Category Archives: Acupressure Points

Gate of Hope

Gate 1Depression is an all too common condition these days. Feelings of flatness, hopelessness, pointlessness or simply a feeling of being down and blue are some of the characteristics of depression. From the perspective of Chinese medicine, one of the causes of depression is an imbalance in the Wood Element arising from stagnation in the Liver Qi which can in turn be a result of suppressed anger. Since anger is the emotion that corresponds to the Wood Element, constricted anger can affect its  yin organ, the Liver, resulting in a suppression not only of anger, but of vibrancy, aliveness, motivation and the willingness to move boldly through life.

When healthy, Liver Qi rises up from the feet and legs, through the groin and abdomen to the chest, empowering action and engagement with life. It is akin to the sap rising up a tree to nourish its branches and leaves. A common place for this uprising Qi to become stuck is in the chest at the last point (14) of the Liver meridian, Qimen, Gate of Hope.*

When Liver 14 becomes blocked, there can be constriction in the diaphragm leading to frequent sighing. There may be pain, distension and fullness in the chest as well as epigastric pain, nausea, reflux and vomiting.

At the psycho-emotional level blocked Qi at Qimen may result in an inability to see the way forward in life, feelings of gloominess, hopelessness and resignation. Opening the Gate of Hope can expand the horizons, allowing the person to see the limitless possibility that life has to offer. It provides support to meet the challenges of the world with zest and vigour, direction and purpose.

When Qi moves freely from here to the next point in the cycle, Lung 1, there is inspiration to aspire to greater things, support for the planning and creativity to express these aspirations in the world, and the strength and flexibility to carry them forward. All of these qualities are the gifts that are available to us when our Wood Element is in balance.

At the level of spirit, the spiritual issue of the Wood Element is finding one’s true path in life. What is the essential orientation and direction of your particular existence? What is the path through life that best expresses and unfolds your individual soul? Gate of Hope can support you as you ponder these existential questions.

* Gate of Hope is JR Worsley’s name for Liver 14; its traditional name is Cycle Gate since it marks the completion of the whole cycle of the meridian points which begins with Lung 1.

LV 14Location of Liver 14

The point is located in the sixth intercostal space, on the nipple line, i.e. 4 cun lateral to the midline. First locate the tip of the xiphoid process which is the knob of cartilage that attaches below the breast bone. Move your finger across the ribcage until you are in line with the nipple. Then come up until you land in a rib space. On a woman, this is the rib space below the breast. The point will probably be sensitive. Hold the point with steady pressure for 2 to 3 minutes or until you feel the Qi moving freely. If the point is really stuck, try holding it in combination with Lung 1 which we learned in an earlier post. (See The Breath of Heaven, April 14, 2014.)

How Flexible Are You?

Bending treeThe sinews of the body, the tendons and ligaments, are the province of the Wood Element, and particularly of the Gall Bladder. When Wood is healthy, there is strength and flexibility in these tissues, joints move freely and the body moves smoothly in space. When Wood is wobbly, there can be stiffness in the joints and tightness in the tendons which make movement slow and painful. Sometimes the problem is the opposite, that the tendons and ligaments are too loose, the joints lose their structural integrity and bones do not hold their alignment.

The concept of flexibility extends beyond the physical structures to the psychological level. Inflexible attitudes and beliefs can also point to an imbalance in Wood. Healthy trees bend and sway with the wind; as humans we need to be able to adapt flexibly to changing conditions in our lives if we are to move smoothly through life. On the other hand, some people are so over-flexible and accommodating towards others that they lose sight of themselves. If you bend over backwards for people, you are likely to hurt your back!

Yang Mound Spring (Gall Bladder 34) is considered to be the master point for treating the tendons and ligaments and bringing smooth flexibility to them. The point nourishes the tendons, relieves spasms and cramps, especially along the pathway of Gall Bladder, i.e. head, neck, shoulders, sides of the ribcage, hips, and sides of the legs. It also treats sciatica which refers down the side of the leg.

There is a saying in Chinese, “He has a small gallbladder”, which refers to a person who is timid, shy, indecisive, anxious and wary. Yang Mound Spring is a wonderful point for strengthening the Mind and Spirit in this arena, supporting the person to be bold, confident and decisive in the world.

Gall Bladder 34 also supports the partner organ of Liver, treating nausea, vomiting, indigestion, jaundice and hepatitis. At the emotional level, it can move stagnant emotions which lodge in the Liver, such as depression, frustration, irritability, anger and confusion.

So if you want to maintain a flexible body and an adaptable mind this spring, treat yourself to a little Yang Mound Spring.

Location of Gall Bladder 34

GB34The point lies below the outside of the knee in a depression below (inferior) and in front of (anterior) to the head of the fibula. Slide your finger up the side of your lower leg until you find a bony prominence below the knee. Move one cun (body inch) diagonally forward and down until you feel a tender spot in the depression where the fibula meets the tibia. Hold for 2-3 minutes or until you feel the Qi move. Treat the left side, then the right.

Is Life Worth Living? It all depends on the liver

KaleThis witty word play by 19th century American philosopher William James serves as a reminder that the health of the liver organ is of utmost importance in living a healthy life. If you want to live, you have to have a liver.

Of the approximately 500 functions of the liver, the most important include synthesis of amino acids and cholesterol; metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins and fats; and the production of bile which assists digestion in the small intestine. The liver plays several roles in the regulation of the blood, breaks down insulin, breaks down toxic substances and allows them to be excreted. In short, the liver supports almost every other organ in the body.

In Chinese medicine, the Liver is the yin organ of the Wood Element. Since spring is the season of the year in which Wood energy is at its peak, spring is the best time to support this organ. Eat plenty of fresh dark green vegetables. Kale (like that pictured in my garden this morning) is one of the best foods to cleanse the liver. Sour foods such as lemons and limes, and fermented foods such as sauerkraut are also terrific. If you’ve been thinking of doing a liver cleanse, then start right now. If you live in the southern hemisphere, the ambient Wood energy will support you greatly.

Perhaps the best acupoint to aid your dietary efforts is Liver 3, Supreme Rushing. This is one of the great tonic points of the body. As the source point of the Liver meridian, it directly treats the organ itself. It also influences many conditions associated with the Liver and the Wood Element. For example, it treats conditions of the eyes which are the sense organs of Wood. It helps with abdominal distension and pain, menstrual irregularities, urinary and genital conditions, all of which occur in areas of the body through which the Liver meridian passes.

Supreme Rushing helps ease insomnia and disrupted sleep as well as headaches that are the result of Liver Qi stagnation. If you’ve eaten too much fatty food, drunk too much alcohol or taken a lot of medications, this point will support their metabolism by the Liver.

At the psycho-emotional level, anger is the emotion of the Wood Element. Anger that does not flow freely tends to lodge in the Liver. Therefore the point can soothe agitation, irritation, frustration and anger. It calms the mind and imparts courage and clarity. Where there is depression caused by suppressed anger and frustration, it can liberate a person’s aliveness and fuel the upward rising energy necessary to allow active engagement with the world.

So if you want to give your Liver a jump start this spring, Supreme Rushing can rush to your aid.

LV 3Location of Liver 3

The Liver source point lies on the top of the foot in a large hollow between the first and second toes, halfway along metatarsal bones. There will probably be a sensitive spot. If the liver is very congested, the point itself may feel thick and swollen.