In Shiatsu we use the concepts of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). They form part of the client´s assessments, and one of these concepts is that of the “Triple Warmer”. It plays a vital role in the Eastern understanding of how immunity works.
I will concentrate on a few main aspects which help to understand why immunity is a function of the whole body. There is not one organ which will deal with it separately.
The triple warmer meridian coordinates the function of the three “warmers” in our body.* Each of these represents a specific body region and its respective organs:
- the upper section is made up of the chest from neck to thoracic diaphragm, with the organs heart (+pericard), as well as the lungs. It is one of the 3 sources of power at man’s disposal – it gains energy through breathing. The lungs enable the connection to the universal Ki†, which is infinitely available in the immediate environment of man as well as in the universe.
- the middle section is the so-called region of the upper Hara, from thoracic diaphragm to the naval, with the organs stomach and spleen, liver and gallbladder, (parts of the small intestine). The second source of energy controls the movement of food. Especially spleen (in Eastern concepts) and pancreas extract Ki from food.
- the lower section extends from navel to the pelvic diaphragm, with sex-organs, kidney and bladder, small and large intestine. This chamber houses the third power source of the human being, namely the kidneys as carriers of the prenatal Ki as well as guardians of the basic power and sexual energy. This is also where the basic fire of the human being lies, which warms the combustion chambers above, the organs inside and thus the whole human being. (Rappenecker, 2007)
By co-ordinating these three body regions and their organs the Triple Warmer meridian thus unites respiration, circulation, digestion, excretion, and sexual functions into an energetic whole.
The optimal cooperation of the three chambers is the basis for the human being’s ability to maintain his balance in stressful situations, which is also a prerequisite for a well-functioning immune system.
So how do we “strengthen our immune system?”
You all know the answer: healthy lifestyle, i.e. enough movement and fresh air, sunlight (Vit D3), and a balanced diet. Add to this seven to nine hours of sleep for the Wei Qi‡ (defensive Qi governed by the lungs) (Shou, 2019), and some extra care as in yoga and pranayama, meditation, and bodywork.
How to improve your circulation, and breathing, and why sleep is important for the functioning of your immune system
- Get enough sleep: Your body replenishes many deeper levels of energy during sleep. If you are not getting enough sleep and some of the more internal energies of your body are weak, the Wei Qi has to work overtime to keep you healthy – and it won’t be able to do that for long. Also, the Wei Qi actually moves internally in the body during sleep, to nourish and protect your internal organs, and not getting enough sleep will not allow it sufficient time to migrate inwards and then get back to the exterior of your body where it is needed during the day (www.acuwellnessclinic.com).
- Back to the basics: use cold water to improve circulation and breathing! Try the methods of Dr. Kneipp or Wim Hof – Google them and find out about these cost-free natural methods! The fastest and easiest method is to start having cold showers. Begin with hot, at the end change a couple of times between hot and cold, stop with cold. After a while you can enjoy! cold showers for one to three minutes or longer, and/or cold baths and swims. This method is scientifically proven and able to improve all chronic conditions and off course especially also the immune system. Add to this a dry skin brushing routine to move your lymph fluids and thus help detoxification.
- Receive treatments like Shiatsu: The activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, as happening during a body treatment like Shiatsu, will in general help against all types of stress: deep relaxation will help your body to re- adjust and initiate self-healing. An increased body awareness as a result of Shiatsu treatments is a great bonus – we become aware where our blockages, physical or mental ones, are located and how to “talk” to them. Also, there are specific points on the body that nourish the Wei Qi to help prevent sickness. Shiatsu will strengthen your energy system if it is not supporting the Wei Qi sufficiently.
- Establish a meditation or Yoga or Qigong practice: Any type of meditation (e.g. Yoga, Zen, or Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction = MBSR) will help to decrease mental tension and release Qi stagnation. It will bring you back to a healthy grounding without unnecessary fears, worry, circular thinking. It will further increase your awareness of your breathing habits – coming back to the lungs and the Wei Qi again.
So – be in the here and now and breathe and your Wei Qi will be happy too!
- *The following paragraph is adapted and translated from the German original by Rappenecker (2007:54-55).
- †In TCM and Shiatsu we talk about the Qi or Ki (Japanese) – the life energy. There is an innate Qi which we are born with and which is stored in the kidneys – as well as an acquired Qi which we can replenish via food, air, sleep and a healthy life style in general. A special Qi governed by the lungs is the Wei Qi, the defensive Qi which runs in the space between our muscles and skin. It is the second line of defence against pathogens – the first is our skin.
- ‡On the concept of Ki / Qi see footnote 2.
- Rappenecker, W. (2007) Fünf Elemente und Zwölf Meridiane. Apensen: Felicitas Hübner Verlag.
- Shou, S. (2019) TCM Tips for a Strong Immune System, Acu Wellnessclinic. Available at: https://www.acuwellnessclinic.com/tcm-tips-for-a-strong-immune-system/ (Accessed: 20 April 2020).
Carola Beresford-Cooke: Shiatsu. Grundlagen und Praxis. 3.Auflage 2013, Urban & Fischer