According to the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), there are twelve pathways in the human body, that send our vital energy – the so-called Qi (Ki in Japanese) – through the body and supply our organs with energy. Each of these pathways that are called meridians is correlated with one function circle and thus with one of the five elements. The free flow of the vital energy Qi is essential for health and vitality. In addition to a healthy lifestyle and diet, herbs, acupuncture, Qigong & Tai Chi, Tuina massage and moxibustion, this flow of energy can also be enhanced significantly with special meridian stretches from the Japanese Shiatsu called Makko-Ho. With correct and regular training, blockades of the energy pathways dissolve, energetic disharmonies are balanced and wellbeing increases.
Autumn is metal time
In autumn, the element metal with its function circle lung and the according meridians lung and large intestine rules. The metal element has a sorting function, responsible for clarity, structure and separation from the outside world. This phase of transformation is correlated with the feeling of sadness. And who doesn’t know it? The days grow darker and foggy – and our spirit dampens, sometimes until we suffer from autumn blues.
The lung – protective shield
In the function circle, our Wei-Qi is formed. This is a defence system that protects us from outer influences. When the function circle of the lung is in harmony, our defence is strong. If the defence Qi is weakened, we are more susceptible to colds. Especially the climatic factor of dryness that is correlated with autumn, is a challenge for this function circle. Since the lung opens up to our nose, a weakened flow of energy can lead to colds or a dry nasal mucosa. Dry skin and lips as well as cough, hoarseness, a sore throat or the disturbances of the respiratory system that are typical for autumn are also caused by a weakened lung energy.
Nurturing the lung
Long walks in the fresh autumn breeze as well as warming and hydrating food strengthen the function circle of the lung. A warm porridge with almonds for breakfast, invigorating soups or stews are balm to the respiratory organ. Another real lung tonic in TCM is pear compote. Local horseradish and cultivated radish turn up the heat against cold outer influences. In the cold seasons, we should avoid milk and yoghurt because these foods have an energetically cooling effect and tend to promote the formation of mucus.
Makko-Ho exercises for autumn and winter
1. AUTUMN: Lung & large intestine (metal element)
Take a position approximately in a shoulder’s width and stand up right. Your tiptoes are forward-facing, feet are parallel. Put your arms behind your back and hook up thumbs. Open your chest and enjoy a deep breath. Exhale as you bend forward and let your head droop. Extend your arms up and point to the sky with your index fingers. Remain in this position three breaths if possible. Feel the width and openness.
Effect: This exercise stretches the meridian of the lung and large intestine and strengthens the defence Qi. The exercise is especially beneficial for persons who work in an office in a sedentary position. Since our lung loves humidity, the effect is multiplied when you practise this exercise in the fresh air of a forest (see p. 14), the sea, a river or a water fall (see p. 10).
2. WINTER: Bladder & kidney (water element)
Take an upright seating position. Your legs are stretched forward, toes pointing upright, your heels touch. Stretch your arms to the sky and hook up your singers so that your palmy point to the sky. Slowly bend your arms and upper body to your toes so that you feel a slight stretching. Take care not to overstretch your back. Let yourself sink forward with each breath without overstepping your natural limits. Enjoy the smooth stretching.
Effect: The stretching of the bladder and kidney meridian eases in particular the nervous system. This is why this exercise is ideal for restlessness, nervousness, anxiety or trouble falling asleep.