Try These Shiatsu-Inspired Zen Stretches To Balance Your Body (Video)

Welcome to learning about the Makko Ho stretches, a series of gentle stretches based in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Introduced to the West by Zen Shiatsu master Shizuto Masunaga, the Makko Ho stretches are designed to both strengthen and improve organ function while opening the meridians, or energy pathways in the body.

Each meridian is connected to an organ and further connected to a particular element, season, color and emotion (to name a few). If practiced regularly, the Makko Hos create supple health and a profound sense of peace and balance throughout the body.

One of the many gifts of the Makko Hos is how they reveal the state of balance and flow in the body. Depending on the degree of ease and flexibility you experience with each stretch, you can learn a lot about your body both structurally and psychologically. For example, if someone has stagnant energy in their liver and gall bladder meridians, the emotion of anger is usually present for them. If someone has been suffering from grief, the lung and large intestine Makko Ho stretch can provide nurturing support for easing their emotional burden.

I learned these stretches when I became a teacher of Wu Tao, a form of dance therapy. Wu Tao Dance is a powerful modality that balances your vital life energy (aka Qi), using originally composed music and meditative dance movement. Also rooted in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Wu Tao Dance restores balance and health physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Every Wu Tao Dance class begins with the Makko Ho stretches to warm and open up the body as we prepare to dance. These stretches, along with a self-Shiatsu routine and meditation can provide you with an integrative, oasis-like moment of calm and peace in your body. Sometimes the most subtle work resounds the most profoundly.

I encourage you to try the stretches as you watch the video. Feel free to pause the video and spend some time in each stretch, staying centered in your breath. Please do not force anything as this can do more harm than good.

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