How does Shiatsu and bodywork change us? What are meridians? How do they work? More and more I feel that many of the connections that the Chinese made in developing the meridian map of the body, relate to our cellular memory from embryological development and even before that! What is starting to become clearer to me, from my own direct experience, is that the meridians and the points carry both physical and emotional patterning of how we developed in the womb. Even orthodox science these days underlies the importance of our early life unfolding, not just in a deterministic genetic way, but in the way our womb environment imprints experiences on our developing body; epigenetics. What our mother ate, how she felt, about her pregnancy and her life all have an effect. The ancients always emphasised the importance of “womb education”.
Let’s take the example of the heart. The Heart is always considered extremely important in Chinese medicine: it expresses our Shen, our soul, our spirit, our personal life path. Embryologically the heart begins its development above the brain and only around day 24 starts to fold in beneath and gradually move down to where finally ends up. Another important organ for the Chinese, the Kidneys, which are about our connection to our ancestors (physically and emotionally) and our capacity to reproduce, undergo a similar process. They start lower down than where they eventually end up and are cellularly linked with the reproductive system. Important points to work the Kidneys are found in the lumbar region, lower than the physical kidneys.
How did the Chinese know this when they did not understand embryological development in the way that we now do? I believe, that being more connected to the natural rhythms of the earth, they were more tuned into energy in the body. We could possibly explain this as them operating more than we do today from their right brain; from their more intuitive side. They saw things in our body that now only some physics and intuitives do.
I have recently become inspired by the work of Bonnie Bainbridge Cohen (bodymindcentring.com) who explores anatomy from an experiential point of view. Originally a dancer, she began understanding the body through experiencing of it. She has come up with some fascinating insights. Being with her on a course, I found that as she connected with different aspects of our early life, from the egg being fertilised by the sperm, to the fertilised egg spiralling into the womb, my body started to remember and re-experience these feelings. I did some further study with one of her students, Linda Hartley, (http://www.lindahartley.co.uk/) on early infant movement and infant reflexes. Our infant reflexes begin with our early infant movement in the womb. Once again my body started to remember. Bonnie and Linda talk about “embodiment” and understanding the whole emotional as well as physical processes of how we inhabit our body. These are processes which do not complete with the completion of our physical form, but which continue through our whole life.
Another interesting link with Shiatsu, and eastern traditions, is the importance of the midline. In embryological development, again unsurprisingly, we now “know” scientifically that early development comes from an unfolding from the midline; the primitive streak, the neural plates. Early on the future body is essentially a thin line in between the future yolk sac and amniotic sac. From a shiatsu perspective, this early energy of the midline changes is represented by the Governing vessel and Conception vessel: meridians passing through the midline. In other systems, the midline is fundamental: the chakras, the cranial sacral rhythms.
This year I have been studying with Cherionna (cherionna.com) who is a cranial sacral therapist (and massage therapist) who has also studied Bonnie’s work as well as working with Emilie Conrad (http://www.continuummovement.com) who developed continuum work. I asked her to combine all the aspects of these developmental patterns which I want to keep studying: beginning with movements and development in the womb, continuing with the movements during birth and ending with all the movements we do during our first year of life. The result: a workshop series “Fluid development” http://www.cherionna.com/docs/FluidDevBristol.pdf which will take place in Bristol, UK , selfishly where I live, from January next year.
I am looking forward to deepening my understanding of my early movements and applying this to my shiatsu and massage work. Please join me. I think it will be of interest to all who work physically and energetically with bodies.