Investigating Pawanmuktasana - On the basis of the nadi and meridian systems

Dr. Hiroshi Motoyama, Ph. D, Japan

There is a group of asanas called pawanmuktasana which promotes the circulation of prana through all the nadis and can be performed by beginners. Tawana' means wind; 'mukta' means release. Pawanmuktasana, therefore, is a group of exercises which release excessive wind and gases from the body, especially from the joints.

According to ancient Indian medicine, or Ayurveda, the human body is controlled by three 'humours', phlegm (kapha), wind (vayu) and acid or bile (pitta). If any irregularity arises in the function of these three, negative reactions occur in the metabolism of the body and disease results.

Wind (vayu) not only refers to the gastric and intestinal gases, but also the 'wind' that is produced in every joint in the body. Prana may be regarded as a 'wind', or as energy flowing in the nadis as a subtle body fluid. As stated above, the nadis are essentially equivalent to the meridians, and the meridians seem to be formed of connective tissue and filled with body fluid. It is at the joints, with their many ligaments and bones, that the flow of prana (ki energy) is easily impeded; and poor flow here results in rheumatic pains and eventually in deficient flow in the meridians throughout the body. Serious obstruction of the flow in a specific area leads to various disorders. Therefore, an unimpeded flow of prana about the joints ensures the absence of rheumatism and neuralgia and makes for a smooth flow of prana over the whole body; and this, in turn, means freedom from disease.

Displacement of vertebrae especially, but also of limb joints is detrimental to the flow of prana along the sushumna (the most important nadi), and causes disorders in the chakra closest to the defective area. This results in poor functioning of the nadis which originate in that chakra and of the internal organs controlled by it. In addition, the displacement causes impairment of function in the nerves originating in that area and the internal organs they supply (which are the same organs as are controlled by that chakra). Thus, the proper disposition of the vertebrae and the correction of vertebral displacements are important... The reasons why this asana promotes the circulation of prana along each nadi throughout the body, according to acupuncture theory, are as follows: The beginning or end of each of the twelve meridians which course throughout the body and supply energy to the internal organs is located at the tips of the fingers and toes, and is called the sei point. The sei point of the lung meridian (LU11) is called shosho and is at the tip of the thumb. Shoyo (LIT), that of the large intestine meridian, is at the tip of the second finger. Chusho (HC9) on the heart constrictor meridian is at the tip of the third finger, and kansho (TH1), on the triple heater meridian, at the tip of the fourth finger. The sei point of the heart meridian, also called shosho (HT9), but written with different characters from shosho (LU1), lies on the radial side of the fifth finger, that of the small intestine meridian, shotaku (SI1) on the ulnar side of the fifth finger; of the spleen-pancreas meridian, impaku (SP1) on the medial side of the big toe, and taiton (LV1), that of the liver meridian, on the lateral side of the big toe. Then, reida (ST1) on the stomach meridian, is located at the tip of the second toe; kyoin (GB44), on the gallbladder meridian is at the tip of the fourth toe. The kidney meridian begins on the medial side of the fifth toe *1; and finally, shiin (BL67), the sei point of the urinary bladder meridian, lies on the lateral side of the fifth toe. It is at each sei point that the energy flow enters or comes to the end of a meridian. They are very important points, and it has been said since ancient times that the condition of the energy at each of these points reflects accurately the state of the entire energy flow along its meridian. Micro puncture *2. and moxa treatment on these points in cases of serious acute illness have an immediate effect.

The exercises of toe bending, hand clenching and so on stimulate these sei points and promote better ki energy circulation. This enhances the circulation of blood and leads to an harmonious state in the body.

Chinese medicine teaches that there are five yin and six yang organs in the body. The five yin organs are controlled by the meridians of the same name, and are: the lungs, the heart, the liver, the spleen and pancreas, and the kidneys. The six yang organs, also controlled by the corresponding meridians are: the stomach, the large intestine, the small intestine, the gallbladder, the urinary bladder and the triple heater, or sansho. In Chinese medicine, the triple heater meridian provides for the whole body and its physical counterpart, which is said to be present all over the body, is regarded as a single yang organ.

The 'gen' point (sometimes known as the 'source' point) of each meridian is located in the wrist, the ankle, or between the sei points and these joints. Disease in any of the five yin and six yang organs is often reflected in the appropriate gen points. In disorders of the stomach, for example, pain, stiffness, coldness, etc., caused by the stagnation of ki flow, appear at the shoyo *3., taihaku *4., and gokoku *5. points, etc. Acupuncture and moxa treatment at these points cures stomach disorders. (Also, treatment of these points is useful for diseases of the spleen-pancreas, a yin organ, and of the large intestine, a yang organ). Thus, exercises like bending and rotation of ankles and wrists give the needed stimulation to the twelve gen points, and are useful for normalising the functioning of the internal organs controlled by the twelve meridians, thus promoting the health of the whole body.

This explanation of the sei and gen points is taken from the "Ling Shu" section of 'The Yellow Emperor's Treatise on Internal Medicine', Chapter 1. This text further indicates that the knee and elbow are closely connected with the twelve gen points, and can play a part in curing disorders in the five yin organs. So bending and rotating the knees and elbows has a good effect on smooth ki flow along the twelve meridians, and contributes to cures of diseases in the internal organs. Rotation of the hip and shoulder joints has similar effects.

In summary, then: (1) The meridians and nadis seem to consist of connective tissue, and the body fluid flowing within this tissue is the physiological counterpart of ki energy or prana. (2) This flow easily stagnates in joints with many bones and ligaments, and this stagnation results in rheumatism or neuralgia. (3) Body fluid tends to accumulate and stagnate in the joints, and then the whole body gradually becomes fatigued. (4) If any of the twelve meridian flows in the region of the joints deteriorates beyond a certain point, disease will develop in the internal organ controlled by that meridian. (5) For these reasons, a series of exercises for fingers, toes, wrists, ankles, elbows, knees, shoulder and hip joints is useful for promoting good ki flow along the twelve meridians, for maintaining a healthy state and preventing disorders, and for curing illnesses.

Footnote

1. Ki is said to enter the kidney meridian from the urinary bladder meridian on the medial side of the fifth toe, and to flow on the sole via the yusen point (KI1), and this point is usually regarded as the sei point of the kidney meridian.
2. A technique of pricking the skin in order to remove a tiny drop of blood.
3. Not LI1, but the gen point (ST42) of the stomach meridian.
4. The gen point (SP3) of the spleen meridian (which has a complementary yin-yang relationship with the stomach meridian).
5. The gen point (LI4) of the large intestine meridian (which forms a single yang sunlight channel from finger to toe with the stomach meridian).
(Courtesy: Research for Religion and Parapsychology, Vol. 5, No. 1, March 1979.)