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Makko Ho / Zen Stretches: A Makko Ho Leader’s Perspective

A watercolor image of a person doing Makka Ho stretching from the side.
This image was AI generated for the purpose of this blog

Makko Ho can be defined in several ways. In Japanese, Ma means straight or direct, Ko means direction, and Ho means method, so a method for a straight direction. The originator of the Makko Ho series, Wataru Nagai, used the term “to look straight ahead,” others have referred to Makko Ho as, “to look in a mirror.” Whatever the definition, the Makko Ho series is a powerful method originating in Japan to heal and maintain the body by circulating “ki” (energy) naturally. 

Shiatsu practitioners are familiar with Makko Ho/Zen Stretching exercises as a way to self-heal and maintain their body, mind, and spiritual strength.  The shorthand Makko Ho will be used for the combined exercises. These same exercises, or modified versions of these exercises, can be taught by a Makko Ho Leader to non-Shiatsu practitioners, providing similar healing benefits to a much broader audience and exposing many more people to the benefits of Shiatsu. The Makko Ho Leader also receives benefits similar to providing Shiatsu, such as experiencing the exchange between giver and receiver, between leading and being led. Teaching the exercises to others also deepens the Makko Ho Leader’s own understanding of the practice.  

In my newsletters, I've explored Makko Ho from the perspective of a Makko Ho Leader. This involves knowing the exercises as well as knowing how to teach and adapt the exercises to a wide and varied audience, adapting the practice so that it can be done not just in a standing position, but also seated on a chair, seated on the floor, or lying down.   

It may seem that a practice such as Makko Ho is not so different from yoga, qigong, tai chi, pilates, or other forms of group and personal training. These options are all great and our society is gaining in many ways by their availability. However, it is the intention of Makko Ho that makes it different.

Makko Ho has the intention of focusing the attention on feeling one's meridians (energy channels) and their condition while clearing and improving energy circulation through physical movement.

Removing blockages and releasing unneeded old energy thus healing and maintaining the three bodies we all inhabit: the physical body, the energetic body, and the spiritual body.

The physical body: is healed through stretches, focus on spine suppleness and proper alignment, and letting go through breathing.  

The energetic body: is healed through exercises that draw our focus and energy to the meridians in a way that allows for recognition of blockages as well as opening of the blockages. A small amount of guidance allows natural principles such as “where the mind goes energy flows” to flourish.

The spiritual body: is healed through the promotion of mind-body connection in a moving meditation that allows for letting go and feeling energy. This feeling and connection leads to a familiarity with being one with the universe. The more often one swims in universal energy and feels the connection and oneness of all, the more accessible the sense becomes. 

My upcoming newsletters will explore possibilities for organizing Makko Ho sessions that include warm-ups, breathing techniques, and energy sensing followed by the 8 key exercises which will be discussed in greater detail.  


About The Author:

Image of author Keith Strand

Keith Strand

Keith Strand is a retired architect, a Makko Ho Leader, and The Five Lights Center Community Outreach person. Keith received a Bachelors in Environmental Design from the University of Colorado and a Masters in Industrial Design from Pratt Institute.

He practiced architecture in New York City for over 35 years, owning and managing his own firm for 31 years. Keith’s strengths include understanding and navigating bureaucracies and their requirements as well as teamwork development. Keith is assisting Five Lights Center in reaching out to individuals and organizations promoting shiatsu and the Five Lights Center, and assisting in follow-up inquiries.

Keith is excited to help others learn and heal through their own energy. He finds the Five Lights Center’s philosophy and teaching methods to be inspiring and unique and is happy to be a part of what comes next for the School and the Practitioners. Keith feels his personal mission is to lead others in Makko Ho (Do-In) exercises as a way to maintain good health and promote Shiatsu.

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It’s profound that Keith mentions the different intentions and effects of Makko Ho. Remember that Makko Ho can invite a physical awareness of the pathways. Such a simple method with dramatic rewards.

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