The Anal Retentive Meridian

Gotta love twitter, and the random exchanges that can spark such impromptu blog posts. (Thank you @musecrossing!)

Anyway, it began with a request for my Curry Lentil Soup recipe.. which I managed to offer in less than 140 characters, (yay me!), but when asked for exact amounts, I replied that "I don't do quantities."

For one, it was a pretty simple toss up of lentils and veggies, and two, I really didn't feel like going there at that time. And in less than 140 characters.

My twitter pal fretted, claiming 'obsessive-compulsiveness', and 'anal-retentiveness'.

Knowing her husband is also a shiatsu practitioner, I thought (and rightfully so) that she would appreciate the humor behind my preference for calling it a "Large Intestine meridian imbalance".

After she ROFL (her) AO, she asked which points she should request her hubby to address in hopes of treating this condition.

I immediately thought about a client I once had... an engineer for a certain large corporation who literally had his head on screwed too tight. And I don't mean 'literally' as in 'figuratively', as it often gets improperly used, but as in, I could not put pressure on either of his shoulders without his head lolling from side to side quite dramatically. Like they were one in the same.

This was always fascinating to me as the LI meridian is one of the yang vessels that runs up the arms, across the shoulders, along the neck and face to either side of the nostrils. In addition to the Liver/Gall Bladder meridians, the Large Intestine figures primarily in neck and shoulder tension.

So what? Bear with me, I have a point, and it's pretty cool.

Okay, so one psychological association of the LI meridian, besides attention to detail (aha!), is the ability, or lack thereof, to let go. Of thoughts, ideas, stuff, details, anything no longer serving us.... (Can you see the parallel function of the anatomical large intestine here? Do I have to spell it out? Okay, moving on.)

The LI, along with its yin paired meridian, the Lung, are about grief, trust, details, as I've said, and this meridian, when imbalanced, shows up with an overconcern for the little things, and a need for control to prevent one from feeling vulnerable.

The yin Lung meridian which runs from the upper part of the rib cage o the front of the body, out along the inner part of the arms, often gets contracted in an attempt for protection, and can result in an equal response of tension in the LI meridian... bracing oneself, keeping the shoulders rigid and scrunched, and the head and neck in firm control. (Next time you're driving, or typing at your computer, or balancing your checkbook, just take a sec and notice what your shoulders are doing. Oh, and your breathing... lung control, after all.)

Control, control, control. Yes, the Metal element, which the Lung and LI belong to, is all about that. Yes, we need to pay attention to details.. we need our editors and proofreaders and control freaks. But a little trust in the unknown, and a loosening up with cleansing breaths, will help bring some balance and relief from chronic shoulder and neck pain.

(Hey, I'm a Virgo... this stuff is part and parcel of my astrological heritage... perfectionists as we are fated to be. And, when we feel stress, where does it affect us? Our digestive systems! Hey, whaddya know??)

What to do.

Shoulder massages are nice. Even better, some pressure on the area under the clavicles to open up those contracted muscles.

The Makka-ho LU/LI stretch and its complementary exercise are great. I don't have visuals (yet) so I'll try to describe it.

Stand with feet hip width apart. Lock your thumbs behind your back, and take a breath in.

While breathing out, bend forward at the hips, raising your arms as comfortably as they will go up behind your back. Stay in that position for five full breaths. Don't force, just allow your exhale to take you deeper into the stretch, while noticing the tension in your body with each inhale. Those lines of tension? Them's the meridians.

Come up gently, and pause for a moment.

Now, with your arms at your sides, bring your middle fingers and thumbs together. Swing your arms back slightly, and then, taking a deep inhale, swing them forward and over your head, while leaping forward onto your right foot.

As you exhale, bring your foot back into place and let your arms drop. Repeat with the left foot, and alternative several times.

Yes, you will feel like an idiot. And perhaps ungraceful. But this is the trust thing. The motion is like taking a leap into the unknown. Imagine that. Imagine leaping into an abyss like a gazelle,  with perfect trust that you will land gracefully, and safely. Nice deep, cleansing breaths.

Perfect trust.

After you've done this about five times on each side, repeat the forward bending stretch, and notice, if you can, how much more ease you have going into the stretch. 

Congratulations! You've opened up the meridian!

Do some shoulder scrunches, releasing them with full exhales, a few gentle neck bends, and trust that your head is still attached, but not so tight that it causes you pain.

The details always manage to take care of themselves.

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Meridians of Fear