Japanese Meridian Stretches (Makko Ho exercises) are used as a self-healing technique to both sedate and tonify the meridians through specific stretches to improve the flow of Qi (energy). There is a stretch for each pair of meridians based on Traditional Chinese Medicine and the five element theory.
The emphasis with Makko Ho stretching exercises is not so much on the physical stretch but on opening up and moving the Qi (energy). You must focus on breathing and that you are aware of the changes going on within you during each stretch – this includes physical, emotional, and consciousness (Body, Mind, Spirit).
Begin the Makko Ho exercises by grounding yourself through relaxed, regulated breathing, focusing on centring yourself. It is important to settle into the stretches on the exhalation. Hold each stretch as you inhale, being aware of tension (whether through excess or deficiency). Do not force yourself into positions – pain is not the goal, letting go of tension is.
Winter is represented by the Water element and focuses on the kidney and bladder meridians. Water Asanas stabilize the back & improve spinal alignment. Winter Makko Ho yoga stretches are slow & calm to establish a sense of positive self-image.
To stretch these meridians, sit on the floor with the back held straight and your legs straightened out in front of you. Raise the arms above the head, and as you exhale, bend forward from the hips, with the knees kept straight. Hold this position on inhalation, and then settle further into the stretch on exhalation (for three respirations). Hold this position before slowly returning to the original sitting position.
If you are a body-work specialist wanting to know more about Japanese Meridian stretches, check out our free webinar for the ATMS Natural Medicine Week