Today’s post features an exercise for maintaining healthy circulation in what Traditional Oriental Medicine (TOM) calls “the lower yin”: the interweave of organs, muscles/connective tissues, glands, vessels, nerves, thoughts, feelings, etc. in the pelvic base. When the Qi and Blood are robust and no disease processes have taken hold, the opening and closing of the lower gates (for urine and poop) are normal and one experiences what most take for granted as good health: normal functioning of the urinary system, normal functioning of the apparatus involved with bowel movements, normal functioning of the sexual organs with no abnormal discharges, no pain, no inflammation, no anxiety-driven clenching of the muscles.
Now when the Qi and Blood are not robust and disease processes have taken hold, the opening and closing of the lower gates are abnormal and one experiences any of the myriad disease processes involving urinary problems, bowel movement problems, prostate problems, problematic functioning of the sexual organs, prolapse, pain, tension, inflammation.
I’m guessing you can count on no fingers at all how many people 1) wake up wanting to have &/or 2) look forward to a day with a rectal prolapse, uterine prolapse, incontinence, difficulty pitching the tent, vaginal dryness, painful sex, etc.
In youth the Qi and Blood are, for the most part, naturally robust everywhere. But with the passing of time (pay attention, kids) conditions arise wherein blockages develop secondary to:
> stress-holding patterns which serve an anxiety-reducing function
> improper diet with the slow, imperceptible accumulation of impurities over extended stretches of time and the resultant “clogging” (Phlegm-Dampness) and inflammation (Heat) in the organs/tissues (Channel/Vessel System).
> past infection, present infection, or a combo of both
> complications from childbirth
> improper lifestyle habits, especially being overweight and excessive time spent sitting
> the natural age-related decline of Qi, Blood, and Jing/Essence
> in males, loss of Jing/Essence secondary to excessive ejaculation
> suboptimal coping mechanisms which lead to self-medication with food, drink, sex, drugs, etc.
> unresolved psycho-emotional trauma
> combinations/permutations of the above
Health is: 1) unimpeded, harmonious circulation; 2) durable happiness and absence of sorrow; 3) non-dependence on external circumstances; 4) Dharma-aligned internal circumstances.
Disease is: 1) blocked, disharmonious circulation; 2) fragile happiness and frequent sorrow; 3) dependence on external circumstances; 4) non-Dharma-aligned internal circumstances.
For those of you who are ’bout that level-up lifestyle, the question immediately, ahem, pops up : what can I do to keep the lower pelvic circulation right–unimpeded and harmonious? The exercise below, when practiced consistently, is one beneficial system input (others, obviously, are necessary) for maintaining health in this region.
First, familiarize yourself with the anatomical terrain involved. For better or worse, most of us don’t spend any appreciable time studying our nether regions–the area bounded by the genitalia in the front, the tailbone in the back, and the thighs on either side. Externally, we have the perineum (in dude circles, technically referred to as the “‘taint” or the “notcha'”). Internally, we have the pelvic floor muscles, prostate gland in males, anal sphincters, and various smaller glands and ducts
My suggestion: observing commonsense hygienic guidelines, take a few moments to actually feel this area of your body with your fingers while laying down. Explore it, connect with it, issue benevolent vibes to it, honor any thoughts/feelings of awkwardness that arise. And if the exploration feels sensually pleasurable, consider it a bonus, nothing to be ashamed of. Take your time. Do it right. You can do it, baby.
Those readers interested in the subtle, esoteric sides of life would want to research other concepts/names associated with the perineum:
- known in TOM as the hui yin (hway yin–literally “meeting of Yin”) acupoint, and
- in the various Indian esoteric traditions as the lower-most of the seven principal centers, the muladhara/root chakra, and residence of the dormant kundalini shakti
Next, consider the following: An untended field in the owner’s estate is a potential breeding ground for animal and plant pests. If not prevented from breeding, these pests increase in number and eventually cause sorrow for the estate owner. Thus, for an estate owner interested in preventing problems like this in her/his estate, it is necessary to put the right work in to ensure pests are met and humanely dealt with. The estate owner is you; the field is the domain of the lower yin; pests are disease processes; not-prevented from breeding is neglect; prevention is protecting health; right work includes, but is not limited to, the below exercise.
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Exercise: Huiyin Gathering and Spreading
The image for gathering is like a cloth laid flat on a table. The fingers grab the cloth at the center, gather the fabric inward equally from all directions, and pull slightly upward perpendicular to the plane of the table.
The image for spreading is just the opposite of the gathering. The pulled-upward, inward-gathered cloth moves downward and spreads outward in all directions equally until it lays flat on the table, the hand reverses intent from grabbing to opening.
Mechanically, the gathering phase involves a gradual, smooth, unhurried engaging and gentle lifting of the pelvic floor muscles, elevation of the testicles, and engaging of the anal sphincters.
Mechanically, the spreading phase involves a gradual, smooth, unhurried dis-engaging/relaxing of the pelvic floor muscles, descending of the testicles, and dis-engaging the anal sphincters.
When practicing, you want to feel clearly and distinctly in the perineum the inward-upward and downward-outward energies described in the above images. Avoid extremes!
Synchronize the breath with the mechanics by matching the inhalation with the gathering phase, the out-breath with the spreading phase. The rhythm of the breath and the rhythm of the mechanics rise and fall harmoniously so that the point of maximum contracting coincides with the apex of in-breath and the point of maximum of relaxation coincides with the lowest point of exhalation. The breath rhythm during the entire exercise remains calm, not jagged, not strained, deeper, slower (this blog post on integrated breathing has a more detailed discussion on the topic).
Examples of disharmonious pairing of breath and mechanics include maxing out the muscle engaging while the lungs are still filling with air; excessive straining or forcing of the breath &/or mechanics which results in a choppy, disjointed rhythm; maxing out the exhalation while all the muscles are still in the process of relaxing.
Suggested Dose: One round of inhalation-contraction and exhalation-relaxation constitutes one repetition. 9 repetitions constitute one set. Practice 1-2 sets daily. It is suitable to practice laying down, sitting, or standing. Do not practice if mentally/emotionally agitated, on a full stomach, if intoxicated, or (for males) if you’ve spilled your seed within the past 24 hours.
Caution: 1) discontinue should pain appear after few rounds of practice, bring to the attention of a qualified healthcare provider any ongoing health issues; 2) use caution in event of any injury/infection/active disease process in this area, it may serve to observe the precautionary principle and pause until resolution of the problem
The above version is a modification synthesizing information from the following books:
The Book of Internal Exercises, by Stephen T. Chang,
as well as the body of knowledge comprising the TOM system
Potential benefits of consistent practice:
> deepening self-awareness
> maintaining healthy tone in pelvic floor muscles and urethral/anal sphincters
> reducing/reversing conditions of sluggishness/congestion in the root chakra area
> invigorating Qi/Blood circulation in local structures
> maintaining a healthy connection with sexual energies
> for males, improved control over ejaculation
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Now before you go and check those notifications that popped up while you were reading, put your device down and practice one set.
Huiyin Gathering and Spreading, like most other preventive wellness practices, is akin to watering the lawn: you don’t expect stellar results from a short-term commitment nor from inconsistent practice. Best results are obtained with modest doses over long periods of time.
To use this as a stand-alone practice is fair-to-middling; to incorporate it into an holistic preventive wellness program as your inner wisdom sees fit is better. I hope the information presented above is useful to you in your search for health, wholeness, and fulfillment. See you down the road, J*
Copyright (c) 2018, Justin Jaucian