Why Dai Mai Is So Important
Image from Acupuncture: A Comprehensive Text, edited by John O'Connor And yes....in some of the most influential acupuncture textbooks, this meridian is called the "girdle channel"....how unfortunate!
The human body has several meridians, also known as channels, that run along specific pathways. Along these meridians are acupuncture points. Sometimes these channels are describes as "energy pathways", which can be a bit challenging to conceptualize. In the textbook Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, which is required reading for likely every beginning acupuncture student throughout the world, these meridians are described as being "responsible for the circulation of Qi and Blood". Qi can also be difficult to conceptualize (and perhaps I'll explain more about Qi in a future newsletter), but the idea of circulation in the body is certainly easier to comprehend. Dai Mai, unfortunately translated as "girdle channel" in some texts, is a meridian that runs around the waist like a belt. Because many meridians run up and down the body, this meridian connects with several meridians and can have an impact on the circulation of Qi and Blood of those meridians. When there's tightness in the meridian, which is usually felt on the side of the waist, not only does that tightness affect the flow of Qi and Blood in the body but it can also tug on a lot of connective tissue, which can lead to pain along one side of the body, including shoulder pain, hip pain, knee pain, neck pain or a combination of several areas. Another thing to consider is that the iliopsoas muscle (a deep abdominal muscle that's actually 3 muscles working together - psoas major, psoas minor and iliacus), a muscle I've talked about in many past newsletters, is located at the level of Dai Mai. If Dai Mai is tight, the iliopsoas muscle might be tight as well, which can impact the body's ability to breathe deeply since the muscle fibers at the top of the iliopsoas muscle are connected to the diaphragm muscle, which helps the body "grasp the Qi upon inhalation".
So how do we keep Dai Mai healthy? Acupuncture is extremely effective in releasing constrictions in this meridian. Also, side stretches can be very helpful. The goal with side stretches is not to bend too far over, which can cause issues on the side you're bending towards, but rather to stretch to the point where you feel a slight tug. Then hold the stretch for about 30 seconds.
Another excellent Dai Mai relaxer is this restorative yoga pose. Start by folding several blankets or towels lengthwise so that they're a little longer than the length of your torso and about 4-6 inches high.
Sit on the floor next to the blankets/towels with your hip right up against the short side. Let your legs bend in front of you.
Gently twist your upper body so that it's facing the blankets and place your hands on either side of the blankets.
Slowly lower your upper body down to the blankets, turn your head to the side, and relax into this supported posture.
If your neck needs a little extra support, you can add a thin pillow or a towel under your head. Rest in this posture for 10 minutes. Then repeat on the other side.
This restorative pose can be a wonderful decompressor from a stressful day. I recommend doing this restorative pose about 30-60 minutes before bedtime.