June 20, 2011

Experience More Bliss. ~ Emily Perry L.Ac.

Photo: Jesse Gardner

Twisting Asanas, Integration & the Power to Manifest.

Perhaps you have experienced it too: deep into a twist in your yoga practice, you become aware of a sense of upwelling, as if something within you has been unmoored, released, unanchored. You may have noticed a sense of connection, release and flow. This is the bliss of the twist.

There is a reason we feel as much energetic release after those twisting asanas (yoga poses), as we do with intense hip openers. Twists are traditionally important for many reasons— they neutralize the spine, release tension and create and preserve range of motion. They balance the doshas as well. From the viewpoint of the Chinese Medical energetic system, twists work a channel we call the Dai Mai, or Belt Vessel. Twists open and release other channels as well, but here we’ll focus on the ways in which twisting keeps the Dai Mai and the flow of the body open and healthy.

Energetically speaking, in Chinese medicine, in addition to the main primary channels that run throughout the body (such as The Spleen and Stomach channels) there is a deeper set of channels called The Extraordinary Vessels. These channels are said to be the first to form during development, and they not only act as reservoirs for the body’s qi, (energy or prana) but they also protect the body and have mental and emotional associations. The Dai Mai, a channel that circles the waist, is one of several meridians activated in twists.

Seeing that the Extraordinary Vessels run into the deepest parts of the body, their affect on our mental, physical, emotional and spiritual lives tends to be deep as well. The Dai Mai connects the pelvis to the chest: it is that space between, the connection that needs to be open and flowing to allow for the Heart and Kidney energies to communicate. Visualizing the Dai Mai as a belt, it is easy to image how blockages and energetic stagnation within the channel could affect the chakras above and below the waist.

Why is this communication so important? This connection between the lower and the upper, between the creativity and the power, is what enables our dreams to manifest. This idea of Heart energetics and Kidney energetics being able to communicate is an important one— our hearts give our creativity wings. The power and grace we experience in yoga asana can be totally transformational when it is rooted in connection and integrity.

Another feature of the Dai Mai is that it is said to collect unresolved “stuff”. It is a collecting ground of sorts, a place where we can “put it away for later”. A great hiding spot for samskaras (those pesky little latent impressions!) this area can easily become bogged down in the energetic accumulation of our lives and culture. The Dai Mai’s relationship to the Gallbladder energetic channel further reinforces this— it shares points with the Gallbladder meridian, which has a “half in/ half out” nature.  The Gallbladder channel is known as another place of accumulation and potential toxicity because it likes to hold unresolved issues in this limbo state.

Twisting asanas, by nature, work the Dai Mai, and help us process and integrate our life experience by keeping the Heart and Kidney communication open. Through working with twists we gain the courage to release stored experiences (samskaras) that no longer serve us.

So, next time you find yourself needing a little extra release, or if you are working on opening the heart in your practice, don’t forget the importance of using twists to maintain and support the energetic flow.

Emily Perry, L.Ac., is an Acupuncturist and certified Yoga Teacher at the 200 hour level. She teaches and writes in Santa Cruz, CA, and can be reached through her website Emily Perry Yoga, on her blog, Elemental, or via email at emilyperryyoga{at}gmail{dot}com.

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