Bring in the new year - Learn Shiatsu's Introduction to shiatsu contains very important pointers that will help you learn the art of Shiatsu effectively; it also presents some important 'do's and don'ts' to consider when giving a Shiatsu treatment.

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Therefore it is strongly recommended that you read it carefully before proceeding to Part One.


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The six 'meridian' stretches that follow can form the start of a comprehensive self-treatment, or can be used as a set of exercises in their own right. Alternatively, you could use them as a preparation for giving Shiatsu, or even take your partner through them with you before starting a session. Whichever the application the key quality is that, together, they comprehensively stretch and stimulate all the major internal energy channels in turn; they help dissolve stagnation, remove blockages, promote flow through the body and help balance Ki levels between the different organ systems. The whole sequence takes about ten minutes to complete, depending on how long each stretch is held.

If you are very stiff or have just got up in the morning, it is advisable to loosen up before starting the stretches. It is important to take the posture only to the point where you feel a comfortable stretch.

1a. There is a basic pattern to each of these stretches: first you go into a preliminary position and draw an in-breath; then you move into the stretch position on an out-breath; maintain the stretch for the out-breath, and release on the next in-breath. Then go into the stretch again on another out-breath and hold it for a number of in- and out-breaths, coming out of the stretch position on a final in-breath. In the stretch position, the body as a whole should be relaxed and the breathing natural, regular and continuous; the period of stretching lasts until you can feel energy flowing along the lines of stretch related to that particular exercise. This usually takes about thirty seconds, but can take up to several minutes. On the second stretch, you will usually be able to go a little further.

This stretch particularly stimulates the lungs and large intestine. It has several stages; to prepare for it, stand with your fingers interlinked behind your back, and breathe in.
1b. On the out-breath, bend forward from the waist, pushing your arms away from your body. On an in-breath, soften the stretch; and on the next out-breath stretch again and hold the stretch, breathing deeply and naturally. Release and return to an upright position on an in-breath. Then repeat the procedure, this time bending backwards from the waist, again stretching the arms away from the body. Finally, interlink your fingers again, but this time so that the thumb that was previously on top is now underneath, with each finger moving accordingly.

2a. This stretch can be varied to suit your degree of flexibility. As it stimulates the stomach, spleen and pancreas, it is not appropriate soon after eating.
Kneel and lean backwards, placing your hands on the floor behind. Then either 'breathe and stretch' in this position, or lean back further, if you can, to a more advanced position, and do so there. The sequence is as follows: breathe in; on an out-breath, lower the body a little, bringing a stretch into the front of the body; on an in-breath, soften the stretch; and on the next out-breath stretch again and hold, breathing naturally. Release and come out of the position by rolling to one side on an in-breath.
2b. The most strenuous version of this stretch is to take the back down flat on the floor, by taking the feet wider apart, and to bring the arms over the head. Only do this if you have done similar postures in yoga, or are confident that you are supple enough. This stretch is mainly felt along the front of the body, particularly the legs.
2c. Especially if you have gone as far as the version shown in 2b, it is important to come out of the position by rolling over sideways and coming up on to all fours as you breathe in. If you were to come up forwards, it would put great strain on the back and abdomen.

3a. The third stretch benefits the heart and the small intestine. Start by sitting up straight with the feet drawn up to the groin and the soles together. Clasp your hands around the feet.
3b. For the stretch position, lean forward, on an out-breath, keeping your elbows in front of your legs. Hold, and on the in-breath soften the stretch; resume the stretch on the next out-breath and maintain it breathing naturally for a few moments. If you have back problems, bend from the waist, keeping the upper back straight. You should feel the stretch in the inner arms.

4a. This stretch relates to the kidneys and bladder. Prepare for the stretch by sitting with your legs straight out in front and reaching, with your arms, up over your head. Breathe in.
4b. Stretch on the out-breath by reaching forward, placing your hands on your lower legs, on your ankles, or over the tops of your feet - whichever is a comfortable stretch. You will feel the stretch over the outside of the body: down the back and in the backs of the legs. Soften the stretch on the next in-breath, then resume the stretch as you breathe out continuing to breathe in a relaxed way as you hold the stretch for a short time.

5a. This stretch is related to the Heart Governor and Triple Heater and has two stages. It helps to regulate circulation, metabolism and heat in the body. Start by sitting with the legs crossed, or with the soles of the feet together if this is more comfortable. Cross the arms, and place one hand over each knee. Breathe in.
5b. To create the stretch, bend forward on the out-breath, holding on to your knees, dropping your head downwards, and letting your knees travel towards the floor. You should feel this stretch in the front and back surfaces of the arms. As usual, soften the stretch, then stretch again for a little longer. For the second stage, sit upright again, re-cross the legs and arms so that the other one is on top, and repeat the stretching and breathing procedure.

6 The final stretch benefits the liver and the gall bladder. Sit with legs spread widely, and fold your right leg in towards the groin. Lean over to the left, facing forward, and place your hand on your leg, palm-up. For the stretch, bring the right arm over your head. You can get a stronger stretch by keeping both legs spread apart. Repeat the whole sequence for the other side by folding in your left leg and leaning over to the right. This completes the stretches.
Now lie on your back for a few minutes, relax and observe energy sensations in the body.

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