When I was still an acupuncture student, one of my instructors used to refer to stagnation as “the root of all evil”. Now that I have been in practice a while, I have a true appreciation for this statement.
At its core, the term “stagnation” refers to things that are just not moving. Picture a lovely river, running smoothly through a bucolic countryside. Picture that same river, only with something blocking its path. That fresh, clean water is now sitting there, turning into sludge, collecting all the garbage that is no longer carried away by the flow. At the point of blockage, the water is surging up, building up pressure as it attempts to break through this barrier, but to no avail,as much as it is pushing against whatever is holding it back, it can’t go anywhere. Without any forward momentum, the water begins to get filthier and filthier, gradually becoming a stinking cesspool of mold and insects.
Ladies and gentlemen, this is what happens inside your body when things get stagnant. Not literally, of cour, but the results of stagnation in your body can be very unpleasant. There are rivers of blood and qi (energy) that run throughout your entire body, like rivers. Imagine what would happen if one of those rivers got dammed up. There would be a buildup on one side of the river, as it pushed against that barrier. This pressure usually manifests as pain. Stagnation doesn’t always lead to pain, but most pain is a result of stagnation. Swelling, inflammation, and stiffness all stem from an interrupted flow of blood or qi. Move the blockage, and the pain will resolve.
There can be stagnation anywhere in the body, and the results differ according to which organ system or meridian is affected. Stagnation in the head can result in headaches, obsession, or rumination. Stagnation of the digestive organs can lead to pain, indigestion, slow metabolism or constipation. From an emotional standpoint, we often see stagnation resulting in irritability, depression, and moodiness (PMS, anyone?)
Stagnation of the mind really is evil, because it tends to be self-perpetuating. People refer to this type of stagnation in all types of ways: being in a funk, getting stuck in a rut, not being able to get out of your own way. The unfortunate thing is, the best cure for this condition is movemen, but the stagnation makes it difficult. Moving the body will move the blood and qi, which will help to dispel this stagnation. Once that mental stagnation has set in, it is difficult to get moving. Soon you are stuck in a vicious cycle: you don’t want to move because nothing inside of you is moving, but the longer you sit there watching Maury and indenting the couch, the more “stuck” the qi of your body and mind gets.
You know how stiff and uncomfortable you feel after sitting through a marathon of reality shows? That is because the flow of blood and qi through your meridians has been impeded by your lack of movement. Now that things are not flowing merrily along, as they should, you experience the lack of movement within as a lack of desire to do anything other than sit there. And the longer you sit, the worse it gets. So get up, and get moving-and fight off the stagnation before it takes over!