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I’ve come across some interesting research recently which illustrates some of the relationships between the connective tissue (or fascia) and the energetic transport systems of the body (namely the acupuncture meridians and the chakra system).

Acupuncture meridians

Langevin & Yandow found that most acupuncture points and meridians are located in areas where planes of fascia merge together (Langevin & Yandow, 2002).  Stimulation of acupuncture points should therefore create a stimulus which is propagated through multiple fascial planes.  Given the importance that many massage therapists are giving to fascial release work these days, working on and around the acupuncture points could be expected to provide maximal effect.

Measurement of the electrical conductance of acupuncture points has typically shown conductance of 10 to 100 times more than the surrounding skin.  It’s also been shown that acupuncture meridians are able to propagate electricity (Tiller, 1973; Reichmannis et al, 1976; Becker, 1990 as cited in Ho & Knight, 2008).


So how does this electrical conduction occur?


Sasaki found that collagen fibres bind water to them in particular forms (1984 as cited in Ho & Knight, 2008).

Collagen fibres

This “bound water” is then able to conduct electrical charge (Sasaki, 1984 as cited in Ho & Knight, 2008). It has been estimated that conductivity in the direction of the fibre must be at least one hundred times that of conduction across the fibre (Pethig, 1996 as cited in Ho & Knight, 2008). Conductivity increases with the water content of the collagen (Ho & Knight, 2008). Collagen aligns with lines of stress in the body, which typically run within the same planes as the acupuncture lines, so it is not improbable to suppose that the energy of acupuncture is conducted along lines run through collagen fibres.

How can one explain the increased conductivity of acupuncture points when compared to other points along the meridian?

Ho and Knight have suggested that…..

“acupuncture points typically exhibit low electrical resistances compared with the surrounding skin, and may therefore correspond to singularities or gaps between collagen fibres, or where collagen fibres are oriented at right angles to the dermal layer”  (2008).

Energetic anatomy of the chakra system

Interestingly, this is exactly what we would expect based on modern and traditional understandings of the chakra system and the acupuncture system.   Both chakras and acupuncture points are believed to act as energetic wheels or vortices which receive energy from the external environment.  Acupuncture points are held to have a similar structure to chakras, but to be smaller in size.  This energy is then said to be propagated through internal channels within the body.  The image to the right illustrates the energetic anatomy of the chakra system as described by Barbara Brennan (1993), and many other authorities.  Notice how the second suggestion of Ho and Knight (2008) is very consistent with this depiction of energetic anatomy.

Energy and connective tissue

Fascia has a liquid-crystalline structure (Ho et al, 1996; Ho, 1997a as cited in Ho & Knight, 2008).  In a liquid crystal the structure is fluid, but all of the molecules are aligned in relation to each other by bio-molecular forces.  One of the interesting properties of liquid crystals is that a range of forces can lead to changes in the orientation of molecules or phase changes.  When a liquid crystal changes from one phase to another, the level of order in the crystal increases or decreases, implying that the level of energy stored in the crystal also changes.

Mechanical force applied to the connective tissue has been shown to produce a piezo-electric effect (Turchaninov, 2001).  In a massage context, compression or shear forces are transduced into electrical energy.  This electric energy should be able to travel along collagenous meridians.  The converse is also true.  Electrical energy when applied to connective tissue can be transduced into mechanical energy, or changes in the orientation of molecules within the liquid crystal (Turchaninov, 2001).

Other forces that influence the structure of the connective tissue and therefore lead to similar energetic changes are electro-magnetic fields, temperature and hydration (Ho & Knight, 2008).

The issues are in the tissues

One thing that bodyworkers have been noticing with the rapid rise of myofascial techniques is that these techniques are much more likely to stimulate somato-emotional releases than traditional massage techniques.  Ho and Knight have noted that “the [liquid-crystal] network will retain tissue memory of previous experiences” (2008).  This is again consistent with the relationship that appears to exist between the energetic system and the fascia.  Both chakras and acupuncture meridians are believed to be related holistically to physical health, but also emotional, mental and spiritual wellbeing (Judith, 1999; Brennan, 1993; Lori-ellen Grant, personal communication September 28, 2008).

Upper-crossed syndrome

Upper-crossed syndrome

A lack of comfort with feeling or expressing a particular type of energy is thought to cause a chakra to constrict, whereas addiction to a particular form of experience may cause a chakra to become locked open (Judith, 1999). This constriction or open-ness is likely to be represented in the connective tissue, and therefore in the posture of the body.  We might expect for example in the case of someone who presents with upper-crossed syndrome to have a fascial constriction in the area of the anterior solar plexus chakra, and for this constriction to be associated on a psycho-emotional level with disempowerment in some form.

A model for somatic bodywork

If we are are comfortable with the assumption that the evidence described here is adequate support for the existence of the acupuncture and chakra system, then it seems reasonable to use the accumulated knowledge of these systems as a conceptual model for somatic bodywork.  It is recommended that anyone who is interested in exploring these ideas further undergoes further study.  Anodea Judith’s classic text Wheels of Life (1999) is recommended as are Barbara Brennan’s Hands of Light and Light Emerging (1993).  A brief summary of some of the relationships as described by Judith (1999) is illustrated in the following table.

Chakra somatics

Chakra somatics


Further study

Chakras and the endocrine system, Timothy Pope

The Acupuncture System and The Liquid Crystalline Collagen Fibres of the Connective Tissues, Mae-Wan Ho & David Knight


References

Acupuncture meridians (2008). Retrieved September 21, 2008 from http://www.alltogetherhealth.com/Acupuncture/acupuncture.htm

Brennan, B. (1993). Light emerging – the journey of personal healing. NY, USA: Bantam Books.

Pope, T (2004). Chakras and the endocrine system . Retrieved September 21, 2008 from http://www.healingfromtheheart.co.uk/69701.html
Collagen fibers (2008). Retrieved September 22, 2008 from http://neuromedia.neurobio.ucla.edu/campbell/connective_tissue/wp_images/4_fibers.gif
Energetic anatomy of the chakra system (2008).  Retrieved September 21, 2008 from http://www.librarising.com/esoterica/chakras.html
Ho, M., Knight, D. (2008). The Acupuncture System and The Liquid Crystalline Collagen Fibres of the Connective Tissues . Retrieved September 21, 2008 from http://www.i-sis.org.uk/lcm.php
Judith, A. (1999). Wheels of life – a user’s guide to the chakra system (2nd ed.). MN, USA: Llewellyn Publications.
Langevin, H., Yandow, J. (2002). Relationship of acupuncture points and meridians to connective tissue planes. Anat Rec. 269,257-265.
Langevin, H, Churchill, D., Wu, J., Badger, G., Yandow, J., Fox, J., Krag, M. (2002). Evidence of connective tissue involvement in acupuncture.  Journal of the federation of American societies for experimental biology 2002 (16), 872-874.  Retrieved September 30, 2008 from http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/content/full/16/8/872
Turchaninov, R. (2001). Research and massage therapy – part 2. Retrieved September 30, 2008 from http://www.massagetherapy.com/articles/index.php/article_id/236
Upper-crossed syndrome (2008). Retrieved September 30, 2008 from http://www.watertownchiropractic.com/Upper%20Crossed%20Syndrome.gif
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