Now’s a great time to explore some Japanese exercises that are specifically designed to promote good health and strength. The exercises are called “makko ho” and they’ve been a part of Japanese culture for centuries.
Makko ho exercises were developed to improve the flow of energy, or qi, in the body. Widely practiced in the shiatsu world, these exercises are intended to promote self-healing.
Each of the six exercises that make up makko ho work on a specific meridian in the body. The whole body is covered and all the organs are touched upon by the time a set of makko ho is completed. The makko ho also borrows from traditional Chinese medicine by incorporating the five elements of earth, fire, water, wood, and metal.
When doing the exercises, it’s important to keep these elements in mind. Try to think of the quality of each of the elements as you do the exercises. Fire represents warmth and vitality. Water is clear and purifying. Wood is strong but also flexible. The earth represents firmness, while the quality of air is represented by the metal element.
When you do the makko ho exercises, try to do more than just copy the exercises. By investing the right amount of mental attention to the exercises, you can boost the amount of health benefits you can get by doing them. Use your breath to bring a heightened awareness to changes the exercises trigger in your body. Use your mental awareness to observe how you are feeling emotionally.
Are you feeling positive, sad, frustrated, or angry? Can you use the exercises as a way to work through some of these emotions? Continue to breathe through each exercise.
The makko ho exercises are designed to be practiced every day. Some people find that the best time to do them is the morning. However, if you find them refreshing to do in the evening, then go with whatever works. The point is to make them part of your daily routine.
Follow the exercises in the order they have been set out. This helps to promote the natural flow of energy throughout the body and organs. Doing the exercises will help to free up any blockages of qi. Many times, because of the stressful way we approach our lives, certain areas of the body can become locked up with tension. These pockets of tension can eventually lead to illness if they remain unreleased for weeks or months at a time.
You’ll notice that some of the makko ho exercises will be easier for you and some will be more difficult. Stick with the ones that are a challenge, as this is ultimately your best chance for making some real health improvements.
Fehrs, L., “Using Makko Ho Stretches to Balance Energy,” Institute for Integrative Health Care web site, April 7, 2011; http://www.integrativehealthcare.org/mt/archives/2011/04/using_makko-ho.html, last accessed Jan. 3, 2014.
Endicott, N., “The Makko Ho Meridian Exercises,” Nicola-Endicott.co.uk web site; http://www.nicola-endicott.co.uk/makko_ho.html, last accessed Jan. 3, 2014.