|by Gregory Myers|
Energy Workthe esoteric forms of bodywork in simple language! In addition to the more widely known forms of massage which incorporate physical manipulation of the body's tissues, there are more esoteric forms which are (among bodyworkers) referred to as "energy work." Among these are the Asian modalities such as shiatsu, jin shin jitsu, tui na, qi gong and the Americanized acupressure. Additionally, there are the lesser known forms of energy work such as polarity, cranio-sacral, zero balancing, reiki, chakra balancing, and therapeutic touch.
Most of the Asian forms derive from Chinese Taoist systems which recognize the flow of qi (also known as ch'i or in Japan, ki) through the body via the meridians. There are twelve standard meridians, each associated with an organ and particular functions. There are also eight "extraordinary" meridians. The Chinese forms of jin shin jitsu, qi gong, and tui na as well as the Japanese form of shiatsu all focus on using varying degrees of physical manipulation to stimulate or alter the flow of qi through these meridians, thereby relieving stress and restoring balance to the body's functions. Acupressure is simply an Americanized form of these techniques. Generally during these sessions, the client will remain clothed, as the pressure may be applied through their clothing. In the case of traditional shiatsu, the client will lie on a mat on the floor as opposed to a massage table. The flow of the energy may be easily accessed through standardized points along the meridians. These "tsubos" as they are called, are the same ones used in acupuncture. Pressure may be applied either very gently (as in jin shin jitsu) or rather deeply (as in shiatsu). The pressure may be applied with finger, thumb, elbow, forearm, palm, or fist. (Incidentally, the "acu" of acupuncture is Chinese for "needle," not for "accurate" as many westerners erroneously believe. Therefore, the term acupressure really doesn't make sense, but it's used nonetheless!)
Some of the lesser known energy techniques include polarity, cranio-sacral, zero balancing, reiki, chakra balancing, and therapeutic touch. Cranio-sacral work is an off-shoot of osteopathy. It uses very light touch to first palpate (feel) the cranio-sacral pulse which is caused by the movement of the cranio-sacral fluid through the skull and spinal column. As this fluid moves, there is a resulting movement of all the cranial bones around the sphenoid bone. The sphenoid bone is a beautifully shaped bone resting behind the nose (if you place your hands on the area we commonly call the "temples" you're actually contacting the sphenoid bone, the temporal bone is above and around the ear!). This bone articulates with all the other cranial bones. The movement here is microscopic in size, but can be felt. During a cranio-sacral session, the therapist will gently alter the movement of the bones of the skull and sacrumand sometimes other bones as well. The result is an amazing sense of relaxation and "rightness" or the restoration of balance and well-being.
Zero Balancing was also developed by an osteopathic physician, Fritz Smith, who is also an M.D. and a traditional acupuncturist. Zero balancing seeks to use both physical and energetic touch (called "interface") to restore balance between the body's structure and energy flows. In a typical Zero Balancing session, gentle traction and fingertip pressure (called vectors and fulcrums, respectively) allow the body and energy flows to potentially balance themselves. This modality instills a wonderful calmness, a sense of openness, balance, and diffuse clarity (I know, that sounds dichotomous, but that's the feeling I get when I receive a zb session!). Polarity work, reiki, chakra balancing, and therapeutic touch are all similar methods of restoring balance to the body's energetic system known as the chakra system (chakra is Sanskrit and is correctly pronounced with a hard "ch" sound as in church, not "sh" as in should). Each of these modalities utilizes the placement of the practitioner's hands over or on the body of the client. Using intention and focus, the practitioner then allows the universal life force to flow through their body and into the client's. I know this sounds very Star Wars, but if you think for a moment about lying down and having someone place their hands on your body you'll notice an energy transfer. We call this energy "heat." So at least in a simple sense, we all can understand that energy does exist in the body, and we can transfer it to another body! Try this simple exercise: sit down and relax. Mentally scan your body and release any tension you might feel. Now bring your attention and focus into your hands, really FEEL your hands. Keeping your eyes closed, bring your hands slowly together, palms facing one another. As your hands come closer togetherwithout touchingtune into the sensations you are able to pick up. Do you feel the energy emanating from your hands? Do you feel the soft cushioning between them? This is bio-energy manifest!
Each of these modalities seeks to allow the universal life force to stream through the practitioner's body and into the client's. It's important to recognize that the practitioner is NOT streaming his/her energy, but is allowing the energy to come from the universe, through their body and out. When I've received reiki sessions, I am overcome by a profound sense of peace and tranquility. I know my body/mind has entered an altered state of consciousness, and in this deep state my body releases tension, examines emotional issues, and redefines its spiritual essence. It is truly an amazing experience. During each of these sessions, the client is clothed and the practitioner may lay his hands on different parts of the client's body (in some cases the practitioner's hands will not contact the client, but hover a few inches above). Sometimes the client may turn over and have the practitioner work on the backside, sometimes not. The intent is to have each of the chakras "cleared." I personally don't use the term "open," because it is my belief that the chakras never close completely, but similar to a dimmer switch for a light, they might be turned down, thereby limiting the amount of energy which is able to flow. In restoring balance throughout the chakra system the client will feel greater relaxation, a reduction of stress and tension, freedom of movement, and an improved immune system response. Reiki practitioners are now found in some hospitals and provide assistance during surgical procedures. Studies have shown clients receiving such treatments have greatly increased recovery time from the surgery.
If you've never received one of these types of bodywork, I highly recommend it! The power of the human body to heal itself, when given the appropriate opportunity under the appropriate conditions is extraordinary. Check it out, don't you owe yourself the chance?
Next issue, moving meditations!
Gregory Myers, LMT is a dancer/choreographer and bodyworker. He has a private practice in Rehoboth Beach and is a faculty member of the Baltimore School of Massage.
LETTERS From CAMP Rehoboth, Vol. 9, No. 12, Aug. 27, 1999