„Basic Meridian Stretches” Nelson Carrion
Meridian stretches help to open the meridians by combining specific stretches with awareness and breath. Shizuto Masunaga assigned letters to these stretches to make them easier to remember. Masunaga Sensei’s books offer excellent details on meridian stretching information, the basic stretches, and other stretches. "Meridian Exercises: The Oriental Way to Health and Vitality" and "Zen Imagery Exercises: Meridian Exercises for Wholesome Living" by Masunaga, Shizuto.
Practice daily. We found that a few minutes a day, as a family activity or alone, yielded quick results. You don’t have to do it at the same time each day. While you can do this series in five minutes, allow ten to get more benefit. To reduce the time of the routine, you can exclude "p" and "q" however, you lose the benefits of better synchronization of breath and movements. Also, stretching the Conception Vessel stimulates all the Yin meridians, and stretching the Governor Vessel stimulates all the Yang meridians.
Masunaga Sensei stressed the importance of getting a feel of the meridians as a "living sensation", rather than something depicted in diagrams. As you move from one posture to the next, try to make the movement smooth, paying particular attention to how it feels. Continually bring awareness to your breathing, being sensitive to how your body responds.
The movement into a posture will naturally come to a stop where your body is stretched to the limit. Pause here and inhale. Your body will begin to tighten up from your belly out to your limbs. Instead of forcing a stretch, simply exhale until you are completely empty. When you reach this point, let go one last time; you will relax more along the line of tension, you will stretch a little bit farther. The relaxation and stretching effect tapers off after repeating this breathing and stretching sequence about two or three times. When this happens, slowly return to the starting position.
By sensing the line of tension that forms in your body, you can actually experience the meridians. This line of tension or stretch may feel like a pulling sensation in the muscles. Releasing this tension with slow exhalations gives you a feel for achieving total relaxation. You will not achieve this relaxation if you try to bend as far as you can before attempting the slow exhalations.
Do not force a stretch. Instead, allow the stretch to happen a little bit at a time with each exhalation. Inhale after each complete exhalation. As you inhale, you will feel an increase of tension where you felt slight relaxation on the exhalation. Remain in the position and feel the lines of tension after taking a deep breath, and then slowly let your breath out. Do not force yourself into the ideal position. The ideal position is just a goal. As you continue practicing, each day your position will more closely resemble the ideal position.
How much you are able to relax with each exhalation depends entirely on the depth and smoothness of your breathing. You won’t be able to tell the difference between tension and relaxation in the meridians if you strain with your breath. Keep your awareness on your breath and any physical sensations. If your breathing gets out of control, back off a little bit on the depth of the stretch until you notice that you can control your breathing.
Some forms of exercise are designed to increase circulation by working the muscles and joints. They emphasize getting the form right. Meridian stretches also require conscious control to get the body into each position. But once the position is reached, the object is to let go, breathe, and observe what goes on in your body. When breathing in, tension increases naturally and this tension is most pronounced along certain lines. At times, this sensation extends from one end of the body to the other. It is most important that you experience the meridians as something distinct from muscles and nerves…