As you were (Buffy, Season 6, Episode 15)

This episode features the unexpected return:  Riley comes back to Sunnydale… with his wife.  Buffy meets the wife after Riley and Buffy together dispatch a rather neckless demon.  (Buffy accidentally killed the demon, which was supposed to have been captured alive.)  Meanwhile, Riley also finds the rogue Hostile (Spike) he’d been looking for in Season 4, but it’s his turn to be surprised:  he finds Buffy in bed with Spike. Riley has the option to kill Spike, if Buffy wanted — but Buffy says no.

Despite Buffy’s own lack of confidence in herself, having gone from Superhero to Burgerworker (the burger smell Buffy has acquired from work is referenced once or twice, while Dawn seems to have lost her appetite), Riley makes a pointed observation:  the wheel of her fortunes may be turning up and down, but she is still the same Buffy.  That simple statement seems to restore some of Buffy’s own sense of herself.  At the end of the episode, Buffy has found the strength to end her relationship with Spike, graciously calling him William, his human name.   (Halfrek also called Spike William in the previous episode — Halfrek having been the woman William-Spike was in love with before he became a vampire).

It can take years to get over someone — one year, two years, three.  Sometimes never in one life, as Halfrek demonstrated when she recognised William in last week’s episode, and after all those years (and the impossibility of them ever getting together now) primped her hair.  (I’m sure Halfrek might agree:  Better no guy than the wrong guy.  The question is, how do you know it is or was the wrong guy?)

Closure, the ability to consolidate one’s resources and direct qi to healing the body is sometimes necessary.  At a certain point, however, it is important to redirect qi to flow naturally between the emotions of life according to the harmony of the seasons.   Qi can all too easily get stuck.  Sometimes in the du mai, but mroe often in soft tissue:  the neck, as one closes up perception to the world; and in the diaphragm, as one holds one’s breath in anticipation of the next blow that might come.  Or perhaps some event has knocked the wind out of a patient — again, diaphragmatic paralysis.  Occasionally, trauma shows up in the pudendal nerve where the adductors meet the pubic ramus.  The sinews in a certain sense, represent simplicity in life.  As conduits of wei qi, the show us areas in which our automatic responses have become detrimental to the spontaneity of movement which characterises the sage.  All these will be touched on by today’s sinew treatment, as they must be freed before a sinew treatment will have its full effect.

What shall we diagnose?  Since Buffy killed a rather neckless demon by twisting its neck, I think this is an appropriate time to discuss something I’ve been leaving out: neck and sinew releases.  I’ve left it out because I rarely do it in an acupuncture session.  On the other hand, it is something I almost always do in bodywork — though it is sometimes the last thing to do, as the body makes its adjustments in posture from the ground up.

Why is the neck release important for sinew vessels?  Because the pathway of wei qi moves to ming men downwards from the lungs and tan zhong, and upwards along the du mai.  We’ve already discussed how the du mai can be released by cupping at Du-4 and Du-14, and blockages along the path can be rectified by thread moxa in the intervetebral areas.  The internal pathway of wei qi is released through the neck.  This can be done by the ‘Windows to the Sky’ points, or by actual sinew releases of the neck.  These sinew releases can be similar to chiropractic high-velocity thrust adjustments, or more subtle shiatsu and thai massage stretches.  The goal is to release the muscles of the neck, particularly the scalenes, omohyoid, and colli longus muscles.  Releasing the colli longus may have a positive effect on the esophagus and digestive system.  Remember, the digestive system functions through wei qi.  Digestion is an automatic response; wei qi lacks consciousness.

The deep front line of fascia has a strong relation to certain Tai Ji philosophies of movement.  In some styles of Tai Ji, all movement originates in the ming men, circling around the dai mai and upwards to the point Tan Zhong.  The arms and legs are like the ripples on a pond which come only after the ming men moves, like the rock which creates those ripples.  To achieve this freedom of movement, the kua, or inguinal region, must remain relaxed.  The ming men as it connects to the dai mai in the front and the back should be the focus of awareness, and the folding hinge of the diaphragm must be given priority when flexing and extending the spine.

The myofascial correlates of this system follow the Deep Front Line of Tom Meyer’s Anatomy Trains, which I’ve referenced before:  the psoas and adductors (the ‘kua’ of the inguinal/ hip joint, which must remain relaxed during the horse stance in tai ji and most other martial arts), through the crura of the diaphragm (which, meeting the psoas is the point of awareness of the ming men meeting the dai mai, especially when the transverse abdominis is engaged) upwards to the pericardium and the fascia of both the posterior sternum and the anterior thoracic vertebrae, and onwards to the neck.  At the neck, the scalenes, omohyoid, and longus colli and capitus muscles lead the deep front line of fascia onto the cranium (masseter, temporalis).  Releasing the neck thus can have an effect on freeing the flow of wei qi that has become trapped in the interior.

Will a sinew treatment help Spike?  Will it alter Buffy’s own sense of desire?  Not necessarily.  The limits of wei qi are that although wei qi is autonomous, it can be brought under conscious control only through cultivation.  Ying qi and blood contain consciousness.  The herbal formula Gui Zhi Tang, because of its dual combination of gui zhi and bai shao, on the one hand, and da zao and sheng jiang on the other, harmonises the relationship between wei qi and ying qi, between desire and automatic response.  The other way to bring wei qi under conscious control, of course, is through the regular, attentive practice of qi gong, nei gong, or tai ji.

Sometimes, though, the ‘cure’ can come externally, and wei qi can lead ying qi back to the source:  Riley’s observation freed up the restraint, diaphragmatic blockage, Buffy was holding, letting the wei qi finally connect once again with her Ming Men, her gate of destiny.  Be careful of your words.  They do have the power to impact the flow of qi.

As always, these posts are for entertainment and educational purposes only.  If you feel you may benefit from the sinew releases of the neck, please see a qualified practitioner.  For massage therapists interested in these techniques, I would refer you to Tom Meyer’s Anatomy Trains, particularly his DVD and courses on the Deep Front Line specifically.

Happy Slayage!


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