Strengthening the core: from the inside out:
Why everyone can benefit from pelvic support from the Girdle Vessel.
Just about everyone these days is in need of some help from their “Girdle Vessel” meridian. We could all do with some physical, perhaps even emotional, support around our middles! Many people suffer from lower back ache or weak abdominals or pelvic floor muscles. Many women have issues like painful menstruation, cysts and fibroids. Men may have issues with their prostrates or fluid retention. Infertility is a concern for increasing numbers of people. In pregnancy and birth there are many changes in this vessel.
Core stability is very much in vogue in the fitness industry, but supporting our core is not a new concept to traditional medicine. It was a fundamental aspect of ancient Chinese medicine and, in Japanese culture, the hara, or abdomen, is considered both our physical and emotional centre. Some people think that ancient systems of healing can be weird or esoteric and, because we don’t completely understand how they work, then we should dismiss them. In fact they are rooted in a common sense, practical approach to the body. They worked out ways of supporting the body, including the use of herbal medicines as well as various physical therapy techniques like tuina, acupressure, shiatsu, massage, and exercise and breathing, which are still relevant today.
The Girdle Vessel is a pathway which goes around our middle, our pelvis, like a broad belt. Sometimes indeed, it is known as the belt channel. In many traditional cultures, even western ones, it was considered important to keep the abdomen warm and protect our lower back from exposure to cold. Modern cultures have tended to forget some of this importance, especially when short T shirts and low waisted jeans were in vogue. The Girdle vessel pathway (sometimes known as a meridian) has some acupuncture points on it, but is essentially a very broad band which not only encircles our middle but goes underneath to include the pelvic floor. It is considered the main form of physical support for the pelvis. It links our abdominal muscles with our buttocks and lower back as well as pelvic floor and indeed all the deep muscles of the pelvis as well. Now in the fitness industry there has been a realisation that it is not particularly helpful to isolate the abdominal muscles but work to strengthen them must include work with the back, including the glutes but also the pelvic floor. Exercises for the Girdle Vessel always emphasised this. Girdle Vessel exercises are included as part of Chi Kung and Tai Chi and other traditional forms of exercises.
However these days, we have an added urgency to work our Girdle Vessel. We forget how recent the invention of the chair is. Before the chair, we would squat and use our pelvis a lot more as we moved into different types of positions during the day. Now as we spend so much time during the day sitting, everything gets compressed; the bones, the blood flow, our digestive and eliminatory system. Our muscles get lazy. Many people carry additional weight around their middles. And we are seeing increase in digestive and elimination issues, weak pelvic floor, pelvic floor instability, prolapsed organs, even issues such as bowel cancer, fibroids, cysts and so on. All this is related to stagnation in the Girdle Vessel.
If we are not connected physically to this area in our body, then we are often not connected emotionally either. Our society’s attitude to expressing from our middles, for example especially our sexuality and fertility, is rather confused, to put it mildly.
In my work, both teaching and with clients, I teach people how to work with the Girdle Vessel. In future blogs I will give you some ideas of exercises, visualisations so that you can support this area and energy in yourself.
For now, I will share a simple technique which works this area, which I have described in my book “Beautiful Birth” written for parents preparing for birth.
” We will begin with the mother sitting and the partner sat behind her.
You can either do this through the mother’s clothes, or you can rub some oil in directly on the abdomen. If you are rubbing in oil begin by warming the oil in your hands and then gradually smoothing it over the mother’s abdomen with clockwise strokes.
Place one hand on the mother’s abdomen and one hand on her lower back. How high up or low down the back you have this depends on the most comfortable place for the mother. Having the hand somewhere on the lower back tends to allow the mother to feel less invaded, more supported and experience a connection which is deep inside her body from front to back. Just allow your hands to mould to the shape of the mother’s body and rest there for a while. Feel the connection between your two hands and feel the movement of the mother’s breathing drawing your hands gently together as she breathes out and gently pushing them away as she breathes in. After a while, begin to apply gentle pressure as the mother breathes out, by drawing your two hands together. As the mother breathes in, feel your hands being pushed away and release the pressure, but keep the contact. Be aware of the baby in the womb. Connect with how much pressure feels appropriate.
You can work different places on the front by moving the hand placed over the abdomen. Keep the hand on the back still. Begin by sliding the hand round, as though you’re moving 1 or 2 hours in a clockwise direction round the abdomen. On the new place, repeat the pressure. Remember that the amount of pressure will vary from place to place. You may also find that some places really draw you in and you want to stay for longer – it is fine to stay longer on these areas. Other places may feel firmer and push you away so that you may only want to stay for a few out-breaths. The baby may respond differently in different areas. S/he may even follow your hands round or even kick you. It is important to work in a clockwise direction to follow the movement of the intestines. Keep the hand on the sacrum/lower back stable, this provides a lovely support.
While you are doing this you can talk to your baby. Maybe you have a womb name for them or maybe you are already calling them by the name you will give them after they are born. See if you can be aware of different parts of your baby’s body. You probably won’t be able to tell if you are touching a foot or a hand, but you will be able to feel the little limbs pushing in to you. You might not be able to tell the bottom from the head, but you can feel a hard lump. You will probably be able to work out what is the spine and back. This will be a large, wide flat area. You may find the baby will move round as you touch different places.
You can also place your hand over one of the mother’s kidneys. The kidneys are mostly under the ribs, so cup your hand over the lower part of one rib. Visualise energy from the kidney moving through into the lower abdomen. Feel a strong connection with this hand. You can move the hand over the abdomen as before, connecting with the uterus and the baby. You can then move onto placing your mother hand over the other kidney and repeating. ”