Suzanne Yates will be presenting a workshop on the Girdle Vessel, which is one of the Eight Extraordinary Vessels. She first became aware of their existence when she felt other energies and connections in pregnant women which were different from those of the 12 channels. Especially powerful were the broad belt she felt around the pelvis (the Girdle Vessel) and the Heart/Womb/Brain/Kidney connections.
Fortunately Maciocioa’s book “Obstetrics and Gynecology in Chinese medicine came out shortly afterwards (1998) and described much of what she was feeling. Even though Suzanne’s main shiatsu training was based in Zen Shiatsu, she found learning more about the TCM approach fascinating.
Over the years she has come to understand all Eight Extraordinary Vessels as broader energies then simply points. She is currently working on creating new diagrams of them. 

Text and visuals: Suzanne Yates

The Eight Extraordinary Vessels are like super channels. They are the reservoir of all energies in the body: Qi, Jing (Essence) and Blood. They are the energy of conception and all other energies arise from them. They are able to send more Qi out to the 12 channels or absorb excess Qi. Some people think that because they share points on the 12 channels they are worked through working the 12 channels, but this is not the case.
Working directly with them taps into our deeper energies and regulates our overall energy in a way that the 12 channels do not. Unlike the 12 channels, they are not each linked to one organ but share several organs, including the Brain and the Reproductive Organs.

I want to introduce the power of the Girdle Vessel to you and hope to help you experience it more deeply in Amsterdam through shiatsu along with exercises and visualisations.

We all know the importance of the hara for connecting with the energy of all 12 channels. However, this is only half of the story of this part of our body. The hara is part of the Girdle Vessel which, as its name suggests, encircles the whole of the area beneath the ribs to the top of the legs, including the hips and sides of the body as well as the back, emerging from Ming Men: GV4: the gate of life or space between the Kidneys.

It links all the energies and physical structures of this area (including muscles and bones) and has a direct link with the reproductive organs and lower burner. It includes the pelvic floor, which gives a strong connection to earth and physical support for all our pelvic organs. Since it is so broad, one way I work is to include some broad deep holding and stroking movements around the whole pathway. It is also the only horizontal channel, regulating the alignment of energy through the transverse plane. This means we can also work with it in the spaces around the body.

Its Chinese character means a girdle with things hanging from it which assures continuity and can lead, guide, connect or bind things together (like linking a chain of mountains). If the Girdle is too tight then energy can’t flow between our upper and lower body. If it is too loose then all of our energies become muddled.

It is where the unprocessed energies of all the other channels, including the 7 other Extraordinary Vessels end up. I love Jeffrey Yuen’s (a US acupuncturist) image of it as the spare room. For many people it is blocked, due both to our sedentary lifestyle and our culture’s emphasis on accumulation. Often we need to clear out this cluttered spare room so that there is space for new things to arrive in the body. Sometimes the energy is weak and empty and the spare room needs to be nourished and warmed to be welcoming. I’ll be giving you a taste of these two different approaches to the Girdle Vessel.

What I love about the Girdle Vessel, and indeed all the Extraordinary Vessels, is that we can work them indirectly through their regulating and paired points, which are in the hands and feet. The Girdle Vessel’s points are GB41 paired with TH5. Since the hara is potentially both a physically and emotionally sensitive area, this provides a great way to connect with its energy without directly touching its pathway. I will be teaching you how to work with this connection during my ESC workshop.

When we work directly with it, we can start with the back: Ming Men and BL 23 and 52 are especially powerful points to nourish the Kidneys both physically and psychologically and can offer support for working the potentially more sensitive Yin aspect of it. We can also work the sides through GB28/29 and holding both sides of the hips and feeling the connection through the centre where it links into GV/CV. Naturally we don’t directly work on the pelvic floor, but we can connect with it through our work on the Girdle Vessel.

I often work by connecting the Yin and the Yang aspects of it: for example, mother hand over Ming Men and working hand on CV.

I look forward to sharing all this with you next September. I initially discovered the Girdle Vessel through working with pregnant women on whom it is very tangible and strong. However, it is relevant for anyone at any stage of their life. On some level we always need to include it to help to integrate all the energies within the body so that we can respond to the many different energies of life.

Curious about Girdle Vessel? Visit Suzanne’s workshop at the European Shiatsu Congress.

More blogs on her Well Mother website.


  • The Eight Extraordinary Vessels, New England School of acupuncture, Jeffrey Yuen 2005
  • Extraordinary Chinese Medicine, Thomas Richardson, Singing Dragon 2018
  • Psycho pain and the eight extraordinary vessels, Yvonne Farrell, Singing Dragon 2016
    Eight Extraordinary Channels, David Twicken, Singing Dragon 2013
  • Channels of acupuncture, Maciocia G, Churchill Livingstone 2006
  • An Exposition on the Eight Extraordinary Vessels, Charles Chace and Miki Shima, Eastland Press 2010
  • The Eight Extraordinary Meridians, Claude Larre and Eliabeth Rochat de la Vallee, Monkey Press 1997
  • Extraordinary Vessels, Kiki Matsumoto and Stephen Birth Paradigm 1986