Shiatsu | Chinese medicine

The Lung (meridian) – Part 1

(Only English version available)

In this part you will find some aspects of the Lung’s functioning according to Chinese medicine/ shiatsu.

In part 2 a few more aspects will be covered + a full overview of healthy Lung functions and Lung’s pathology. Also, some important shiatsu points and lifestyle tips will be given!

Master of Ki
The Lung1 is associated with the function of Ki (energy) exchange by the process of respiration where the intake of oxygen and the elimination of carbon dioxide take place. This is the most important function of the Lung.

The Lungs govern respiration by the inhalation of ‘clean’ Ki from the air and the exhalation of ‘dirty’ Ki, Ki that the body doesn’t need anymore. Because of this constant exchange of Ki the Lungs ensure the proper functioning of all the body’s physiological processes (as Ki is at their basis). So, the Lungs govern the Ki of the whole body > Master of Ki. They are the residence of physical strength.

1 Organs written with a capital letter indicates their meaning used as in Chinese medicine.

Close relationship with the Heart
Ki is needed to help the Heart to circulate Blood through the vessels. As the Lungs regulate Ki, they play an important role in Blood circulation > Therefore the close relationship between the Lungs and the Heart.

When Lung Ki is strong the circulation of Ki and Blood will be good and so the limbs will be warm. When Lung Ki is weak, the Ki has difficulty to push the Blood through the vessels. As a consequence you will have cold limbs (especially the hands will be cold).

Keeping your sphere
Respiration is important for internal regulation and at the same time it is intimately connected with the outside world. You could say that the Lungs are the borders between the inside of the body connecting to the outside world. Psychologically; if you have a healthy Lung function you are capable of maintaining your boundaries (keeping your sphere) without becoming rigid.

An imbalance in Lung Ki can lead to feelings of isolation from others. You are cut off from the Ki of the outside world. As a consequence you’ll develop feelings of depression, unworthiness, melancholy. This will lead to a restriction of the breath (to defend yourself from painful feelings) and therefore further weaken your Lung Ki. Respiratory diseases can be the result such as colds, asthma and bronchitis.

Being open to new experiences
Through breathing Ki is taken in from outside your individual boundaries. If Lung Ki is healthy you will be able to take in new experiences, to be open. The new Ki represents new vitality, which is needed for growth, physically and psychologically. The lack of intake of Ki results in tiredness and low spirit.

The nose
Normally the breathing is through the nose. The Lung function therefore has its effect upon the nose; a runny or stuffed nose is a sign of an imbalance of the Lung (although in some cases these symptoms can also be due to a specific imbalance of the Spleen or Large Intestine).

When the Lung Ki is strong the breathing goes smoothly and there is a good sense of smell.

The voice
As the vocal cords sit at the entrance to the windpipe (trachea) they are also directly influenced by the Lung function. By hearing somebody’s voice you can understand that person’s Lung Ki; how is its condition?

By an impaired Lung function you may have a weak, crying or complaining voice. It can also be that talking is making you feel tired.

The skin
The condition of your skin is related to Lung function. The skin is like the Lungs  ‘a border’ between the inside of your body and the outside world.

In healthy Lung function the skin is smooth and nourished, the hair is shiny and there is appropriate sweating. When the Lung function is impaired skin diseases such as psoriasis or eczema can evolve.

Grief , sadness and worry
Grief, sadness and also worry affect the Lungs directly. While grief and sadness deplete Lung Ki, worry tends to ‘knot’ Ki.

Grief, sadness
Healthy Lung (and also Large Intestine) Ki doesn’t prevent grief, but you won’t stay trapped in it; it keeps you open to new possibilities. Mourning is important to come to acceptance and letting go. By letting go there is room in your life for new intake.

When Lung Ki is weak, it’s harder to let go of sadness. This can lead to feelings of depression and melancholy, which may be followed by physical illness.

> Grief is harmful to the lungs, joy can overcome grief.

People who worry constantly may have tension in their shoulders and chest caused by this ‘knotting’ action of worry on Ki. Tightness in the chest from worry may also affect a woman’s breasts. Often it is at the root of the formation of breast lumps.

State of mind
Respiration influences your state of mind as it’s closely related with brain function. The reverse also applies: for example, when you feel sad, anxious or worried because something bad happened to you, the depth and rhythm of your breathing changes accordingly.

People who are fully engaged in their activities usually have a deep, calm breath and do their job with determination and perseverance.


– The foundations of Chinese Medicine – Giovanni Maciocia

– Shiatsu, Theory and Practice – Carola Beresford-Cooke

– Meridian exercises, The Oriental Way to Health and Vitality – Shizuto Masunaga, translated by Stephen Brown

– Teachers Eloise Sewell and Sasaki Sensei

– Traditionele Chinese Geneeskunde, Basistheorie – R. Hellemans

– The Chinese Foundation of Natural Health of Canada