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Saturday, June 23, 2012

MERIDIAN EXERCISES; THE MAKKO-HO

Shiatsu Theory and Practice

This series of exercises will be familiar to most Shiatsu students, since they almost always accompany introductory classes. However, for the student who does not know them they are included here as helpful recommendations. When recommending a Makko-Ho exercise, the giver can suggest one for the meridian that is Kyo; not only will this tonify the meridian through emphasizing the fascial connections but it will also focus the receiver on an aspect of the cycle of Ki which he is neglecting in his life. It is, in addition, likely to be easier to do than the exercise for the Jitsu meridian. When teaching the exercise, the giver should stress that it is to be done slowly, without effort and always moving on the outbreath, as these concepts are usually unfamiliar to Western receivers.


Lung and Large Intestine
Stand with your feet a shoulders' width apart, knees "soft" (not locked) and link your thumbs behind your back. Breathe deeply into your Hara. Stretch your fingers out and imagine your body filling with Ki to the fingertips. Now breathe out and, as you do so, bend forward into the position shown in illustration, keeping your fingers stretched out and relaxing as much as you can.
Lung and Large Intestine Makko-Ho
Still in the position shown, breathe deeply again into the Hara and, as you breathe out, concentrate on letting go all tension and all thought. Feel your body relax. Breathe in once more, imagining yourself taking in new Ki, and breathe out again, relaxing and letting go still more. Breathe in deeply once more and, as you breathe out, come slowly to an upright position. The exercise can be repeated with the thumbs linked the other way around.


Stomach and Spleen
This exercise is usually taught in three stages, but in my experience only the most limber can accomplish the third stage, and even the second stage may be a strain. The giver should teach only the stages which are possible for the receiver, and emphasize that he should not go beyond what is comfortable.

Stage 1 - Kneel on a padded surface such as a thick carpet or futon; sit between your heels if possible, sit on your heels if you cannot sit between them, and sit on a cushion placed between your ankles if you can do neither. Breathe deeply into your Hara. As you breathe out, rest your hands facing backward on the floor behind you, and lean your torso backwards. Relax your neck and let your head fall back. Look behind you, rolling your eyes upward.  Repeat for two cycles of breath. This stage of the exercise stretches the upper part of the Stomach and Spleen meridians, in the chest, throat and face, and the lower part in the knees, shins and feet.
Spleen and Stomach Makko-Ho - stage 1
If this stage is as much as the receiver can manage he can come back to upright on the fourth out breath. If he could use slightly more of a stretch, he should be encouraged to lift his pelvis up and forwards if he comfortably can, to stretch some of the rest of the meridian while breathing out.

Stage 2 - On the next outbreath, lean back further on to your elbows. Continue to keep your head relaxed backwards. Stay in this position for two cycles of breath. This position stretches the meridians down to the groin.
Spleen and Stomach Makko-Ho - stage 2
Stage 3 - On the next outbreath, if you can, lay your body back on to the floor, with your arms stretched above your head. Relax for two cycles of breath. This final stage stretches the front of the hips and thighs and increases the stretch to the rest of the body. The stretch is increased the more the knees are drawn together.
Spleen and Stomach Makko-Ho - stage 3


Heart and Small Intestine
Sit on the floor, with the soles of your feet touching, your legs relaxed outwards and your back upright. Breathe in deeply and clasp your toes. As you breathe out, relax your head, neck and torso forward between your knees, allowing your elbows to relax towards the floor. Stay in the position for two cycles of breath, allowing yourself to relax into it more on each outbreath, and come up on the fourth outbreath.
Heart and Small Intestine Makko-Ho
Although this exercise is hard on the hips and thighs at first, with practice your legs will relax outwards, allowing your torso to curl downwards more and focusing your Ki in the centre of your chest. As this happens, your elbows will reach further towards the floor, stretching the Small Intestine meridian in the shoulders and arms.


Kidneys and Bladder
This exercise is a slightly modified version of the Yoga forward bend; the modifications are important, however, since they add forward impetus to the stretch.

Sit with your legs straight out in front of you, but relaxed outwards. Breathe in and, as you do so, stretch your whole spine upwards and stretch your arms above your head, palms facing out. Breathe out and, as you do, lean forwards, flexing at the hips but with a straight back and straight legs. Breathe in again into your Kara and, as you breathe out, reach as far forward between your feet as you can. Imagine the motive force propelling you forward from your sacrum.
Bladder and Kidney Makko-Ho
 Breathe in again and, on the outbreath, allow your body to relax down towards your legs and rest. Breathe in again and, on the outbreath, uncurl your body, vertebra by vertebra, bringing your head up last.


Heart Protector and Triple Heater
Sit cross-legged, with your back straight. Cross your arms and place your hands on your knees, with the outside arm on the same side as the outside or uppermost leg. Breathe in deeply and, on the outbreath, relax your body downwards towards the floor. Allow your hips to spread and  settle if you do not feel enough of a stretch, or "walk" your hands further apart on your knees.
Heart Protector and Triple Heater Makko-Ho
Hold the position for two cycles of breath and, on the fourth outbreath, come back to the upright position. Repeat, crossing your legs and arms the other way around.


Liver and Gall Bladder
Sit on the floor, with your legs as far apart as you can while keeping your spine upright. Link your fingers and stretch your arms above your head, palms up. Breathe in deeply and turn to look at your right foot. Breathe out and lean your body sideways towards your left, stretching your arms out towards your left foot. You should be facing your right foot still, and not your left knee! Hold the position and relax into it for two cycles of breath, then come up on the fourth outbreath and repeat the sequence to the other side.
Gall Bladder and Liver Makko-Ho
If you are quite "stretchy", you can complete the sequence by stretching your palms forward in front of you on the next outbreath, leaning forward from the hip joints with a straight back, relaxing into the position for two cycles of breath and coming up on the fourth outbreath.

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