Chraeloos: If nothing else it would enhance your lungs ability to protect against the dust
H: what about reverse crane breathing, this can be used to like, clean my lungs when i get too much dust? xPP
Chraeloos: reverse crane breathing is very challenging. I’m not all that familiar with it, but any kind of reversed breathing is challenging and should only be used in minimal amounts
Chraeloos: If its anything like the reversed breathing I’ve heard of, you suck your stomach in when you inhale, and push it out when you exhale. Which can be very good for building control and awareness, but should only be practiced minimally
H: does tcm say anything about best hours to go to sleep and get up to feel healthiest?
H: ok, i won’t overdo reverse breathing then, thanks 🙂
BT: isnt it with the sun?
Chraeloos: The best sleep happens between 11pm and 6am. I usually aim to be in bed for 10:30 and up by 6:30, as I seem to need more sleep than 7 hours.
Chraeloos: let me see if I can find this chart I had about the hours each organ is at its peak…
Chraeloos: There, so that is the chart for the hours each organ is most active
H: ah you see because my sleeping patterns are so f***** up lately
Chraeloos: I’d say if nothing else you should be able to get to your deepest sleep by 1 am, so the liver can function as it needs the rest more than the others
H: it happened when there was this annoying weather
H: i mean super-hot summer that i couldn’t handle xD
H: and i started to sleep at weird hours
H: during the day and all
H: and now there are storms all the time
H: and my hours changed again
Chraeloos: ah yes, well thats not necessarily affected your organs, it could just be the heat that keeps you up. But it would affect all your yin-yang balance, which could affect a certain organ depending
Chraeloos: and BT, yes, it is kind of with the sun, more or less
H: i started to go to sleep at 9 sometimes 10 pm lately but i feel shitty xP
H: i mean i ‘normally’ go to sleep at 6am *cough* (i know it’s weird) and i feel amazing when i wake up
BT: i just quit sleeping that seems to have done the trick
Chraeloos: thats not good H! it is possible to get too much sleep also
Chraeloos: BT, that is horrible for your system lol
H: it’s like when i sleep most of the night it makes me feel worse, but when i’m up during lots of night hours i feel good, dunno xPP
BT: if i get enough yang saved up it’ll turn back into yin and balance out
[this isn’t entirely true…it mostly depends on timing. yes, when either yin or yang “overflows” it will revert back to the other, but not after causing much damage to your body, and perhaps not before death. The idea in TCM is to keep a balance, so any imbalance is not good for your body.]