Chronic tension in the body prevents the natural flow of qi through the meridian system. Often, we are unaware of any tension we hold because our focus is external not internal. At this time of year in particular, we begin to pick up the pace, intent on meeting self imposed deadlines to shop, cook, work, entertain, etc in preparation for the holidays. In so doing, we lose awareness of what is happening to our mind and body and how we are contributing to our own daily stress. We may not even notice the toll it is taking on our health as it begins to feel so natural and part of us. To help prevent chronic tension from building up in mind and body, take time each day for yourself to relax and stretch. Practice a meridian stretch to balance and stimulate your qi. The following exercise is particularly useful at this time of year.*
Begin with a simple, relaxing body scan, lying down or in a seated position. Starting at head or feet, briefly tense each part of your body in turn; hold, then breathe out and release, allowing all the tension to flow out of you. When you feel completely relaxed, get up and do the following stretch for kidney and bladder meridians.
Sit on the floor with legs stretched out in front of you, heels together, toes apart. Inhale and exhale as you gently and slowly bend forwards to reach for your toes, stretching as far as you can. Face your palms outward away from you. Look at your toes as you hold the stretch. Keep your knees straight throughout this exercise, it is not important how far or low you can go. Stay relaxed. Take three deep breaths in and out in this position before releasing and sitting up. You will feel this stretch in your back, legs and feet.
Do not overstretch. Pain is not ok. Always listen to your body and adapt to its signals, not your mind's.
* Look out for more meridian stretches in future posts.