What are the Makko Ho exercises?
The Makko Ho exercises are used as a self healing technique by allowing the practitioner both sedate and tonify the meridians through specific stretches that were developed to improve the flow of Qi. There is a stretch for each pair of meridians and, as they are based on the Traditional Chinese Medicine, they should be done in the sequence shown (i.e. Metal, Earth, Primary Fire, Water, Secondary Fire, and Wood). Begin the Makko Ho exercises by grounding yourself through relaxed, regulated breathing, while you focus on centring the Qi within the Dan Tien. Keep centred throughout the exercise. It is important that you settle into the stretches on exhalation and the nothing is forced. Hold each stretch as you inhale, being aware of tension (whether through excess or deficiency) that you feel along the meridian path. Do not force yourself into positions that you find uncomfortable – pain is not the goal, letting go of tension is. As with Qigong exercises, the emphasis with the Makko Ho is not so much on the physical stretch but on opening up and moving the Qi (Ki). It is therefore vital that you focus on the 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).
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Instructions for the Makko Ho Exercises
- Take your time and use relaxed, regulated breathing.
- Repeat the whole sequence three times, being aware of the changes felt within each repetition and noting which stretch you prefer, and which one you dislike.
- Repeat the exercise you liked best – taking more time and relaxing into it.
- Repeat the stretch you like least – without straining and keeping relaxed, work more quickly this time, allowing the stuck Qi to release and flow.
METAL Lung/Large Intestine.
To stretch these meridians, stand with your feet shoulder width apart, with the knees relaxed and unlocked. Link your thumbs together behind your back. As you exhale, raise your arms up behind you and, keeping your legs straight, allow the torso to bend forward. Hold this position on inhalation, and then settle further into the stretch on exhalation (for three respirations). Hold this position before slowly rising to the original position. The compensation exercise for Metal is to step forward while opening the chest by swinging the arms out.
To stretch these meridians, sit in seiza (kneeling) between your heels and, if you can do the stretch without straining the knees or the lower back, lie back flat on the floor with the arms outstretched on the floor above your head. Do not attempt this stretch if you have problems with the knees or lower back. You can go partly into the stretch by supporting your upper body with your arms and leaning gently back and, when in this position, thrust the pelvis forward.
There is an alternative exercise for Earth if there is a history of back problems. Stand with the feet together, ground yourself, and then lift one foot off of the floor and clasp it behind you. As you exhale, draw the leg upward behind you, keeping the knees close together. As with the other stretches, hold the stretch on inhalation, then go further into the stretch on exhalation. Repeat this for three respirations, and then repeat on the other side.
The compensation exercise for Earth can be done standing, seated, or in seiza. Using the forearms, you “walk” down the quadricep muscles from hips to knees. Repeat, at least, four times.
PRIMARY FIRE Primary Fire – Heart/Small Intestine.
To stretch these meridians, sit with the soles of the feet against each other and with the feet pulled in to you. Relax the legs to allow the knees to lower. Clasp the feet with both hands and, with the back held straight, bend forward from the pelvis as you exhale. 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. The compensation exercise for Primary Fire is to remain seated in the “butterfly” position and bounce the legs gently or to rock from side to side.
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. The compensation exercise for Water is to reach for the opposite foot, or to walk forwards and backwards on the buttocks.
SECONDARY FIRE Secondary Fire – Heart Governor/Triple Heater.
To stretch these meridians, sit with the legs crossed (if possible, in the lotus position or the half-lotus). Cross the arms so that the opposite hand is to the leg is on top (i.e. If the right leg is to the top, the left hand is to the top) and hold on to the knees. Bend forward as you exhale. 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. The compensation exercise for Secondary Fire is “Standing as a Tree”. Stand with one leg cocked with the foot in front of the opposite thigh, and bend forward. An alternative is to hug yourself while turning from side to side.
WOOD Liver/Gall Bladder.
To stretch these meridians, sit up straight with one leg outstretched, flat on the floor, and with the foot upright. The other leg is tucked into the body. Bring your hands above the head with the palms facing each other and, on exhalation, lean sideways over the outstretched leg (keeping both buttocks on the floor). 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. Repeat on the other side. The compensation exercise for Wood is “Knocking at the Gates of Vitality” with the feet fixed.
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