water fall

What is a Meridian?

A meridian is where Qi flows.

RiverThis simple sentence speaks volumes! Qi (pronounced “chee”) is a Chinese word that is translated as “energy” or “breath.” All life depends on Qi and all life arises from Qi. We cannot see Qi directly, yet we are completely dependent on it. Without breath, without Qi, there is no life.

Qi is more than breath. Qi flows throughout the body, not just to the lungs. Where does this invisible Qi flow? It flows within meridians.

A river is good way to understand meridians.

We usually say “water flows in the river.” Pause for a moment and consider that sentence.
What exactly is a river? There is water, and there is a riverbed where the water flows. Riverbeds are places where water flows, and water flows in riverbeds. Which came first?

It is the same idea with meridians. Meridians are where the Qi flows, and Qi flows in meridians.



Meridians run longitudinally in the body along the arms, legs, and down the back, chest and abdomen. There are twelve main meridians. Each named meridian is found on both the left and right side of the body. Even though they have separate names and clearly identified pathways, all of the meridians are connected to form a web of Qi flowing throughout the whole body.

The concept is similar to our blood vessels. The vessels are a web of veins and arteries where blood flows in a continuous loop throughout the entire body.

We cannot see the meridians but we can feel them when we pay close attention.
Meridians are unique to Chinese Medicine. Meridians offer us a concrete avenue for affecting invisible, vital Qi. Meridians are used in acupuncture, acupressure and meridian massage as the basis for locating and treating energetic (Qi) imbalances.


About The Author

Cindy Black, L.Ac., LMT

Cindy Black is the Founder of Big Tree School of Natural Healing and the author of Meridian Massage, Pathways to Vitality. She is appreciated for her ability to make the complex accessible, fun, and practical.


  • Rachel McClean

    Reply Reply November 22, 2013

    LOVE this post! Sharing it with our clients as it explains the meridians so well.
    Thank you!

    • Cindy Black, L.Ac.

      Reply Reply November 22, 2013

      Hi Rachel,
      Yeah! Share away 🙂

  • peg hambrecht

    Reply Reply July 28, 2014

    I am a disabled/retired RN with multiple health problems. I just started chair yoga and there was a mention of meridians. I LOVE AND LIVE TO LEARN! Your site is fascinating to me. Meridians was well explained! I loved teaching as a visiting RN and had to discern the info on multiple levels for my patients to understand. Your comparison to a river was phenomenal! Thanks and I plan to come back to read some more. I THANK YOU so much. Take care… God Bless…
    Sincerely, Peg Hambrecht

    • Cindy Black, L.Ac.

      Reply Reply July 28, 2014

      Hello Peg,
      Yoga is a wonderful way to open the flow of Qi in the meridians, I am glad you are enjoying that practice. So many profound teachings and practices have emerged from India – some say that meridian theory is based on the energetics of yoga – enjoy your adventures in these studies! I too am a life long learner – I love exploring and learning new things and figuring out how things are all connected.

      Thanks for writing – it’s a pleasure to share this adventure with you.

  • Rebecca Wood

    Reply Reply August 29, 2016

    This ties in so well with the practice of Yin Yoga. I enjoy taking what works so I can and apply it to my practice and MFR work, Thanks!

    • Cindy Black, L.Ac., LMT

      Reply Reply August 29, 2016

      You are welcome. I feel that the ancient practices are all connected.

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