Meridians is a term used for the pathways which the ancient Chinese discovered, which circulate the different energies (physical, emotional and spiritual) around our body. Meridians, with the exception of one vessel run longitudinally through the body connecting Heaven and Earth. Meridians are also referred to as channels or vessels. The original terminology for meridians was “mai”.
Meridians have been shown to possess low electrical impedance and high capacitance meaning that meridians show resistance and reactivity along their path and are storage vessels for electrical charge.
In western terminology Meridians are not recognized as real anatomical structures. Although there is emerging information that indicating correspondence between acupuncture points, meridians and interstitial connective tissue.
From some of the information being bought to light we can begin to conceive that meridians do exist within the body and hold an energetic vibration that can be felt and experienced by both the giver and the receiver of shiatsu, acupuncture and other meridian-based medicines.
Meridians are usually drawn as lines on diagrams. There are 12 main meridians in the body with 8 additional extra ordinary vessels.
Ki is a Japanese word and is often interchanged with the Chinese word Chi or Qi and even likened to the Hindu word Prana. All of these words, Ki, Chi and Prana are often used to describe our life force energy. The energy that gives us out vitality – our ability to live.
The word Ki can be used to explain the universal concept of energy. Energy that penetrates all objects and all beings. Energy that is visible and invisible. The energy that moves through our body, that we can feel.
Oriental theory believes that our energetic body has both a limited and infinite suggesting that it will both deplete and can also be regenerated. Ki energy is part of our very being and with us from birth. As we age our Ki does diminish however we can enhance our wellbeing and even regenerate our Ki levels through lifestyle choices. The food that we eat, the activities we participate in, practicing excellent levels of self-care and taking responsibility for developing a healthy relationship with ourselves we can nurture our energetic body as well as our physical, mental and emotional bodies.
A tsubo is a specific pressure point in the body where the Shiatsu Practitioner can ‘meet’ the energy of the client who is having a treatment. A tsubo may occur anywhere on a meridian, anywhere on the body or may correspond with an acupoint (a specific location often used in acupuncture). In Shiatsu, a Tsubo is a tender point known as an ‘ah shi’ point. An ahi shi point or as we say in a treatment the “yes that is it” point is the feel good trigger point that is treated using the principles of tonification and sedation depending on if it is Kyo or Jitsu. Tsubo becomes an place of connection or an entry point to facilitate healing and balancing of the client’s energy.
Kyo and Jitsu
Kyo and Jitsu are both words used to indicate a state of interdependence and relationship and is similar to Yin and Yang. Just as Yin and Yang have ‘opposite’ meanings but are relative to each other, so is Kyo and Jitsu.
In many styles of massage practitioners are taught how to locate areas of tension and to ‘work’ out the knots. In Shiatsu we are taught to become aware of both the tension or fullness and the hollowness or emptiness the body may physically manifest. These areas of fullness and emptiness can be referred to as Jitsu and Kyo.
At this point it can be noted that Jitsu and Kyo may also have other definitions or meanings but to keep the understanding of these concepts for the purpose of this article I will refer to these words in terms of the material manifestation of Ki held within the body.
Kyo is the empty feeling held with the muscles of the body. The area of the body is often depleted or weak of energy. Jitsu is the manifestation of energy in the muscles that is tight or tense and would be considered to be in excess of energy. Often a client will present with a problem held in the Jitsu side. The may have knots in one shoulder for example. They may come in wanting the knot massaged out. This can be slightly problematic for a Shiatsu practitioner when the client notices that the practitioner is paying attention to the weaker or opposite shoulder.
Often I find a client will present with pain more in one side of the body and expect that will be the side I ‘massage’ the most. I explain to my client during a treatment (or before as I set the plan) the issue is quite often the opposite side because it is weak and lacks energy. My aim in these treatments is to ‘lift’ the Ki in the side of Kyo therefore creating that balance.
This type of strategy is just the beginning of how Kyo and Jitsu are used in a treatment. Meeting a tense area with firm, hard and fast action is not recommended just as meeting an empty area with slow, light action is not the best practice. I often hear clients asking for “deep, hard” massage but that is not how Shiatsu works and definitely not a sustained practice I wish to do if I am to get longevity out of my own body to continue offering treatments.
When treating it is best to meet the meridian or tsubo with a strategy to either tonify or sedate depending on if the areas is more Kyo or Jitsu. So when working an area of Kyo I will aim to tonify with a soft, brisk action. Working an area using a sedating method requires firm, slow action.
Tonification and Sedation
Tonification and Sedation are the techniques used to normalize or bring back to balance areas of Kyo and Jitsu. Tonification is a strengthening method to bring Ki to an area of depleted energy. Sedation is a releasing method to soothe or disperse Ki that is stagnant and being held within the body.
Beresford-Cooke, C 2011 Shiatsu: theory and Practice, Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, Edinburgh.