Meridian yoga is one possibility for sequencing yoga poses intelligently.
The meridians are a set of energy channels (or perhaps more practically, "tension lines") that run through the connective tissue of the body. They connect in such a way that they form a circuit that connects the fronts, sides and back of the body, arms and legs.
Because yoga poses, particularly yoga stretches, affect particular meridians, the meridians can be used as a guide to sequencing postures.
Meridians can be affected in two main ways. One is with relaxed stretching.
With "relaxed" stretching, the intent is to relax the muscle being stretched. The connective tissue within the muscle, and thus the meridian is stretched.
The compliment to relaxed stretching is "energizing" when the muscle tissue is contracted. In this mode more emphasis is placed on the connective tissue outside of the muscle.
But you could also look at it from the perspective that meridian yoga can be used to improve total muscle control since you learn to both relax muscle tissue and contract it.
And you can learn to feel the difference.
Have you ever noticed how your muscles feel after your stretch them or strengthen them?
One possibility for the energized feeling that comes after contracting a muscle and then relaxing it is that the electrical charge that is generated when muscle tissue contracts is then dissipated via the connective tissue when the muscle is relaxed.
Stretching connective tissue and then relaxing after the stretch may have a similiar effect.
In either case, one of the ways to notice the effects of each stretch is to rest afterwards.
And this in part is how you can continually grow in meridian yoga, by feeling the after affects of each pose.
It can also make both stretching and strengthening more enjoyable. Even if the actual exercise is difficult the after affects make it worthwhile.
This is actually something I learned after working with Andrey Lappa and taking his Universal Freestyle Yoga teacher training.
And my own understanding of Meridian Yoga incorporates some of what I have learned from him.
"Meridian Yoga" goes step-by-step through the twelve normal meridians, each of which is associated with an organ of the body.
It shows where the meridian is and shows how you can stretch that meridian and energize it.
In also includes joint by joint break down of each meridian so that you can design your own meridian stretches and figure out how different yoga poses affect the meridians.
It also includes the associated organ and element for each meridian.
One of the main ways to use the meridians is to completely stretch and strengthen the body. The end result is, ideally, complete balance. (This too is based on ideas learned from Andrey Lappa.)
And one way to do this intelligently, systematically, is to follow the flow of the meridians.
As an example we can stretch the body completely by doing stretches based on the order of the meridians. Because we are following the flow of the meridians there can be a pleasant feeling that accompanies a stretching routine done in this order.
But the meridians can also be used to guide stretches in other ways.
As an example, You can focus on stretching one meridian, and to prepare you can also stretch all connected meridians. You could also focus on balanced stretching by stretching meridians on opposite sides of the body.
The meridians offer a simple model for guiding the way we sequence stretches (and their complementary energizing poses.) And they can also be usefull in helping us select how we want to work on the body based on the mood that we are in becuse they are each associated with particular organs which in turn have particular qualites.
As an example, the bladder meridian runs up the back of the body and it's counterpart, the kidney meridian, runs up the inner thighs and the front of the torso.
Both of these are associated with the element of water. And so a water inspired sequence might focus on relaxing and letting go. It would also focus on forward bends since the bladder meridian runs down the back of the body.
And it would focus on relaxed backbends for the kidney meridian.
On the other hand the stomach meridian runs down the front of the body and the spleen, it's counter part meridian, runs up the inner thighs and front of the body.
Both of these are associated with the element of earth.
For me this relates to stability, feeling the earth and using it. And so an earth based practice would open up the front of the body (since the stomach meridian runs up the front of the body) and it would use the support of the limbs (whether feet or hands) for stability.
In the bigger picture, earth and water style poses could be used to balance each other.
From a physical point of view this makes sense since one is more backbending and stable while the other is forward bending and flowy.
But also since both also since the kidney and spleen meridians both run up the inner thigh, then both such a routine would also include inner thgh work.
This, in turn, would be balanced by stretching the sides of the body.
Another approach would be to focus on the stomach meridian (front of the body) and bladder meridian (back of the body.)
(The previous approach focused on elements, earth and water, and their associated meridians, this approach focuses on the meridians themselves.)
Both stomach and bladder meridians connect to meridians that run up the front of the arms.
If we do stretches for both the stomach and bladder meridian, these stretches balance each other. We then need only to balance the stretches to the front of the arms. We do that by stretching the back of the arms.
This then could be a complete routine.
Meridian Yoga is a flexible approach to doing yoga. Rather than saying "Do this, then do this" it offers guidelines for sequencing stretches and strengthening exercises.
Since the focus is on relaxed stretching and then energzing poses that strenghten muscles, it can also lead to improved sensitivity and control. And it may also lead to improved flexibility and strength.
Yoga poses descriptions include both the meridians that the pose works on and simple step by step instructions on how to do the yoga pose.
Also included are simple guidelines on how to structure your own meridian yoga sequences and an example of a flow sequence that in turn is made up of useful mini-sequences.
The mini-sequences are handy building blocks that I use frequenctly use over and over again.
I've learned anatomy fairly extensively and I've learned anatomical guidelines for sequencing yoga poses. The meridians offer a simpler (or complimentary) approach for working on the body. One way in which it is simpler is that there is less to memorize. But there is some memory work involved.
To make the most of meridian yoga, memorize the meridians and their pathways. There are only twelve of them I've designed the layout of Meridian Yoga to make it easier to see relationships between the meridians and the body so that the meridians are easier to learn.
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