Up Down In or Out

You could say that acupuncturists are obsessed with directions. Up down in or out. We ascribe to each of the major functions of the body, the lungs, kidneys, stomach etc a direction. This may be intuitive, at other times less so, so let us take a look. When we consider the stomach this must surely go downwards and not up? So what is the correct direction of the lungs? These are said to descend and disperse in the sense that the fluidic substances associated with the delicate membranes are sent down to the kidneys and bladder for elimination and to the skin. Where the descending function is impaired fluids may collect on the lungs (giving rise to a cough) or we may acquire a nasal drip. Lack of dispersion to the exterior could result in dry skin or perhaps swelling in the face.

Up Down In or Out


The direction of the heart is downwards, allowing our minds to be calm and free. Impairment of this could result in a head full of clutter or insomnia.

According to an ancient document called ‘The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine’

Without ascending-descending there would be no birth, growth, transformation, harvesting and storage.

Here are some normal bodily functions where direction is important. Can you spot the correct direction?

  • Giving birth
  • Holding organs in place (i.e. preventing prolapse)
  • Staying grounded, feeling steady on one’s feet
  • Opening one’s bowels
  • Retaining a pregnancy

All these movements work to co-ordinate harmonious functioning. By asking questions about the behaviour of these systems the skilled acupuncturist can ascertain which aspects of the whole are not working correctly and recommend appropriate and effective treatment.

(Answers  – down, up, down, down, up)