MAKKO-HO: exercise for the Stomach and Spleen meridians – EARTH element

MAKKO-HO exercises for the Spleen and Stomach meridians of the Earth element come in a few variations. Explore them for yourself and choose what works best for your lower back and knees. At all times, remember that MASUNAGA’S MAKKO-HO should be done gently. Try to work with your awareness and sensitivity in order to open & tonify the meridians – as distinct from stretch & strengthen. Exploration of these exercises is all about unforced breathing, relaxation and focusing on how you feel & how things might be changing (physically, mentally, emotionally) as you explore. In this way, by facilitating the movement of KI, you will connect with and strengthen your Late Summer energy.

Variation 1:

Sit in seiza – kneeling with your bottom between your heels and your knees together. Go (slowly) part-way into the backward reclining stretch by supporting your upper body with your arms. When you have reached the limit of what your lower back and knees comfortably allow, make sure that your neck is long with your chin slightly tucked and then extend the lower back down and away from the head.
Gently lift your pelvis forward – possibly taking it off the ground. In this way, you open virtually the whole front of the body – where the Stomach and Spleen meridians lie.
Keep the neck long as you allow the head to tilt back and look up towards your forehead. This will open the Stomach meridian in the throat and face as well.

Once you are in the position, the procedure is essentially the same as for both Fire and Wood makko-ho that have been looked at previously.

Hold stable as you inhale then use the exhalation to settle further into the position – do this three (3) times.
To come up, exhale slowly as you lift the head and re-tuck your chin. On the next exhalation, drop your buttocks back to the floor and bring your torso to upright.

THEN
* Before you then repeat the whole exercise (X3)
consider the experience you’ve just had. If you felt good, take more time as you with the repetitions. Really enjoy yourself as you relax into it. If you felt not so good, breathe & move more quickly through the repetitions – still without straining – and allow the stuck KI to release and flow.

Variation 2:

If you can do the above makko-ho position without straining the knees or the lower back, try this variation.
Start as for Variation 1, but now go all the way so that you are lying with your back flat on the floor and the arms outstretched on the floor above your head.
As before, make sure that your neck is long with your chin slightly tucked and then extend the lower back down and away from the head so that the pelvis tilts slightly – opening the groin/thigh crease and connecting the release down the torso and the front thigh to the knee.
Be aware also of the Stomach meridian opening on the top of the foot and the front of the ankle.
Once in the position, follow the same two part exploration and release procedure outlined above.

Variation 3:

If you have a history of back &/or knee problems, large or small, here is an alternative makko-ho exercise for the Stomach and Spleen meridians.
Stand with the feet together, ground yourself, and then allow your weight to shift onto one leg. Bending the knee of the other leg, lift the ungrounded foot off of the floor and clasp it behind you. If it helps, feel free to bend the supporting leg slightly to get into this position.
Standing (once again) on a straight leg, see if you can lift the inner arch of your grounded foot to activate the Spleen meridian just on the inside of the leg. Be mindful to keep lengthening through your lower back and neck. The sacrum moves downwards and the chin tucks slightly. It is important to keep the front of the body – knees to collarbone – open.
On an exhalation, draw the foot upward behind you towards your buttock. Keep the knees close together. As with the other makko-ho variations, hold the position on inhalation, then go further into the release on exhalation. Repeat this for three breaths. Release the foot/leg completely and repeat on the other side then repeat over (X3) as for Variation 1A*.

Looking for more?

If you find that your Stomach and Spleen energy is in good shape, you might like to do more to strengthen and stretch your Earth element. Try extending your makko-ho with this intermediate level yoga pose. Its full front body opening delivers an exceptional stretch for the Stomach meridian and the slightly open knees throw more strengthening emphasis on the Spleen.

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