The gallbladder meridian gives us the means to make clear-headed decisions and blaze new paths. Because of this, the gallbladder has earned the archetype of the pioneer. The pioneer takes the time to think through all possibilities and explores all options, but once a decision is made they do not hesitate to act. Sometimes during times of crisis, we feel paralyzed by indecision. Gallbladder energy is a force for change.
To find the gallbladder meridian within yourself, you must evaluate how you make decisions.
Do you value thought before action?
Do you know when it’s time to take a step back and assess your next move?
Are you attracted to what is new and different?
If we spend a majority of our time in “fight or flight” mode, the gallbladder won’t function properly. We need to nurture our body’s natural “rest and digest” rhythms to give the gallbladder time to think through all possibilities and make an informed decision. In Traditional Chinese medicine, the gallbladder meridian also influences our quality and length of sleep and aids in detoxification.
By strengthening and stretching the gallbladder meridian, you gain access to your ability to make decisions and push boundaries. You will learn some tricks to combat imbalances in the adductors, abductors, IT band, and hips. To understand the gallbladder 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.
The Importance of Bile
The gallbladder’s primary responsibility is storing and releasing bile from the liver to aid in digestion. When fats enter the digestive system, the gallbladder releases the bile into the small intestine. The bile breaks down fats and encourages waste to drain from the liver into the duodenum where enzymes from the pancreas take over.
The liver and the gallbladder work together to remove toxins from the body. Toxins are a natural physiological byproduct of life. One of these natural toxins, ammonia, is converted into a less toxic substance called urea and removed from the body via the bladder. Removing toxins from the body takes a lot of energy so most of this process happens while we sleep.
Our body has eight activating “fight or flight” systems and only three relaxing “rest and digest” systems. These survival systems were put in place to save us from potentially harmful situations related to hunting, gathering, and enduring the trials of living in the wild. These days, our lives are a little less physically dangerous, but lions, tigers, and bears have been replaced by extreme psychological challenges including depression, stress, and anxiety.
If we do not learn how to activate the rest and digest systems, our whole body gets thrown out of whack. Meditation, restorative yoga, relaxation massage, exercise, and getting enough sleep are a few ways to ensure your body gets the time and space it needs to reset and calm down. If we are in a state of “fight or flight,” our body cannot detox properly. The liver and gallbladder strain to remove all the toxins in a short amount of time and, as a result, toxins build up in the body causing a number of issues.
Digestion is an extremely delicate process that is easily disrupted by our fight or flight instincts. Tuning in to the energy of the gallbladder and liver can help the body de-stress and detoxify.
Pigeon Pose (Both sides 8-10 repetitions)
Cowboy or Rodeo pose (Both sides 8-10 repetitions)
The Pioneer: An Innovative Meridian
Other Archetypes: Doctor, Destroyer, Detective, Schemer, Explorer, Innovator
A ravenous intellect and thirst for adventure characterize this meridian archetype. In Traditional Chinese medicine, the gallbladder meridian is known as the decision-maker. It provides a turning point for new beginnings and is best represented by the archetype of the pioneer. The pioneer is courageous in the face of the unknown and takes the initiative to explore what is new and exciting in the world.
All of the other organs rely on the decision-making skill of the gallbladder and are motivated by its energy. As an analytical-thinking type, the pioneer values thought before action and questions everything. A strong gallbladder meridian allows us to bounce back quickly from sudden physical or emotional shock. If the gallbladder is weak, we hesitate on the verge of courage and fear. The more fear we experience, the harder it is to make the right decision.
The gallbladder is one of the primary meridians in the five-element theory. It has close relationships with the liver, stomach, spleen, and kidneys.
|Meridian||Relationship to the Gallbladder|
|LIVER||The liver balances the gallbladder energy. If the gallbladder makes the decisions, the liver controls our ability to plan out our life. They also work together during digestion and ensure healthy movement in the muscles, ligaments, and tendons.|
|STOMACH/SPLEEN||The smooth flow of bile from the gallbladder helps the stomach to digest and the spleen to transform. In Traditional Chinese medicine, the gallbladder is the champion of sleep and protector of the rest and digest system.|
|HEART||When it comes to the heart, the gallbladder provides the courage to execute decisions. The gallbladder instigates and the heart carries out. The heart exerts influence and control over the pioneer, otherwise, the energy of the gallbladder could turn to recklessness.|
|KIDNEY||The kidney meridian provides drive and vitality that the gallbladder turns into positive, decisive action.|
The bile stored in the gallbladder is one of the essential bodily fluids. In Traditional Chinese medicine, the gallbladder is known as the “chief of staff” or “storehouse of essence.” Bile is full of essential essence and this is reinforced by the fact that more than 90% of bile does not leave the body but is reabsorbed in the ileum.
Balancing Pioneer Energy with Relaxation Massage
Gallbladder energy is a force of nature. One of my clients was the epitome of a pioneer with indomitable gallbladder energy. She asked so many questions in high school that her science teacher finally threw up his hands and told her she needed to take college-level courses to learn what she wanted to know. So that’s exactly what she did.
She was a dancer who eventually became a doctor. When we worked together, we would start with the gallbladder meridian exercise. When you are feeling “off” or “not yourself” you can turn to your meridian exercise to come back to yourself. You will also need the balancing meridians’ energy, in this case, the liver meridian, to balance the dominant energy of their personality. You need both yin (liver) and yang (gallbladder) to be successful. Balance in your body and in your personality depends on yin and yang.
When the gallbladder is out of whack, we become untethered and energetically unbalanced. You may wake up in the middle of the night and have a hard time falling back to sleep. This is one indication of a gallbladder meridian imbalance.
If you think your “rest and digest” system is out of whack, a Swedish relaxation massage can help bring your body back to homeostasis. By reasserting balance in the body, you support the automatic functions of detoxification in the body. Massage can help with physical pain, but it can also support emotional and mental healing related to loss, major life changes, or trauma. Deep tissue massages are helpful for healing some imbalances, but relaxation massage also has its time and place. At Infinity, we know that different circumstances call for different treatments and we work hard to be able to offer you exactly what you need at that moment.
The liver meridian is responsible for more than supplying the gallbladder with bile. In western medicine, the liver is a crucial part of maintaining homeostasis in the body. Its archetype, the liberator, deals with issues of freedom and dependence on others. Look for the next article in our meridian archetypes series where we will explore the liver meridian in depth.