Stretches to Cultivate Qi
This series of six stretches was designed to facilitate qi flow through the channels of the body, and can be used as part of a daily practice to promote well-being. The uninhibited flow of Qi, or life energy, through the body is the most important principle in Chinese Medicine: in a healthy person, qi flows through twelve distinct channels of the body to make a complete circuit, and health problems result when the flow is blocked. Acupuncture serves to open blocked areas of qi by inserting needles into specific points located along the twelve channels. This series of stretches works in the same way, by opening the channels in the body so that qi may flow without obstruction, resulting in better health and increased energy. Each of these stretches corresponds to two different channels that are named after major body systems and which have been paired together in Chinese Medicine. Hold each stretch for a total of five to ten breaths, complete in the order listed below and repeat as often as needed. Lung/Large Intestine Pair The Lung and Large Intestine channels make a circuit from the chest to the face via the left and right arms. Stand with your feet together, thumbs locked behind your back. Slowly bend forward and try to push your arms up while pulling your thumbs apart. Begin this stretch with your head down, and after three breaths lift your face to the sky. Stomach/Spleen Pair The Stomach and Spleen channels begin in the face where the Large Intestine Channel ends, and circle from the face back to the chest via the front side of the left and right legs. Kneel on a comfortable surface (yoga mat, carpet, etc.). Slowly, while keeping your knees together on the floor, bend backward and either rest on your elbows, or if you are more flexible, extend all the way to let your back rest on the floor. Let your head relax towards the floor. Heart/Small Intestine The Heart and Small Intestine channels circle from the chest to the face via the arms and fingertips. Sit on the floor with your feet together and knees out to the sides. Lace your fingers together but keep your pinky fingers pressed against each other. Allow your head to relax towards the floor while bending forward, pressing your pinky fingers against the floor and extending your hands out in front of you. Urinary Bladder/Kidney The Urinary Bladder and Kidney channels begin in the face and circle back to the chest via the back and legs. Sit on the floor with your legs extended out in front of you. Keep your legs straight and together while flexing your feet, pointing your toes to the sky. Relax your spine and let your chin fall to your chest. Pericardium/San Jiao The Pericardium and San Jiao channels begin in the chest and circle to the face via the arms and fingertips. Begin sitting with your legs crossed in front of you. Place your right foot on top of your left knee and make a circle in front of you with your arms, stacking your right palm on top of the outside of your left hand, allowing for a small space in between. Extend your body forward while keeping your arms circled in front of you, and allow your head to drop. Once finished, repeat this stretch with your left foot on top of your right knee, and your left palm stacked on top of the outside of your right hand. Gallbladder/Liver The Gallbladder and Liver channels begin in the face and circle back to the chest via the outside of the body, legs and feet. Begin sitting on the floor with your legs in a “V” shape. Extend your right arm up and bend sideways to stretch towards the left foot, opening your chest to the sky. When finished, repeat on the left side.