What Are The Eight Extraordinary Meridians?
Within Chinese Medicine, the Eight Extraordinary Meridians represent the body’s deepest level of energetic structuring. These meridians are the first to form in utero, and are carriers of Yuan Qi – the ancestral energy which corresponds to our genetic inheritance. They function as deep reservoirs from which the twelve main meridians can be replenished, and into which the latter can drain their excesses. Other names for these Eight Extraordinary Meridians include: the Eight Curious Vessels, the Eight Marvelous Meridians, and the Eight Irregular Vessels.
The specific meridians belonging to the “Eight Extras” family are: (1) Du Mai (Governing Vessel), (2) Ren Mai (Conception Vessel), (3) Chong Mai (Penetrating Vessel), (4) Dai Mai (Belt Channel), (5) Yang Chiao Mai (Yang Motility Channel), (6) Yin Chaio Mai (Yin Motility Channel), (7) Yang Wei Mai (Yang Regulating Channel), and (8) Yin Wei Mai (Yin Regulating Channel). In the context of acupuncture, the Eight Extras are typically used in pairs: Ren with Yin Chiao, Du with Yang Chiao, Chong with Yin Wei, and Dai with Yang Wei. Of these eight meridians, only the Ren and the Du have their own acupuncture points; the other six utilize points belonging to the twelve main meridians.
The Eight Extras & Qigong Practice
For qigong and Inner Alchemy practice, the Du, the Ren, the Chong and the Dai are the most important of the Eight Extraordinary Meridians. The Du Mai flows from the tip of the coccyx up the spine, over the head, and ends in the upper part of the mouth. The Ren Mai flows from the perineum up along the front mid-line of our torso, and ends in the lower mouth. In the Microcosmic Orbit practice, we link the Ren and the Du meridians into a single continuous circuit – which is how energy circulated when we were in our mother’s womb. The Chong Meridian flows vertically deep within the body, along the front of the spine, and is most closely associated with Yuan Qi. The Chong has a close resonance with – if not an actual equivalence to – the Shushumna Nadi described in Hindu Yogic traditions. It is our energetic core. The Dai Mai circles the waist, and is the only horizontally-flowing meridian. As such, it acts as a kind of “belt” - containing the other vertically-flowing meridians. In certain Kan/Li qigong practices, we learn to spiral the Dai Meridian up to connect with the energy of the planets, stars and galaxies, and then down to connect with the core of the earth.
Of Related Interest:
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Charles Chace & Miki Shima's An Exposition on the Eight Extraordinary Vessels: Acupuncture, Alchemy, and Herbal Medicine is a translation and commentary on Li Shi-Zhen’s Exposition on the Eight Extraordinary Vessels (Qi jing ba mai kao). Highly recommended.