The Organs and the Chakras-One Set of Possible Correspondences


Learning the parts of our body and how they relate we can use the parts of our body that we know as references for mapping the parts that we don’t know. If we can feel our ribs we can use them as a reference for sensing where our lungs and heart may be. Using the bottom of our lungs as a reference we can then put our awareness in the right place for sensing our diaphragm while belly breathing. Feeling our diaphragm we can then figure out the location of our kidneys, liver, stomach and so on.

The better we know some parts of our body the easier it is to learn to feel the other parts that we don’t know. As we get to know the parts of our body we can then sense how those parts relate to each other. One set of relationships we can learn is that between the organs and the Chakras.

The Organs

One way that we can affect the organs is by putting our awareness on them. This is like listening to a friend when they are talking but the friend is inside of ourselves. So that we can listen to our friend that we need to know where they are. When we learn our organs and how they relate, we can then learn to feel how they are affected by actions like breathing and twisting and bending the spine and ribcage.

Lungs, Heart and diaphragm

Our lungs fill the volume of our ribcage. If we can feel our ribs, the sides, front and back, then we can infer the position of our lungs from the position of our ribs. The bottom of the lungs sit on top of the respiratory diaphragm. We can feel this muscle when belly breathing or when going to the bathroom to do a number 2. It provides the “pushing down” feeling that we use to push stuff out of our exit orifice.

Attached to the front of the ribcage and situated between the lungs is the heart. Behind the heart is room for the trachea and esophogus as well as major blood vessels to the abdomen and lower limbs.

Next time you have a bite to eat take time to notice the swallowing sensation that connects your mouth to your stomach and takes food from your mouth to your stomach. This can give you an idea of where your trachea is located. Your heart sits in front of this passageway.

While breathing using your ribcage, take time to notice the sensation of your back ribs lifting and lowerering. Adjust your mental map of your lungs and heart accordingly.

Moving your diaphragm while breathing take the time to notice the downwards pressing feeling that happens when you inhale. Because the diaphragm moves down and up the bottom of our lungs and heart move up and down with it.

Kidneys, Liver and Stomach

Directly below the lungs on the left and right sides of the spine are the kidneys. In front of the kidneys are the liver and stomach (and spleen.)

The liver is attached to the bottom of the diaphram directly beneath the right lung. The stomach is to the left of the liver and slightly below it. It attaches to the bottom of the diaphragm and to the bottom of the liver.  The spleen is to the left of the stomach between it and the side of the ribcage. These organs are all suspended (or attached to) the bottom of the diaphragm. They in turn support the organs below them. When our diaphragm lifts, these organs lift with it. When the  diaphragm descends, these organs move down.

Externally we can use our belly button to fine tune our awareness of where these organs are. The spleen, stomach and liver are all above the horizontal plane that passes through the belly button.

Small Intestine, Large Intestine, Gall bladder and Bladder

The small intestine is coiled up below the stomach and liver while just below it in the bowl of the pelvis is the bladder.

The bladder rests on top of and a little between the psoas and illiacus muscles. My own experience indicates that the psoas can be used to lift the bladder and tip it forwards. If this is indeed the case we can use an awareness of where our bladder is (learn it next time you really have to go for a pee) to reference the location of our psoas.

The gall bladder sits below the liver.

The large intestine starts at the lower right side of the abdomen. It passes up the right side of the body to the right of the small intestine, passes up over the mass of the small intestine, and moves down the left side of the body and from there connects to the rectum. It is suspended in part from the stomach.

Pericardium and Triple Heater

The pericardium is like a bag that surrounds the heart while the triple heater is the container that contains all of the above organs. For myself, I relate these “organs” to the sides of the brain.

The Organs and the Chakras

The organs are associated with one of the five elements as follows:

  • Stomach and Spleen-Earth
  • Kidneys and Bladder-Water
  • Lungs and Large Intestine-Metal
  • Liver and Gall Bladder-Wood
  • Heart and Small Intestine-Fire

My own tendency is to associate these elements with the chakras as follows:

  • Earth-Root
  • Water-Sacral
  • Metal-Solar Plexus
  • Wood-Heart
  • Fire-Throat

The two non-elemental organs can be associated with the third eye and crown chakra.

The following Chakra-Organ correspondances then result

  • Root-Stomach and Spleen
  • Sacral-Kidneys and Bladder
  • Solar Plexus-Lungs and Large Intestine
  • Heart Chakra-Liver and Gall Bladder!
  • Throat-Heart and Small Intestine
  • Third Eye and Crown Charka-Left and Right Sides of the Brain

Tai Ji, the Psoas and the Low Back

When I first started practicing Tai Ji in Taiwan I got some flack from my teacher for my lower back being bent backwards too much. Initially I used the excuse that my butt being so big made it look as if my lower back was bent, but then I started to practice keeping my lower back straight. Teaching classes, to make this action easier to both do and feel I had my students practice straightening their lower back and then releasing it in time with their breath. If I was going to teach people to keep their lower back straight, I thought the best way to do it was to make the action as easy as possible to practice, and comfortable too.

Practice Straightening the Lower Back

This action can be practiced while standing with the knees slightly bent. Slowly inhale and while doing so tilt the pelvis back far enough that the lower back straightens. While exhaling, slowly release.

Try to make both actions as relaxed as possible. If you like, when inhaling you can focus on pulling the lower belly inwards and upwards. You can then adjust this action so that it helps to tilt your pelvis backwards while inhaling.

Bagua Zhan-Feeling and Moving the Spine

A friend started a Bagua class and invited me to attend. I’ve always wanted to learn bagua becuase I felt that it was the perfect complement to tai ji.

Where tai ji is rooted and fixed and we use the center of the earth as our center, in bagua, the center of our body is the center we move around. In tai ji we might be radiating outwards. In Bagua we radiate inwards. In Tai Ji we are a part of the earth, in Bagua we are separate from it. In Tai Ji we wait and respond, in Bagua we test and create openings.

In my friends class, one of the movements involved moving the hands in vertical circles, both forwards and backwards but while focusing on the c7 vertebrae (The bottom most vertebrae of the neck. It connects the neck the to thoracic spine.) The idea was to move the arms in such a way that this vertebrae traveled in a vertical circle (from front to back as opposed to from side to side.)

Then we did a practice where we bent our spine backwards vertebrae by vertebrae from the tail bone up while inhaling. Then from the tail bone up we bent it forwards while exhaling. I couldn’t do my whole spine in a complete breath so while bending my spine backwards, I’d pause to exhale, and then continue bending backwards on my next inhale.

Yet another exercise involved squatting and straightening the spine while inhaling, and then relaxing and standing while exhaling. We also had to pull the chin in so that the neck felt long.

In yet another exercise where we were walking, I learned to lift my knee high enough that my lower back became straight. This feeling, of having the lower back straight, was the same feeling I used to teach my yoga students to look for when doing utkattasana (chair pose) in yoga class. When you tilt your pelvis backwards just the right amount it makes the lower back feel full.

Standing Meditation

Most mornings when I go to the park my morning practice nearly always starts of with a standing meditation. I stand with my feet about hip width, my knees comfortably bent, ribcage, and head balanced over my pelvis, and my arms hanging down from my neck and ribcage.

Depending on how I feel I might focus on the individual bones of my body, scanning them gradually. Or I do the same with my muscles. Or I focus on the meridians or my internal organs. Sometimes I might focus on a point in my body and then see where that leads me, chasing “sensations” or going to areas that need my attention. Actually, it’s like I’m exploring my body with my mind. At times I’ll be focused on a particular point and some part of my body will release and I will feel slightly more relaxed, more settled.

This morning, bearing in mind some of Jared’s lessons, I focused on moving my awareness up my spine. I did this without moving my spine. Instead, each inhale my mind traveled up my spine, vertebrae by vertebrae. Its much quicker when I’m not moving. Then each exhale my mind did the same. Usually when focusing on my spine I inhale up my spine and then exhale down the front of my body. This was different.

At times I inhaled up my spine while at the same time being aware of energy circulating down the front of my body. I did the same while exhaling. In this way I sometimes stayed aware of the energetic circuit or the complete flow of energy within this circuit. After all, if we are paying attention to one point in an energy circuit, it isn’t just that one point that flows, but all points of “energy” within that circuit that flow. Anyway, this practice felt really nice.

I carried the same feeling into my Dance of Shiva practice. I focused on feeling the moves and on knowing where my arms where going so that I could “feel” the smoothest path. Even now, a few hours later, I still feel good.

Awaiting the Impulse to Start

Afterward I worked on a sword routine but doing while holding the sword in my left hand as opposed to my right.

Standing still, getting ready to begin, I felt my body and waited for the impulse to start. Rather than forcing the movement, I felt myself internally and waited for the feeling to come from within me. So that I could continue to lead from within I did the movements slowly and kept staying relaxed. I used my legs to move my pelvis and I used the movements of my pelvis to drive the movements of my arms and the sword that I was holding. It felt pretty good.

The Psoas Accessed Via the Kidneys

Remembering something from Jared’s class, and perhaps also something from somewhere else, I continued to do the sword routine (6th duan sword) but now while focused on keeping my kidneys feeling full. I continued to maintain this feeling when I next did an open hand (no sword) form, the 42 competition form, which is classed as yang style but is actually a blend of a number of different styles.

Yet again I made my kidneys feel full. Doing so I realized I could go low, like really low, hips to the level of my knees low, and it felt easy. I felt like I looked like the Chinese guys who go low but who also seem so relaxed, as if it is easy. Going low it was as if something was holding me up from the inside.

Usually when I try to sink low my thighs will soon start to quiver and shake and I usually end up standing higher at some point. Now I could go low and it was easy. While my thighs did some work it was nowhere near the amount that they had to work when I was doing this same practice previously. And it wasn’t because my legs where stronger. It was all because I was making my kidneys feel full.

What I later figured out while waiting in line at the hospital for a check up was that when I had the “Full” feeling in my kidneys, my lower back was straight. As a result the weight of my ribcage and head could press down through the back of my pelvis making the whole upper body want to tilt backwards. If you’ve ever slumped back in a chair or on a sofa, you back naturally rounds and your pelvis tilts back. I was getting a similar sort of action, but rather than slumping completely, I was doing so just enough that the weight of my body was balanced over the back of my pelvis. My upper body was actually on the verge of falling back but my psoas, anchored by one or the other of my thighs, was engaged enough to help prevent my upper body from tipping backwards.

Experimenting further with keeping my kidneys full, I found I could turn my hips easily with a feeling of looseness and I could kick easily with a sense that I was easily transferring momentum to my leg.

The joy for me was in finally realizing why in Yang style Tai Ji we are taught to keep our lower back straight, it’s so that we can use our psoas to make the actions easier.

How does this relate to making the kidneys feel full? The kidneys are in front of the psoas. Feeling the kidneys, moving the kidneys, is one way of “Finding” and controlling the psoas.

The Science and Technology of Taking a Dump

(Why is it that I Often need to Go to the Bathroom While Swimming?)

Notice what happens next time you go to the bathroom for a number two (rhymes with poo.) Notice your abs tensing and a downwards pressing feeling. Each time you push, does your lower back feel like it is being pulled forwards?

The supposed ideal position for doing a number two is to squat. I’d modify and say that “Make sure any articles of clothing are clear of the drop zone.”

I’d also modify that further to say “Make sure that you exit orifice is directly over whatever receptacle you are using whether a hole or a porcelain “squatter.”” 
(I once had the pleasure of observing a miss placed “exit article” half on and half off the edge of porcelain. I got a distinct impression of texture which I unfortunately carried back with me to the dinner table. (The impression, not the item. I was at an Italian restaurant in Taiwan at the time.))

Anyway, with those basic guidelines out of the way, in a squat the front of the hips are closed, so that the knees are close to the chest. We can simulate this while on the bowl by slightly pressing down into our feet and leaning forwards so that our buttock are  no longer in contact with the seat or just touching it.

Feeling the Psoas

psoas side view

psoas side view

One muscle of main importance in this position, and especially while taking a dump is the psoas.  Within the belly cavity, its fibers reach forwards and down from the front of the lumbar spine to the front of the pelvis.

Some of its fibers may partially support the rectum. If not directly then via connective tissue which acts or looks like a downwards sloping hammock for the rectum. When contracted, the psoas may help to till the rectum forwards helping to put it in the ideal position for offloading our payload.

(Bombadier to pilot, bomb bay doors open, bomb positioning mechanism in place.
Pilot to bombardier. Roger that.

Because the psoas can be used to pull the lumbar spine forwards actually causing it to bend backwards, we can counter this tendency, or the body naturally counters this tendency, by engaging the abs. See if you can notice this for yourself. Each time you push, do your abs engage? Does your lower back feel like it is being pulled forwards?

If you can feel your lower back being pulled forwards as if from inside your body, that just may be your psoas activating.

The Diaphragm (The One we Breathe With)

One other sensation to look for, and another key player is the diaphragm. (Sensation is generated when it activates and presses downwards.)

Positioning bombs ready for release is fine but we need some sort of release mechanism. With bombs in an airplane we simply leg go, however if you’ve seen a b52’s bomb bay doors, those doors are huge. Generally the opening for our own bombs is a little smaller. So we have to push.

Push It Out, Push it Out…. Way Out

Where does the push come from? Well, our abs are already engaged. In doing so they help to squeeze inwards on the abdominal organs. Further push pressure can come from the diaphragm pressing down.

Women use this when giving birth and women and men can use it when pushing out a number two. This is our release mechanism. Next time your squatting, or sitting, see if you can feel a downwards push and better yet notice where it is coming from.

Now one of the cool things about all of this is that most of the same components are used when we breath, or can be used with breathing. Basically our abs and diaphragm can be used as pumps. In the case of air they can be used to create a vacuum to draw air in, and then used to push air out. In the case of a number two they are solely used as a push pump to push stuff out.

When breathing we can use our diaphragm, pushing it down to increase the volume of our lungs to draw air in. This action pushes down on the abdominal organs which cause the belly to protrude. Then we can use the abs to push these organs in and the diaphragm up to reduce lung volume and push air out.

Together we can simultaneously use the abs and diaphragm to squeeze the abdominal organs, which means we squeeze our intestines, and rectum and guess what comes out!

If we more finally tune our ab control, we can pull just our lower belly in so that our upper belly expands. If our abs are relaxed just enough then when our diaphragm contracts it can push the ribcage upwards. If in addition we expand the ribs we’ve got extra power for drawing more air in.

I Practice My Kegel Exercises Every Day!!!
(I’m even practicing them now)

So what was the point of talking about taking a dump?

A while back some guy name Dr Arnold Kegel became famous because he taught women how to orgasm by doing simple exercises that helped them tune in to their pelvic floor so that they could contract, relax and orgasm at will.

He taught them how to learn both sensitivity and control.
One description that is commonly used-“Use the same muscle that you use to control the flow of pee.

In a similar way, we can use “number two” time to feel our diaphragm, abs and psoas or to practice feeling them, or at least to practice putting our awareness in the right place so that we can get used to feeling them.

This sensitivity can be used to improve body control both on and off the pot.

As an example, on the pot if you are having trouble squeezing stuff out, you might focus on a downwards sensation in the lower belly. Focus on the feeling rather than thinking about the feeling. You may notice actually movement as a result.

An analogy could be that the bombay doors are stuck so the copilot has to go back and unwind them manually. Likewise, if your bomb bay is jammed up, put your awareness down there to help get things flowing.

(Bombs away. Roger that, returning to base.)
(Credits roll with a picture of an airmen coming out of the commode, toilet paper trailing out his pants.)

Noticing the sensations of our diaphragm, psoas and abs engaging while on the pot, off the pot we can continue to feel and control these muscles while breathing, doing yoga or tai ji or while having sex… or while doing anything else that involves the body.

The Connection to Swimming…

So why do I sometimes want to take a dump when doing lots of swimming or underwater swimming? And why did I bother mentioning it? I actually did think it was interesting at the time. Two days in a row, when I went swimming, while I was swimming, I felt the urge to go to the bathroom. I put it down to the action of my legs and hips helping to loosen my bowels. And that may in turn have been part of the inspiration for this article.