Impact of Tensions and Energy Stagnation in the Pre-Heaven Cavities
and the Curious Organs (qi heng zhi fu 奇恒之腑), and their Consequences
on the Extraordinary channels and the Endocrine Glands
World Scientific and Cultural Dialog on Acupuncture, Paris, November 2018
The Chinese medical classics, such as the Huangdi Nei Jing 黄帝内經, Nan Jing 難經, Zhēnjiǔ Jiǎyǐ Jīng 針灸甲乙經 and Zhen Jiu Da Cheng 針灸大成 describe distinct energy structures such as muscle channels (jing jin 經筋) and divergent channels (jing bie 經别), as well as main channels (zheng jing 正經) and the eight extraordinary channels (qi jing ba mai 奇經八脈). These networks link different areas of the body, among which tissues referred to in the classics as pre-heaven (xian tian 先天) cavities and post-heaven (hou tian 後天) cavities. The Ling Shu 靈樞 mentions the following pre-heaven cavities: the brain (nao 腦), marrow (suǐ 髓), bones (gŭ 骨), channels (mai 脈), gallbladder (Dăn 膽), and uterus (nüzi bao 女子胞). We shall focus here on the brain and marrow, including bone marrow.
Throughout a person’s life, from birth to old age, these tissues can be affected by repetitive violent physical trauma impacting the skull, spine or bones, emotional trauma, or by cosmo-telluric energies and electromagnetic fields, which were unknown to the ancient Chinese. These internal and external energies can lead to qi stagnation in the pre-heaven cavities and manifest as tensions in the tissues, similar to power surges in an electrical network. They can then affect the central or autonomic nervous system or the endocrine glands, spread to the organs and viscera as well as to other tissues. The body, seeking to compensate for these yang-type tensions, will draw on its reserve of yin energy, particularly on its innate or acquired jing qi.
Chapter 60 of the Su Wen 素問, Treatise on Bone Cavities (Gŭ Kōng Lùn 骨空論), clearly states the points that connect the marrow to the cranium, sensory organs, sternum, and sacrum. These forms of qi stagnation can also affect the eight extraordinary channels (qi jing ba mai 奇經八脈), which constitute a passageway between pre and post heaven. They can be diagnosed through symptoms, pulse assessment, and palpation of the points along the eight extraordinary channel pathways.
The eight extraordinary channels can be divided in two categories:
- the four core channels: Ren Mai 任脈, Du Mai 督脈, Chong Mai 衝脈 and Dai Mai 帶脈
- the four peripheral channels belonging to the Wei 維 and Qiao 蹻 families: Yin Wei Mai 陰維脈, Yang Wei Mai 陽維脈, and Yin Qiao Mai 陰蹻脈, Yang Qiao Mai 陽蹻脈.
The Classics mention specific pairings of the eight channels: the Chong Mai 衝脈 with the Yin Wei Mai 陰維脈, the Dai Mai 帶脈 with the Yang Wei Mai 陽維脈, the Ren Mai 任脈 with the Yin Qiao Mai 陰蹻脈, and the Du Mai 督脈 with the Yang Qiao Mai 陽蹻脈. Whereas the main channels (zheng jing 正經) are particularly sensitive to climatic factors such as cold, heat, dampness, dryness, and high and low pressure (feng 風 and shu 暑), the eight extraordinary channels appear to be specifically affected by cosmo-telluric energies and electromagnetic fields.
Pre-heaven energies are comprised of embryonic energies, occurring during the first nine months of intra-uterine life, and of cosmo-telluric energies. Recent research in astrophysics shows that the elements at the origin of life appeared when stars were first formed. That is to say, life on this planet is rooted in stardust. The eight extraordinary channels are particularly sensitive to pre-heaven energies, which can be designated as “internal” when referring to embryonic energies and “external” when referring to cosmo-telluric energies. In this sense, the four core channels are related to internal energies, whereas the four peripheral channels, which act as a sort of paired relays, are related to external energies.
The entry points of the Wei and Qiao channels act as relays (KI 9 Zhù Bīn 築賓, UB 63 Jīn Mén 金門, KI 6 Zhào Hǎi 照海 and UB 62 Shēn Mài 申脈) when open, functioning as grounding points. When they are closed however, they can cause qi stagnation in the corresponding extraordinary channels as well as in the paired channels. UB 62 Shēn Mài is a well-known example. It is traditionally used for epilepsy, a true “storm” in the Du Mai. Opening Shen Mai grounds the Yang Qiao Mai and Du Mai, thus releasing tensions in the marrow. In the same way, KI 9 Zhù Bīn, when it is closed, causes disruptions in not only the Yin Wei Mai, but also in the Chong Mai, the sea of blood and its channels, producing a series of well-defined pathologies. When closed, KI 6 Zhào HǎI disrupts the Yin Qiao Mai and the Ren Mai, the sea of Yin, whereas UB 63 Jīn Mén when closed, disturbs the Yang Wei Mai and the Dai Mai as well as the correlative energies of the waist and surface.
Everyday clinical experience has also demonstrated the existence of specific relationships based on resonance between the eight extraordinary channels and the endocrine glands not mentioned in the Classics. For example, life in modern society, with all its stress, can disrupt our energies, often resulting in diseases of the thyroid. However, a malfunctioning of the Yang Wei Mai always manifests prior to the appearance of an actual disease of the thyroid. A preventive treatment of the Yang Wei Mai will help lessen the symptoms of stress-related thyroid disease, which also affect the occipito-cervical junction C0-C1 and local points Du Mai 16 Fēng Fǔ 風府 and GB 20 Fēng Chi 風池, as well as C6.
Very often, this association of energy stagnation and tension in the marrow generates heat, which in turn leads to pathologies of chronic cold following the pattern of yin-yang inversion. The Shang Han Lun 傷寒論 specifically mentions external Cold invasions, internal cold due to deep yang deficiency, as well as cold due to yin-yang inversion. Chronic cold causes compensatory inflammation, often at the surface of the body.
Forty years of observation of hundreds of patients has demonstrated that the free flow of energy in the extraordinary channels is crucial for any type of preventive treatment. There are many ways of decrypting and using the points of the extraordinary channels, however, we generally work with the correspondences outlined by Jacques Pialoux on Figure 1. Living in an environment where troubled cosmo-telluric energies or electromagnetic fields create disruptions in the eight extraordinary channels can cause their points to close, especially the master points mentioned above, such as UB 62 Shēn Mài and KI 6 Zhào Hǎi. This in turn will weaken the ankles and may lead to major sprains without any true mechanical cause. On the other hand, a sprained ankle which has not been treated properly can also disrupt the flow of energy in UB 62 Shēn Mài and KI 6 Zhào Hǎi, which will translate as energy stagnation not only in the Yang Qiao Mai and Yin Qiao Mai, but also primarily in the Du Mai and Ren Mai.
Degenerative diseases of the eyes, which are increasingly common, are another example of this mechanism. Nowadays, constant and excessive visual stimuli can create excessive tension in the eyes. Through UB 1 Jīng Míng 睛明, these tensions are transmitted to the Yang Qiao Mai and Yin Qiao Mai, and often lead to the same inversion, from heat to cold mentioned above. Since the eight extraordinary channels are connected to pre-heaven energies, appropriate stimuli of their points can affect stem cells, which current research has shown to be of vital importance to overall health maintenance, and can slow the progress of degenerative diseases.
Excessive tension and qi stagnation can also worsen joint pathologies. In order to accumulate excessive tension in the marrow, bones, especially long bones, tend to twist with respect to their central axis. This in turn induces new constraints on the joints and the ligaments.
In the early 20th Century, William Garner Sutherland, an American osteopathic physician, conceptualized the theory of PRM (Primary Respiratory Mechanism) which gave birth to cranial osteopathy. The ancient Chinese knew of this concept which they called embryonic breathing (Tāi Xí 胎息).
Qi stagnations in bones and marrow can also be treated using another principle: the cranial-sacral axis, occupying a central position with regards to the four limbs, which are peripheral. The relationships between the cranium and the hands given in figure 2 are an example of this principle. Microsystem therapies are based on a fractal projection of the entire body on the ear, foot, hand, abdomen, etc. These therapies have also been proven effective for working on energy stagnation in the pre-heaven cavities.
The preceding figure (fig. 2) is not based on the same principle: it illustrates a three-tiered model which has been rediscovered by Jacques Martin-Hartz, Jacques Pialoux and Jean-Pierre Giuliani based on the study of the Classics. This energetic model is manifested and structured in physical matter and anatomy along specific numbers and geometrical lines: 14 channels, 14 phalanxes, 5 elements, 5 metacarpals and 5 metatarsals, 32 teeth, 64 articular processes, etc. For example, liver energy resonates with specific cranial bones, cervical and thoracic vertebrae, muscles, teeth, joints, acupuncture points, and so forth.
These principles were first discovered by the ancient Chinese who intuitively developed a holistic theory of energetics (directions, colors, sounds, flavors, etc.). Pre-heaven energies and the eight extraordinary channels are particularly sensitive to movement in the three dimensions of space. For example, the Yin Qiao Mai and Yang Qiao Mai are traditionally associated with the left/right axis, whereas the Ren Mai and Du Mai are associated with the anterior/posterior axis. A major shock or trauma, whether physical, emotional, or electromagnetic can disrupt the deep energetic structures of the body which will absorb the shock wave by inverting the body’s energetic axes: left and right will thus be inverted around the central axis, which remains fixed. If the body has enough energy, it can restore harmony on its own. However, if these inversions persist, they can cause trouble, from learning impairment in children, to falls in the elderly, as well as any kind of space and time disorientation.
Yin-Yang polarity can be restored using the master points in conjunction with the confluence points of the eight extraordinary channels. These inversions can impair treatment by reinforcing qi stagnations. Daoist masters proposed that during life in the womb, the eight extraordinary channels are able to flow freely. They then gradually become obstructed as we age in the same way that some endocrine glands follow a process of involution. For this reason, when treating the extraordinary channels, treatment intention and strategy must respect these energetic cycles. The intention will be different when treating wèi qì 衛氣 stagnation in a muscle channel (jing jin 經筋), yíng qì 營氣 stagnation in a main channel, or energy stagnation in the pre-heaven cavities.
Pathogenic energy (xié qì 邪氣) in the marrow can be released toward the periphery by stimulating the correlative points mentioned in the Classics, or by using the extraordinary channels, microsystems, or the principles of resonance in the body.
Shoulder pathologies are another significant example of treatment using the extraordinary channels. The shoulder joint interestingly illustrates the passage from pre to post heaven. During childbirth, delivery can be complicated by the shoulders or lead to their injury. Shoulder problems can also appear again with andropause and menopause, a time of hormonal changes when shoulder issues mark another symbolic transition from post-heaven to pre-heaven.
If treatment with commonly used points on the main channels does not give sufficient results, eight extraordinary channel points are a cogent option, as they reflect the two-way transition between pre and post heaven. The points along the eight extraordinary channels can thus be used to release excess tension in the marrow of twisted bones. In this case, treatment involves the entry points of the Yang Qiao Mai (UB 62 Shēn Mài) and Yang Wei Mai (UB 63 Jīn Mén) distally, and locally the confluence points of the Yang Qiao Mai SI 10 Nào Shū 臑俞, LI 15 Jiān Yú 肩髃 and LI 16 Jù Gǔ 巨骨, as well as the confluence points of the Yang Wei Mai SI 10 Nào Shū, TH 15 Tiān Liáo 天髎, GB 21 Jiān Jǐng 肩井. The practitioner should check whether these points are closed and if so, treat them.
Using the master points of the eight extraordinary channels can suffice to release minor energy stagnations, but in the case of larger energy stagnations, the points along the eight extraordinary channels themselves must be used. Many pathologies, including for example, all diseases of the cranium such as migraines, sensory organ conditions and related endocrine imbalances, as well as all cervical, thoracic and lumbosacral pain, are caused by such deep forms of energy stagnation.
When treating these pathologies, palpation can be used to corroborate this theory of excess tensions in the marrow. In this regard, persistent tension in the vertebrae does not manifest as occurring between two vertebrae but rather as affecting a block of several vertebrae, with a feeling of general stiffness, especially at the cervical or thoracic level.
In the upper burner, excess tension in the ribs and sternum can also aggravate lung and heart issues. These tensions can add to existing tensions in the vertebrae and cause a stiffening of the bone structure. In the course of their rhythmic movements, the heart and lungs will then bump against the stiffening ribcage. Over time, this collision of hard surfaces will alter the elasticity and pliancy of the heart and lungs.
Two points must be considered in relationship to the middle burner, which encompasses all the digestive organs. First, dietary imbalance disrupts digestive function, governed energetically by the Spleen, the root of post-heavenly qi. Second, emotional imbalance can also disturb the solar plexus and impact the function of the middle burner. Recent research has revealed the existence of a synergistic gut-brain relationship. For this reason, any disturbance of the enteric nervous system and of the Spleen, the root of post-heavenly qi, will have direct consequences on the pre-heaven cavities – i.e., the brain and marrow. Excess tension in the vertebrae and the marrow relating to the middle burner will prolong and exacerbate any existing digestive issues.
As for the lower burner, tensions in the lumbar, sacral and perineal area, especially with regards to the Ren Mai/Du Mai passages, should be considered in any pathology linked to elimination, gynecology including fertility issues, and prostate problems.
Pre-heaven energies are also impaired in all degenerative and auto-immune diseases. As all these pathologies occur of course on a specific energetic terrain, regulation of pre-heaven energies should be included in a general therapeutic approach of the patient. In this sense, an eight-principle analysis of the patient will most often reveal deep Yin deficiency, producing heat, which by polarity inversion, evolves into cold syndromes and becomes chronic. In terms of qi 氣, blood xuě 血 and bodily fluids Jīn Yè 津液, these pathologies often occur in patients with a blood and bodily fluids deficiency, a weak spleen (digestive function) representing the root of post-heaven energies, and a weak kidney, representing the root of pre-heaven energies.
In the five elements (wŭ xing 五行), there is always an interruption of the generation sheng 生 cycle between metal and water, producing a hardening of tissues, sclerosis and fibrosis. At the emotional level, the Classics state that all emotions at their extreme eventually transform into fire. As the primary dredger of physical and psychological energies, when the liver is not functioning properly, emotional energies will invade the pre-heaven cavities. This process is facilitated by the link between the liver and the brain.
Finally, exposure to all types of electromagnetic fields in modern times affects all the sensory organs and through their openings, directly impacts the marrow and disrupts the extraordinary channels. Practically, the practitioner will need to first balance the energies in the marrow, either by using common acupuncture points such as Bèi Shū 背俞 points, Du Mai 督脈 points, or Hua Tuo Jia Ji 華佗夾脊 points, or by using microsystem points such as those encountered in auricular acupuncture or ECIWO, or if this proves insufficient, by way of the points on the extraordinary channels and points working on the system of resonance between bones, as these points are directly linked to pre-heaven energies. Once harmony is restored in the marrow, the practitioner will need to diagnose the cause of the deficiency affecting the marrow. To this effect, any of the approaches mentioned above can be used to diagnose and explain the imbalances affecting pre and post heaven energies.
This work on the marrow is crucial for prevention. Life will most certainly develop new ways to adapt to unfamiliar energies and changes in our lifestyle. Our task is to humbly accompany this process of change: wèi bìng xiān fáng 治未病, prevention is better than cure!
When studying the Classics, one cannot help but marvel at the scope of the knowledge and wisdom of the ancient Chinese masters. Their precious celestial legacy remains invaluable even with respect to the latest scientific discoveries. Thanks to a continuous lineage of great Chinese adepts and doctors, this knowledge has been transmitted to the West, allowing Western scholars to take part in this work. Though we cannot cite them all (this list could be two or three times as long), let us extend our warmest feelings of gratitude to all those who continue to contribute through their writings and teachings to this line of transmission. They remain a source of inspiration. We would like to thank: George Soulié de Morant, Dr Albert Chamfrault, Dr Nguyen Van Nghi, Dr Jacques André Lavier, Dr Jean Schatz, Révérend-Père Larre , Elisabeth Rochat de la Vallée, Alice Fano, Catherine Despeux, Dr Jean-Marc Eyssalet, André Faubert, Jean-Louis Blard, Dr André Duron, Charles Laville-Méry, Dr Jean-François Borsarello, Jacques Martin-Hartz, Jacques Pialoux, Jean-Pierre Guiliani, Robert Courbon, Dr B. Auteroche, Dr You-Wa Chen.