• 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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Restoring Balance To The Body And The Mind

Life Energy Instinctively Strives For Balance

In Shiatsu terminology, pressure points that feel painful to the touch are considered too full of Ki-energy, bodily fluids and toxins; the excess is causing a blockage in the muscle, in the meridian channel and in the pressure point.

Shizuto Masunaga, founder of Zen Shiatsu, referred to fullness of energy as a Jitsu, whereas a deficiency resulting in relative ‘lifelessness’ is known as a Kyo.

KYO & JITSU ARE LINKED IN A CONTINUAL CYCLE OF CAUSE & EFFECT

Kyo and Jitsu are linked in a continual cycle of cause and effect, in which the Kyo (emptiness) causes the Jitsu (activeness) in order to bring the body, the mind and the spirit back to natural balance.

A competent Shiatsu healer must determine whether a meridian or pressure point is Kyo (low energy) or Jitsu (high energy) by the response to the healer’s touch.

In a Shiatsu session, healing begins by balancing the Kyo and Jitsu in the whole being. Complete balancing also includes freeing up the blocked or stuck areas in the movement of our feelings.

Here is a basic illustration that I use with students and clients: Every time you feel hungry you are in need, or, lack what you need.

Hunger = Lacking What You Need = Kyo

Your experience is then one of Kyo and your response to this need is to take action, Jitsu, by satisfying your craving.

Eating = Action to Fill Need = Jitsu

You bite into a delicious apple and after the last bite you not only cease your activity but you no longer have an empty stomach.

This aspect of you is now in relative balance until you once again feel hunger, or the need to satisfy a craving. Kyo and Jitsu are always in this energetic relationship in which the Kyo causes the Jitsu.

In this theory, pain and suffering is caused by not nurturing our Kyo. Let’s continue with the basic illustration of satisfying your craving for food.

What if you are on a strict diet that doesn’t allow any fruit? You know that you are craving a sweet apple. However to satisfy your fad diet you reach for a hard boiled egg.

You might experience a moment of satiation but since your body clearly communicated that it had a need for something sweet soon you will experience your hunger again. And this time it will be more intense and you may begin to feel light headed.

If you take inappropriate action again (ignoring your ‘real’ need) then you are creating an imbalance that may lead to dis-harmony and eventually dis-ease.

Taking the appropriate action, with our food choices and with life’s bigger challenges, is easy if we understand the healing theory of Kyo and Jitsu.

Life energy strives for harmony within itself. Believe it or not, it actually takes effort or really unfortunate circumstances to overcome the harmony of the body and the mind. It is when we get sick that balance has been lost. All illnesses are an attempt to restore harmony to the Ki-energy balance in the body.

bigstockphoto_Yin_And_Yang_1818215There are times when the body and the mind doesn’t have the resources to get well without some assistance. A healer versed in Kyo and Jitsu can approach the body and meet the needs of the weakness, Kyo,  and if necessary, disperse or calm down the Jitsu.

In shiatsu, the practitioner will determine the most Kyo meridian channel and the most Jitsu meridian channel and focus on harmonizing the Ki-Energy by stimulating certain meridians and specific pressure points to encourage balance.

By moving some of the Ki-energy from the Jitsu meridian into the Kyo meridian or using your own internal Ki-energy, you can revitalize the Ki within the Kyo meridian, therefore fulfilling its need for more Ki.

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How to Develop Power and Focus in Your Hara

Cultivating Energy in the Hara

Shiatsu and Reiki healers use this meditation technique. I first learned it while on retreat at the Dai Bosatsu Zen Monastery. 

 

Sitting Posture: Legs Crossed in the Half-Lotus Position

Sitting Posture: Legs Crossed in the Half-Lotus Position

There are two basic sitting postures for harnessing powerful energy through your vital center. The two sitting postures are either performed crossed leg on the floor or sitting on the edge of a low stool or chair with your feet planted on the ground. 

Sitting in the crossed leg position is known as the ‘Lotus Posture’ and you can sit in either of two variations—half lotus or full lotus. In the sitting posture you will want to place a small cushion or folded towel under your bottom to lift your pelvis. This will slightly tuck the pelvis forward and prevent any strain in your lower back.

Once in the crossed leg position bring your attention to your head, neck and shoulders. Imaging a taut string attached to the center of the top of your head. Lengthen upward as if a puppeteer is pulling on the string. Neck straight, chin drawn slightly down and inward.  Relax your shoulders while inhaling deeply into your hara filling your entire body with fresh, revitalizing Ki.

Your shoulders should remain relaxed. Gently close your eyes halfway and gaze downward about ten feet in front of you. Take a moment to re-check the alignment of your spine. Is your nose aligned with your navel? Are your ears aligned over your shoulders?

 

The hands are particularly sensitive to Ki. How they are held during any practice has an influence on how Ki moves in, out and through the human system.

The hands are particularly sensitive to Ki. How they are held during any practice has an influence on how Ki moves in, out and through the human system.

Next follow this instruction from Shunryu Suzuki, in his classic Zen Mind, Beginner Mind“If you put your left hand on top of your right, middle joints of your middle fingers together, and touch your thumbs lightly together (as if you held a piece of paper between them), your hands will make a beautiful oval (photo above). You should keep this universal mudra with great care, as if you were holding something very precious in your hand. Your hands should be held against your body, with your thumbs at about the height of your navel. Hold your arms freely and easily, and slightly away from your body, as if you held an egg under each arm without breaking it.”

The hands are particularly sensitive to Ki. Hand positions, known asmudra in Sanskrit, are regarded as very important aspects of meditation practice. The position of the hands has an influence on the movement of the Ki energy.

Remain relaxed and release any muscle tension. Breathe naturally. Your breath will find its own pace and you may notice that it naturally slows and deepens. Inhale and exhale through your nose and allow the in-breath to sink deep into your abdomen.  Visualize your breath falling into a point just below your navel. This point is the tanden (or dantian in Chinese).

For thousands of years people in the East have developed methods to gather energy from the tanden, this is the source of primal wisdom and vital energy that resides within each of us.

Where Your Mind Goes Your Energy Follows

Allow your mind to settle on the rhythm of your breathing. Bring your attention fully to your hara. Each inhalation renews this source of energy while each exhalation draws from it. After ten minutes you may bring all of your attention to focus on the tanden. It may be helpful to imagine a point of gold light in the dark of your abdomen.

If your thoughts drift gently direct them back to the rhythm of your breath and onto the golden light at your center. Own that part of your body.

Allow the energy of the hara to move up your spine and throughout your body. This energized feeling is peace from being in balance.

It is while cultivating energy from the hara that the emptiness of non-doing brings you peace and brings you back to your source to your true nature.

Cultivating energy from this center point requires consistent practice. Stay humble and move through every moment of each day through your hara.

In the words of scholar, Christopher Markert, “When you engage the energy of your Dan-Tien (tanden), your daily tasks become artful activities in which you joyfully engage yourself.”

Being focused in your vital center is bliss, while any suffering is simply a communication from your Body and your Mind that you have lost touch with your true nature. In fact, one could even say that you are out of touch with Nature in general and the cosmic life force.

“Un-Train” The Back Pain Cycle-Part 1

Why does a successful treatment or postural exercise program work for some back pain sufferers but not everyone?

For most, it’s due to the partnership between the Mind and the Body. Your mindset and your individual emotional landscape shows through your physical structure. 

"Un-Train" The Back Pain Cycle!

"Un-Train" The Back Pain Cycle!

The cause of the pain may be unknown, or perhaps you’re sure that an injury has left you with recurring pain. Regardless, the only useful knowledge that will make you pain free and get you functioning at a healthy level of activity is How Your Mind and Your Body Work Together.

Our bodies works well when our minds works well and vice versa. The body’s meridian channels (energy pathways) are a direct path to creating balance in everyone’s body and mind.

I use a simple formula with most people: Healing pain is 50% physical and 50% mental. Healing can be encouraged by balancing the flow of energy in the body’s meridian channels during a Shiatsu session to help “un-train” the back pain cycle.

Pain, whether acute or chronic, may be frightening and, in my experience, is very personal. Standard medicine cannot measure it like an infection or broken wrist. No x-ray or exam can tell how much it hurts. Pain is an unique experience and everyone will experience and express their pain in their own way.

It has been medically proven that the exact injury experienced by a group of people will affect the individuals in different ways, depending on things such as:

  • The ‘circumstance’ in which your pain first occurred and returns
  • Your outlook on the pain, such as “this shall pass” vs. “this pain is a death sentence”
  • Your emotions associated with the pain. Does is make you feel depressed or anxious? Do you feel optimistic and know that it isn’t serious?
  • Your cultural influences determine whether you are stoic in your response to pain or tend to be more dramatic in showing pain to others

It is important to approach your pain with a two-prong approach that targets your pain mechanically and mindfully

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.

“One Gave Birth To Two”

Shiatsu relies on Traditional Chinese medical theory, which uses the philosophy of yin and yang. Beginning with male and female, day and night, hot and cold, summer and winter, everything in nature seems to maintain a certain balance of what appears to be opposites. 

The yin yang symbol perfectly illustrates the essential principles of the theory. The circle symbolizes the infinity of energy, or, ki. There is no beginning and no end. A curved, moving line divides the two forces showing constant flow of yin into yang and vice versa. Within the two colors is a dot of the opposite color. This shows that everything contains its opposite and that it cannot exist without the other. And, the two colors are proportioned, showing their relative balance.

The yin yang symbol perfectly illustrates the essential principles of the theory. The circle symbolizes the infinity of energy, or, ki. There is no beginning and no end. A curved, moving line divides the two forces showing constant flow of yin into yang and vice versa. Within the two colors is a dot of the opposite color. This shows that everything contains its opposite and that it cannot exist without the other. And, the two colors are proportioned, showing their relative balance.

This balance is described in Lao Tzu’s Tao Teh Ching: ‘the One begets the Two’. These ‘Two’ came to be known in Chinese as yin and yang, from which this system of opposition then gave birth to everything in the universe.

It is important to understand that yin and yang are understood as their mutual source (One) and subsequent transformations as one source of energy that creates into differing appearances.

Essentially, yin contains yang and yang contain yin through their constant flow into one and the other. As long as yin and yang are flowing into one another you are in a consistent state of balance.

Yin means the ‘shady side of a hill’, and is identified with the feminine aspects; water, quietude, the moon, and the night, while yang, means the ‘sunny side of a hill’, and denotes the masculine aspects; fire, noise, the sun, and the day.

The original ideograms of yin and yang clearly state that they are mutually transmutable and interchangeable as one, not as two fundamental entities, despite their dual appearance.

The quality of matter and substance is considered yin; this includes your body. The quality of movement and thought- the energy is considered yang.

The primary principal used to assess the individual’s state of life energy is yin and yang theory and it is used to describe the nature and location of the individual’s health imbalance. Each individual has a tendency to be either more yin or more yang in regards to their natural constitution.

If over a period of time either the yin or the yang forces dominate in an individual’s body or mind, then there will be an imbalance, which will manifest as recognizable conditions, or symptoms.

Your body also has aspects that are defined as either yin or yang. The yin side is the anterior side, or front of your body, and the posterior side, or your back, is yang. The anterior is yin because it has more areas that are considered vulnerable: your face, the front of your neck and your abdomen. Compared to the posterior side, which is more like armor and less vulnerable.

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.

What Is Shiatsu?

Shiatsu Restores & Balances Energy, Eases Tension & Stiffness, Impoves Breathing & Enhances Well-Being

 

Shiatsu is a Japanese bodywork therapy based on the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) formulated in the 20th Century. Its roots are in many different disciplines, including acupuncture, herbalism, nutrition, exercise and meditation.

There are several styles of shiatsu, all of which incorporate TCM and modern methods of muscle lengthening and joint mobilization to varying degrees. 

As a healing art it is revered as a form of preventive medicine. All styles of shiatsu use the power of touch to bring balance to the body and mind, enable self-healing, and induce relaxation and a feeling of wellbeing.

The word Shiatsu comes from the word shi, which means finger and atsu, which means pressure. Shiatsu technique may also incorporate applying pressure with your thumb, elbow and knee.

A shiatsu session may be dynamic with intense stretches to help release tight muscles or more static while the practitioner meditatively supports areas of weakness. Shiatsu is also regarded as energetic bodywork and the practitioner approaches the human body as an energetic organism.

The heart of shiatsu relies on its origins in Traditional Chinese Medicine; the practitioner uses his knowledge of the network of meridians that energetically support the functions of the internal organs as well as the individual’s emotional, psychological, and spiritual health. 

Cara Michelle giving a session in Ibiza, Spain.

A Shiatsu session may use stretches to release tight muscles.

In Japan people seek out a licensed shiatsu therapist for health reasons rather than pleasure and it is considered a form of medical treatment. It is important to understand that shiatsu refers to many varying manipulative approaches that are based on the location of the meridians, the acupoints and their functions, bone structure and the autonomic nervous system.

 This is an important difference when compared to traditional Swedish massage techniques that emphasize muscle, lymphatic and blood circulation, bone structure as well as the autonomic nervous system.

Receiving shiatsu regularly monitors the energetic changes that may be precursors to illness and helps by keeping the body and mind flexible and in harmony. Shiatsu is concerned with keeping the body and mind healthy and happy.

Unfortunately, in most cases people seek out a shiatsu therapist after they already have health problems, in which case shiatsu is an excellent therapy used in conjunction with your medical treatment. In the United States, shiatsu is growing as a complimentary therapy to medical treatments. 

“Shiatsu therapy is a form of manipulation administered by the thumbs, fingers, and palms, without the use of any instrument, mechanical or otherwise, to apply pressure to the human skin, correct internal malfunctioning, promote and maintain health, and treat specific diseases.”

The Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare