Summer has arrived – with a vengeance – so it’s time to consciously bring some empathy and empowerment to your Heart meridian.
The Heart is supported by the other three Fire meridians: Small Intestine, Heart Protector & Triple Heater. It is known as the “Queen of the System” (i.e. your system) and “home of the spirit” (i.e. your spirit). It is the principal energy channel of the season. This means that investing in your Heart energy is really a very good idea and this is a very good time to do it.
How to start? Get in touch with your HEART
Start simple. Start do-able. Start by just getting in touch with your Heart and Fire energy via Masunaga’s MAKKO HO: Zen Stretch for the Heart and Small Intestine, Fire meridians #1 & #2. The Heart is the seat of our compassion and the Small Intestine, its Yang partner, the source of our strength and power. They are a fabulous combo!
As with all the MAKKO HO, the focus is on opening and tonifying the meridian pair to facilitate the movement of KI energy. Be gentle and non-judgmental with yourself. Physical strength per se is really not so important here.
So, be prepared to avoid any forcing and concentrate on the breathing and on your awareness of how you are feeling during each stretch. Be sensitive to any changes you might experience – physical, mental &/or emotional – as you progress through the exercise.
Heart & Small Intestine MAKKO HO …
- Sit with the soles of the feet against each other. Take particular care that the heel pads are touching – or even pressed slightly together – and that the feet are pulled in towards you.
- Relax the legs to allow the knees to lower. Clasp the feet with both hands. Make sure to engage the pinky fingers as you maintain a very gentle pull on the outside edges of the feet.
- Hold the back – including the neck – long and straight. But don’t allow yourself to become rigid.
- Begin by grounding yourself through relaxed, regulated breathing. Focus on centering your energy in your lower belly, in your lower Dan Tien .
- Take your time and keep your breathing centered here – relaxed and regulated – as you explore the exercise.
- Release forward, hinging from the pelvis, as you exhale and find your comfortable limit of extension. Allow the elbows to bend outwards.
- Hold this position on inhalation. On exhalation, settle further into the stretch.
>> Repeat this over for three (3) breaths.
- Hold your fully extended position for a brief moment before slowly returning to the original sitting position on inhalation.
- Take note of the experience you have just had and changes that may have taken place. Consider how “good” (or “not good”) you felt inside the exercise (rank it on a scale of 1 – 10 if you like). **
- Repeat the whole sequence three (3) times, being aware of the changes felt within each repetition and calibrate your ranking.
- Ask yourself which side of the line your experience falls on: “Good” OR “Not so Good”.
- If “Good”, repeat the exercise (up to 3x). Allow yourself to take more time and really relax into it.
- If “Not so Good”, repeat the stretch (up to 3x). This time, breathe and move very quickly and lightly. Keep it relaxed and free of strain. This will allow the stuck KI to release and flow.
** Just in case**
Some of you may find this exercise leaves you feeling – in one way or another – VERY “Not so Good”. If so, try this simpler version.
- Adopt the same starting position as above.
- Take time to ground yourself and establish relaxed and regulated breathing.
- Remain seated and upright (or slightly hinged forward if you are holding the feet) in the “butterfly” position.
- On exhalation gently bounce the knees or rock from side to side.
- On inhalation, stay still in the upright position.
- Then follow the same pattern of repetitions as above.
Protecting the Heart & building the Fire
Would you like to explore the MAKKO HO Zen Exercises further? I suggest that you have a look at those for the second, protective pair of Summer Fire meridians: Heart Protector and Triple Heater