• To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

    - Buddha
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“Un-Train” The Back Pain Cycle-Part 2

Healing Back Pain begins with a Two-Prong Approach that Targets the Pain both Mechanically and Mindfully.

Today’s blog post will cover the mechanical…

Healing back pain mechanically begins with eliminating the contributing physical problem and ineffective postural habit.

You and your family depend on a daily sequence of repetitive activities that you do all of the time.

Such as crossing the same leg when you sit, carrying your laptop over the same shoulder and even your daily commute to work which, if your drive, focuses movement mainly along your right leg and into your foot.

Eventually anything done the same way over a period of time will unbalance your postural muscles by throwing your body off center and leading to muscular compensation, physical tension and then to back pain.

You may not be able to determine which habits are having the most damaging effect. A postural assessment with a professional will help you see your blind spots.

A good place to start is with your sleeping position and the bags or cases that you carry daily. You can try sleeping on your other side, on your back or with a different pillow and begin carrying items on the opposite shoulder or with the other hand.

This allows you to exercise the weakened postural muscles while doing your normal activities, each time you do an activity in reverse you will be strengthening the weaker muscle group for the activity.

In as little as two weeks, this subtle change will create more balance within your body and you will feel less tension. You will also benefit by becoming more conscious, or mindful, of your postural habits. This will lead to greater self-awareness in all of your daily activities.

Pay attention to the little things. Like how you walk up or down the stairs and which foot you take your first step on. Do you lean your body forward feeling weight on the top of your legs? If so, then try using the back of your legs and buttocks with each step.

An imbalanced postural habit is often a muscular compensation that is relying on your strengths to protect your weaknesses. The problem is the weakness is not being challenged to get stronger and you feel ‘normal’ with the physical distortion caused by the muscular compensation.

A major area of concern for most people today is sitting at their desk in front of the computer and talking on the phone. You should be aware of:

  • putting the phone to the same ear with every conversation
  • hunching over in front of the computer and
  • using only the same muscles over and over.

Just by looking at the way someone is sitting and working at their desk you can predict the problems that will result from their imbalances.

Beginning to understand and work with your body from the perspective of the cause of your pain cycle is the first step to relieving pain and changing patterns of movement in your muscles, nervous system and meridian channels.  The second step is working with and changing your emotional habits that prevent you from fully recovering.

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The Five Elemental-Phases

A Shiatsu practioner must be versed in the functions of the five-elemental phases to thoroughly understand how to work with the body’s energy to encourage balance and harmony.

Each meridian is named after an internal organ. It is important to understand that the function of the specific meridian goes beyond the particular organ function.

Ki energy goes beyond organ function and is also associated with your emotional, psychological and spiritual health.

In an earlier post, I explained how the meridians are either yin or yang. From the perspective of the yin and yang theory it is easy to understand the Chinese view of the Universe. Harmony in Nature is found in the perpetual movement of phenomena.

In this view, yin and yang maintain a balance between one another. Another view of this perpetual movement comes in the balance of the Five-Element theory or Five-Phase theory.

The five-elements (Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire) describe the manifestation of ki during a specific phase-like the type of weather during a specific season. Each elemental-phase stands for qualities and correspondences.

The Five-Elements are descriptions of certain qualities that pertain to particular phases of change. The Metal Element is associated with the qualities of Autumn and with the balance between rest and activity. This is reflected in breathing: whether air flows easily from the world into the body an out again.

The Metal Element is associated with the season of Autumn and with the balance between rest and activity. This is reflected in breathing: whether air flows easily from the world into the body and out again, or whether there is a permanent struggle between what is taken and what is given back.

Each elemental-phase can also be understood as an energetic quality of a particular function.

For example, one of the Metal Element’s defining functions is exchange with the environment.

Your physical lungs inhale oxygen, bringing healthy ki into the body and exhale carbon dioxide, expelling a state of ki that is beneficial to plant life.

The large intestine also participates in the elimination of waste from the body. These functions are supported by two meridians of the same name as the physical organs, the Lung meridian (yin) and the Large Intestine meridian (yang).

They are in effect the yin and yang aspects of the same function- like the two sides of the same coin.

Not letting go of emotional pain and issues with the bowels, such as constipation, are commonly seen in individuals with an upset in the Metal Element.

Essentially, the five-elements relate to differing states of ki energy. The elements correspond to certain functions and processes of the body, as well as to certain parts, emotions and physical phenomena.

Through in-depth knowledge of the elements and their corresponding organs, body parts, senses, emotions and symptoms, a healer–trained in Traditional Chinese Medicine–can feel an imbalance of ki in a particular meridian pair and work with the body’s energy to encourage balance and harmony.

Key Concepts & Theories Used In Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a Japanese form of bodywork that works to balance the energy of the Body and Mind. To this end, Shiatsu makes use of the body’s natural energy.

The basic concepts and theories used in Shiatsu are based on Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). They include (but are not limited to) :

Ki Energy

Yin & Yang

Meridians

5-Elements

Imagine Your Body As Land--The Meridians Are Your Body's Main Highways

Imagine Your Body As Land--The Meridians Are Your Body's Main Highways

The aim of a session is to encourage ki to flow harmoniously throughout the body’s energy pathways, known as meridians. The meridians are associated with aspects of the Body and Mind, such as movement and thought.

The meridians are divided into pairs which are yin and yang. And are further subdivided according to one of the five-elemental transformations (Earth, Metal, Water, Wood and Fire).

Modern practitioners of Shiatsu continue to deepen their skills in two ways:

– by developing greater sensitivity to the subtle energy, which flows throughout the body and concentrates in the meridians;

– and by using the traditional theories of Chinese Medicine to accurately read the body and assess its condition for treatment.

 Despite its roots in TCM, the general approach and techniques of shiatsu reflects the cultural background of Japan by emphasizing the importance of being connected with and moving from your hara, and the philosophy of modern shiatsu reflects the philosophy of Zen Buddhism with its emphasis on self-understanding and awareness.

For the practitioner, focus and awareness comes from using hara, which is the body’s center of gravity. This is located in the belly. By using your hara you are using the total power of your whole body.

Using your hara requires you to originate all of your movements from your belly area. To be more specific–to move from a point just below the navel which is your body’s central pivot point. This point is called tanden (or dantian in Chinese).

The Japanese term HARA means to be focused in the vital center of self.

The Japanese term HARA means to be focused in the vital center of self.

The concept of hara, anatomically refers to the area below your ribs and your sternum all the way to just above your pubic bone. This part of your body contains many of the vital organs. Japanese culture believes the hara to be the seat of the soul, where self-consciousness is anchored.

From a pathological perspective, people hold emotional stress in their abdomen, affecting digestion and causing other physical problems.

In the west, the shiatsu practitioner receives many benefits, both physically and psychologically, by moving from their hara and by connecting harmoniously with the client.

These same benefits may be experienced by the home practitioner who uses shiatsu exercises and methods as home remedies for prevention of illnesses. Home application of shiatsu techniques can be very effective, however proper assessment of the state of ki and the meridians is essential for professional results.

Balance vs Momentum… Going with the Flow

The movement of an ocean’s wave, from the expanse of the sea to the crest, from crashing against the shore to retreating to its watery origin, is balance according to Nature.

 

An Ocean Wave

An Ocean Wave

It is the advance of energy that appears to reverse force at the very moment it seems to loose stability. This movement is often described as the swinging of a pendulum along a linear plane. In actuality, it is the beautiful movement of energy along an ellipse.

 

The quest for balance appeals to anyone feeling unsatisfied and obsessed by society’s high demands. Somehow through excessive intellectualizing the meaning of balance in life becomes infused with rigid calculation and measurement. The balance sought is not an equal distribution of focus, or energy, on work, family, interests and healthy activities. Isolating an uncomfortable moment in your momentum and concluding that it is out of balance ignores Nature’s wisdom of change.

Balance is expressed in the continual motion of the Earth and reflected in the transformations of Yin into Yang. Balance needs momentum but that momentum of energy may appear to shift direction after it looses stability.  However, this is based on a linear perception of equilibrium, and the fact that energy does not appear to be proportionate does not mean that there is instability in the larger sense. 

In the artistry of vibrational healing, balance is addressed in your bodies, minds and spirits. Our idealized and conservative concept of equal distribution vulgarly confuses the process. The balance that our communities are trying to get a hold of needs to be taught as satiating your greatest hunger for a meaningful life with meaningful pursuits, even if they appear to be completely out of balance to outside observers. Your natural balance needs to gain momentum.

The more synchronized you are with Nature the healthier you will be because balance is the planet’s way.