Meridian Stretching Program
A Guide for Health & Balance Through Joint Mobilization
The full name of this practice is Masunaga Meridian Stretching (or Meridian Exercise), a self-care modality from Japan developed as a way for people to take control of their health and restore mobility. This practice was developed by the late Shiatsu Master: Shizuto Masunaga. The meridian stretches were developed as a daily mobility sequence that can be completed in 5-10 minutes per day. To me, it's a maximal benefit for a minimal time commitment, and anybody can make 5-10 minutes per day before bed, especially if it means you very likely may sleep better.
This routine helps to mobilize the hips and back especially, but is an excellent whole-body routine that stimulates every major musculotendinous meridian in the body in just a few minutes. The meridians are used in acupuncture to affect the internal balance of the functional energy systems in the body. At the levels of the movement system, they are expressed as longitudinal musculotendinous connections spanning the length of the body. Their purpose is to regulate tension and coordinate movement throughout the whole body. A consistent meridian stretching practice can improve circulation and range of motion, as well as relieve abnormal pain and tension, and help balance your natural alignment.
The basic routine takes 5-10 minutes to complete, making it a very feasible daily routine, and it lays the foundation for a more robust movement practice as well.
Follow-Along Videos for the Full Sequence (21 day challenge)
Do the basic sequence at least once per day for 21 days. Don't go to sleep at night until you do it. If and when you can, try doing the sequence in the morning when you wake up, and before bed at night.
You can use one of the following videos as a follow-along for the whole routine until you memorize the sequence. The first includes the more accessible variations, and the second includes the full versions of each stretch.
Feel free to do the full version of the sequence and substitute the easier variations for any stretches that you find particularly challenging.
There are videos further in the guide with more detailed examples of each stretch and it's variations.
Basic Sequence Progressions
Advanced Basic Sequence
I strongly suggest you keep a daily journal to keep track of any changes you feel over the 21 days, even though I know you most likely won't actually do it, but if I'm wrong, and you actually do decide to keep a journal, I recommend writing short statements regarding the following topics:
Mental State (Mood or most prominent emotion for the day)
Muscles & Joints (aches, pains, stiffness, etc..)
Digestion (appetite, bowel movement quality, bloating, etc..)
The Meridian Stretching Sequence makes subtle changes in your body's internal environment, and these changes can effect many different systems in the body, and not just how your muscles and joints feel. Though there is no specific studies to back up the following observation, I have seen many people who claimed that their sleep quality improved, or their chronic digestive issues cleared up after doing the sequence for a few weeks. You may not notice these gradual changes, and journaling can help you look back and have a tangible record of how this Meridian Sequence is benefiting your well-being.
Try to fill in your journal at the same time every day for the 3 weeks. You can just as well journal every few days or once a week if that suits you better.
Instructions for Proper Technique
The movements are to be done with a receptive mindset. That is to say that you should be focusing internally on the subtle sensations within your body. The stretches should not be forced or feel too intense. If you feel a very strong sensation in one part of the body, it is a sign that you are doing the meridian stretch incorrectly. Each stretch opens a full chain of tension along the length of the body, and an even sense of tension along that line should be felt.
The meridians are chains of tension that span from head to toes and chest to fingers, and the idea is to stimulate an entire chain of tension with each movement, so try and adjust to create an even sensation throughout every joint involved. Each meridian is paired with another, and associated with one of twelve internal organs.
With each stretch, focus on taking slow, natural breaths. As you exhale, you can sink deeper into the stretch, and as you inhale, let your breath subtly move your body.
Try to move into the positions with your whole body as one
Pay attention to the subtle sensations in the body
Breathe naturally and hold each stretch for the length of 3-5 breaths
This routine shouldn't take more than 10 minutes a day once you learn the techniques. I recommend that you make time to practice at least once every day for 6 weeks to feel the cumulative effect of this simple, yet powerful modality.
For the first two weeks, please devote a little extra time (20-30 minutes) for your practice each day. Repeat the exercises a few times and watch the movement in the video carefully each time. Repetition and consistency in practice is necessary to learn these movements correctly, so make sure you can keep up these longer sessions for the first 2 weeks. As you practice and experience the movement for yourself, more things will stand out to you when you watch my movement in the videos.
After the first 2 weeks, do the basic meridian stretching sequence once per day for 5-10 minutes for 6 weeks and if you can, keep a journal to log how you feel. If you have any physical pain, tension, or immobility, take note of any changes as you go. Sometimes when things change gradually over time, we don't notice as much, so journaling can really help you see how much of a change this daily practice has on your body when the days add up. See the bottom of the page for my suggestion for journaling.
Accessory Meridian Movements
It's up to you if you want to jump right into the basic meridian stretching sequence, but I suggest taking a few days before the challenge to explore these meridian movements. These are accessory exercises for each meridian that helps prime the body for the meridian stretching sequence. Once you learn these, you can use one as a warm up for any stretches that you find challenging in the basic Meridian Stretching Sequence. You can do these as a sequence, or before each respective basic meridian stretch:
Lung & Large Intestine Meridians "Taking Flight"
Speen & Stomach Meridians "Knee Marching"
Heart & Small Intestine Meridians
1) "Side Rocking"
2) "Lying Back"
Kidney & Urinary Bladder Meridians "Hip Walking" & "Front Rocking"
Pericardium & Triple Heater Meridians "Crossed Arms Twist"
Liver & Gall Bladder Meridians "Rotational Reach
Basic Meridian Stretching Exercises
These videos include variations for each stretch. I want to emphasize that you do not want to feel strain or discomfort in these positions. Be honest and respectful of the limitations of your body. Do not try to rush into a progression that feels strenuous, the progressions are meant to develop a certain prerequisite of each position, and pushing into a progression that your body is not ready for just creates compensation, which leads to deeper problems. Enjoy the progressions, do the one that feels the most comfortable, and take your time exploring new progressions.
If there is a position that is particularly challenging, use its associated Accessory Meridian Movement beforehand to make it a little more accessible.
Lung & Large Intestine Meridian Stretch
Speen & Stomach Meridian Stretch
Heart & Small Intestine Meridian Stretch
Kidney & Urinary Bladder Meridian Stretch
Pericardium & Triple Heater Meridian Stretch
Liver & Gall Bladder Meridian Stretch
In-Person or Online Coaching
If you feel like you need more direct guidance, or you want some feedback to find out if you are doing the movements correctly, contact me for online coaching (or in-person training if you are near Toronto). I sincerely hope that this guide serves you as much as this movement modality has served me in the development or my own balance and mobility. Thank you.