Makko-Ho: Zen meridian exercises to release, tonify & balance your energy flow

MAKKO-HO in Video Series 2

Makko-Ho, the full sequence covering the 12 “ordinary” meridians, is the subject of my second Video Series starting Tuesday May 19.

Catch the full series:

On INSTAGRAM, every Tuesday @ 11 am
through MAY and into JUNE 2020

Each video looks at one or two exercises in the cycle. At the end of the series you will have the full sequence of six exercises – one for each meridian pair. We will start with the Lung / Large Intestine. These are the meridians of AUTUMN and of the METAL Element. This exercise is often referred to as the Metal Phase or Metal Element Makko-Ho. It is the first in the sequence.


PLEASE NOTE: the images for this, and all other Makko-Ho posts on this website, are by Pepe Infantozzi and borrowed (with thanks) from the website of Diego Sanchez.


The Makko-Ho are Zen Energy exercises.  In the basic sequence developed by Masunaga there are six exercises, one for each yin/yang pair of “ordinary” meridians. They are used to:

  • Stimulate, release and tonify energy flow in each meridian pair – alone or in sequence
  • Regulate and balance the relationship between the energy flows across the 12 meridians

For the most part these exercises are very simple (even easy). Their forms will be recognizable to most of you who do any sort of yoga or stretching. However, there is a significant difference in the manner in which they should be approached and performed if you would like them to be effective as meridian energy exercises.

NOTE: There are links below to dedicated posts for each exercise.


The Makko-Ho are experiential and exploratory. The end point of each exercise in the sequence is to facilitate the movement of KI energy within &/or across your meridians.

If you really want to connect with the energy of your meridian pair, approach each exercise with awareness, sensitivity and above all availability. By this I mean openness to the energy of the meridian. Be alert to whatever sensations or changes occur as you are performing the exercises. This will allow you to effectively shift, strengthen and balance your energy flow.

It can be helpful to imagine that you are using the form of the exercise(s) as a tool with which to immerse in the energy of your meridian pair. Let yourself discover how it feels for you to be there.


  • Respect your own physical and health limitations and treat yourself kindly: don’t over-stretch or hold a position for too long if it’s genuinely uncomfortable
  • Consider the time of day and wake up / warm up your body before you start
  • Use relaxed, unforced breathing – particularly exhalation – throughout to support moving with maximum ease and minimum effort.
  • Work with awareness and sensitivity to connect with your energy and its flow: minimize muscularity
  • Focus on how you are feeling – before, during and after each exercise
  • Be particularly aware of the changes going on within you as you move through the exercise. These shifts might be physical, mental &/or emotional
  • Fix your intention: “free flow & balance of ENERGY”

REMEMBER at all times: It is your body and you are responsible for it.
Be gentle with yourself.


Please do NOT:

  • Think in terms of “stretching” &/or “strengthening”
  • Force any movement or extension of position
  • Move with any unnecessary muscularity


Each exercise –targeting a particular meridian pair – can be fully explored in its own right. Your Shiatsu therapist might, for instance, suggest that you explore a meridian pair (or even two) that featured in your diagnosis. Alternatively, you might like to follow the seasons and give extra time to the Makko-Ho for each season as the year progresses.

Knowing the full sequence allows you to take your Makko-Ho practice to a different level.
Instead of assessing and developing your facility with the energy of a given Element in isolation, you can now compare your experience across the Elements. This will provide both insight into your (relative) energetic strengths and weaknesses and opportunity to apply the corrective phase of the exercise between Elements.  

With regularity over time, you can balance the energy flow across the meridian / Element spectrum; improve your vital functions and help ward off disease.


As you move from one Makko-Ho exercise to the next, you’ll find that the structure barely changes.  The major difference depends on whether you are:
(1) exploring one exercise (& one meridian pair) in isolation OR if you are
(2) doing more than one – possibly the complete sequence of 6 exercises.
See steps 11 & 14 below where the two possibilities are clarified.

Exploration phase

1        Adopt the “start” position for the exercise

2        Establish relaxed, soft breathing – the easier and more natural the better.

3        Inhale and lift through the spine / neck / crown of the head, in preparation then

4        Exhale as you move into the “active” position for the exercise
NOTE: for some exercises, this transition may take more than one breath cycle

5        Hold the active position on inhalation

6        On exhalation gently settle further into the active position

7        Repeat steps 5 & 6 over 3 breath cycles

8        Use your inhalation to return to the start position

9        You might fully repeat steps 4 – 8 (including the 3 breath cycles) 2 or 3 times to really feel your way into your meridian energy
ALTERNATIVELY your sensations / responses might be clear after one cycle only
NOTE: the number of full repetitions may also depend on whether you are doing the complete sequence or exploring 1 or 2 meridian pairs only.

Assessment Phase

10      PAUSE and consider the experience you have just had – be aware of any shifts – physical, mental &/or emotional – that may have taken place.
Ask yourself how it felt to be in the exercise
: was it easy & felt good or even great OR perhaps not so easy & felt constrained in some way (maybe actually felt “not good” at all).

Corrective Phase

11      IF you are exploring this single meridian pair, your responses here will determine both how you will go about this next set of “corrective” repetitions.

12      If it felt on the good side: take more time, breathe & move more slowly, as you repeat (X3) – really try to relax into it.

13      If it felt on the not-so-good side: breathe and move more quickly (still without straining) through this set of repetitions. Allow the stuck KI to release & flow more freely.

14      Relax

15      IF you are exploring more than one meridian pair, move on to the next exercise in your sequence using your experience of the 1st one as a benchmark against which you can rank your experience in the other exercises.

16      At the end of your sequence, determine (1) the most comfortable & (2) the least comfortable exercise

17      Repeat these two exercises: (1) as per step 12 & (2) as per step 13 above

18      Relax

Catch the full series, starting Tuesday May 19:

On INSTAGRAM, every Tuesday @ 11 am
through MAY and into JUNE 2020


AUTUMN ZEN – METAL Element: Lung & Large Intestine

LATE SUMMER – EARTH Element: Stomach and Spleen

SUMMER – *FIRE [I] Element: Heart & Small Intestine

WINTER – WATER Element: Kidney & Bladder

SUMMER – *FIRE [II] Element: Triple Heater & Heart Protector

SPRING – WOOD Element: Liver & Gall Bladder

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