The Athlete: A Skin Meridian Archetype
The skin personality type is revered in the United States for their natural athleticism, beautiful hair, desire to take risks, and ability to keep a cool head under pressure. In the typing system at Infinity Flexibility, the skin is represented by the archetype of the athlete. The athlete’s talent is not only physical. An athlete wouldn’t get far without mental drive, passion, and determination. Energetically, the skin meridian supports a healthy immune system and acts as the gatekeeper between the outside world and our inner self by balancing how much energy comes in and how much goes out.
In Traditional Chinese medicine, the athlete is most closely related to the triple burner meridian. The triple burner is a yang meridian. It includes the skin and fascia which hold the body together both physically and energetically. The triple burner also controls the flow of Qi, making it an integral part of our energetic body.
To locate athlete energy within yourself, you need to look at your willingness to push physical boundaries and take risks.
Are you naturally athletic?
How much do you rely on luck?
Do you do well under pressure?
Is being a part of a community something that is important to you?
The skin meridian is comfortable in high-stress environments. They would not be out of place at the stock exchange or participating in extreme sports. Their balancing meridian, the pericardium is represented by the archetype of the judge, and so the skin’s risk-taking is balanced by the subconscious impartialness of the judge.
By strengthening and stretching the skin meridian, you gain access to your inner risk-taker and athlete. You will also learn some exercises to fix shoulder injuries and release tension in the upper back. To understand the skin meridian’s place in our series, we will examine its western medicine functions, archetypes, common imbalances, and exercises to help restore the healthy flow of our meridian.
Myofascial System in Western Medicine
The term “myofascial release” was coined less than 100 years ago. In 2018, a “new organ” was discovered called the interstitium which put a name to part of the myofascial system that therapists have been treating for years. The truth is western science is only now discovering what Traditional Chinese medicine has known for centuries. Namely, the layers of skin and fascia that protect our physical bodies also play a crucial role in our subtle bodies.
Our skin is an organ with which we are all familiar. It protects our internal organs and is the first defense against bacteria, viruses, and physical attacks. Beneath the skin lies our myofascial system. It has several parts including the lymphatic system, nervous and vascular tissue, and other connective tissues.
Our fascia is split into three parts. The first superficial layer of the fascia stores fat and water. It transports water, macrophages, and nutrients throughout the body. The second layer lies deeper and can be accessed with deep tissue massage. It surrounds muscles, bones, nerves, and blood vessels and has nervous system receptors to alert us to the presence of pain. The third surrounds the organs of the body and holds them safely in place.
The macrophages in the first layer are a type of white blood cell that plays a key role in the immune system. The first line of defense macrophages acts as the emergency responders, arriving on the scene to assess the damage and provide critical emergency measures. The second lineup of macrophages comes in to clean and clear the mess and set the stage for our body’s healing process.
When your body is healthy and you are exercising regularly, your myofascial system is flexible and pliable. Without movement, fascia can get stuck leading to pain, stiffness, and inflexibility. Both the skin and the fascia help maintain structural integrity in the body. Without them, we would lose our first defense against illness and injury.
When a person receives “myofascial release,” the practitioner is using specified trigger points to release tension in the tissues of our body. Sound familiar? Acupuncture and Traditional Chinese medicine have been releasing tension via the meridians for thousands of years.
Skin Meridian Exercises
Active Child’s Pose (Press hands into the floor as you press up in the space between your shoulder blades)
Cobra Arch (Start in Child’s pose and flow through to Cobra pose with knees on the ground)
Cobra Arch with a Push-up (Start in Child’s pose and push up to Cobra pose)
Assisted Child’s Pose with Someone Pressing or Standing on your Back
Get Your Qi Flowing with the Athlete
Other Archetypes: The Olympian, Avenger, Gambler
The athlete is the best archetype to represent this grounded physical meridian. Like any professional athlete, the skin meridian is constantly balancing outside expectations and inner drive. In Traditional Chinese medicine, the triple burner is a psychic level “hinge” of the yang energy in the body. It supports a person’s ability to socialize and interact as part of a community while simultaneously taking care of their own wants and needs.
Honoring yourself without dishonoring others and conversely honoring others without dishonoring yourself will create a ripple effect of light.Jazz Rasool
The triple burner is responsible for the movement of Qi in the body. It keeps emotional problems from becoming long-term states which can happen when the Qi stagnates. Like the liver meridian, the skin promotes free-flowing emotions in the body. Expressed, not repressed. The three “burners” each deal with a different influx of energy. The upper burner takes in energy from the world, the middle processes the energy in the body, and the lower drains energy we no longer need.
The upper burner disperses Wei Qi, or Defensive Qi, which is created by the lungs. The middle burner processes energy build-up by the spleen and stomach during digestion. The lower burner works with the kidneys and bladders to remove waste. A healthy flow of Qi is essential for flowing physical movement, expressed emotions, a clear mind, and a peaceful spirit.
If the heart is the Empress of the body and the pericardium is the royal palace that protects it, the skin is the capital city. It provides a place for all of the people of the kingdom and simultaneously protects them against foreign invaders. When an emotional problem rouses the minister’s fire (controlled by the heart meridian), skin and pericardium meridian exercises can be used to calm the mind and clear built-up energy. The athlete represents the means to relieve our mental, emotional, and spiritual bodies through physical activity and movement.
You can use your skin meridian to tap into the source of your energy. The “flow state” is a modern term for tapping into your source with the skin. It describes an athlete’s ability to go into the “zone” while performing. Exercise becomes simpler and less energy is expended. You feel as though you are at the top of your game. If you are able to fall into the flow state, you probably have a healthy skin meridian.
Movement for Addiction: Skin Meridian Therapy
The skin meridian is responsible for putting our body in a state of rest and relaxation. Often, if this meridian is out of balance a person will experience issues with their adrenals, including stress and insomnia. Movement is a great way to clear built-up nervous tension or energy in the body.
One of our clients is a former Olympic hopeful. This client struggled with physical, emotional, and mental blocks leading up to the Olympic trials and eventually decided to quit. After a few years, she began to develop issues with substances and eventually entered recovery for alcoholism. A key component in living a life of recovery according to Gabor Mate, author of The Hungry Ghost, is connection. The structure and community connection of exercising at a gym or local fitness area provide important recovery support.
These days, this client exercises regularly to stay balanced both physically and emotionally. Movement has been a key part of her recovery. Exercise supplies your brain with endorphins which improve your mood. She also relies on her workout community to support and encourage her journey.
The energy in our body is always in a constant state of movement. Stagnation in one of the three burners above means that our energy is trapped in that burner until we unblock it. If the upper burner is out of balance, our immune system would be compromised. Defensive Qi from the lungs would not flow and we would be more susceptible to outside invaders. If the middle burner is blocked, our digestion would be thrown off. Issues with indigestion, acid reflux, or gas would be common. If the lower burner is thrown off, we would experience issues with the removal of waste and absorption of nutrients. Diarrhea or constipation could be expected.
If you are looking to use movement as part of your addiction therapy, check out Yoga of 12 Step Recovery. This program has weekly meetings and intensive training that combines the physical practice of yoga with the community support of 12-step meetings, and the healing power of yoga.
In addition to skin exercises, Infinity also recommends stomach meridian exercises because of the stomach’s role in addiction. You should also work on their balancing meridians, the pericardium, and the spleen.
Our next articles will look at the Gallbladder and Liver meridians. These meridians epitomize spring energy. The gallbladder is symbolized by the archetype of the pioneer. These decision-makers drive us ahead and are both ambitious and thoughtful.
The liver is best represented by the liberator archetype. These free spirits make the best caretakers. They give unconditionally and are hypersensitive to the needs of others. Keep following our Meridian Archetype series to learn more!