• 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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Tap Into The Body’s Energy By Stimulating Acupoints

Stimulating Acupuncture Points for Health & Vitality is Based on Traditional Chinese Medicine

However, the stimulation techniques that I have learned and developed in private practice and that I teach reflect the cultural background of the Japanese Martial Arts by emphasizing the importance of being connected with and moving energy from your vital center, known in Japanese as hara.

Young and confidentStimulating acupuncture points should never come from muscular strength, but should come from the body weight in relation to gravity. Basically the practitioner should lean into rather than push into an acupoint.

The practitioner should also lengthen through his or her spine as one does while sitting in meditation. This allows the practitioner to raise energy along the spine while remaining grounded.

In order to do this correctly, you need to use your center of gravity, your hara. This is considered the whole belly area. By using your Hara you are using your whole body.

Think about this for one second: By using your belly area you are accessing your whole body. This means that you are using the total power of your body.

Focusing Your Energy in the Hara Harmonizes the Body, Mind, Emotions and Spirit.

The best example of using the hara is seen in the world of martial arts. It is known that when throwing a punch or giving a kick, if you focus your mind and breath in the hara and pivot from your lower abdominal area, you will have the force of your body weight behind that punch or kick. This is the secret to harnessing unseen power.

Developing the skills to meditate and channel energy from your hara is essential for not only martial artists but also many eastern healing modalities, this is especially true in Shiatsu. Incredible transformations occur when using the art of hara while stimulating an acupoint on yourself in daily life as well as on a client in a healing session.

A beneficial byproduct of balancing your internal energies by using hara is a shift from acting on autopilot toward more desirable ways of treating your body and the world around you.

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).

Stimulating an acupoint with finger pressure is not enough to modify the flow of Ki, blood, and other fluids helping you harmonize the functional activities of your body. Stimulating an acupoint also requires the power of the Universe harnessed through your breath and by moving internal Ki through the hara.

So, whenever you stimulate a point on the body, you must check in with yourself to make sure that the movement is rooted in your lower hara.

How do you make sure that you’re rooted in your hara? One way to do this is to mentally trace the movement backwards; starting with your fingers and mindfully moving your awareness through your arms and into your shoulders until you reach your hara. It is in this way that you will feel when you are using force or pressure as opposed to your lower hara.

For example if you’re leaning on specific acupoints along someone’s leg and you realize that the movement is coming mostly from your shoulders then you are not going to have the most effective results.

Worse is that it may even create tension in the other person that you are working on because of the tension building in your own body. It is through using your hara that you can ensure effective results.

It’s important to understand that the meaning of hara extends beyond the mechanical. To be rooted in your hara also illustrates a person’s ability to achieve and to have continued success. In Japanese culture, diligent and thoughtful effort toward your goal reflects someone with a strongly developed hara.

To have hara means to have the ability to get things done; to not shy away from the difficult and to overcome setbacks. When you are ‘coming from your hara’ whether in everyday life, in meditation or stimulating an acupoint, the meaning is that you are well grounded, strongly focused and fully engaged in the potential of the Mind and the Body.

Shiatsu is a healing practice that requires the development of hara.

“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.

Got Ki?

The foundation of Chinese Medical Theory is energy in its various stages of vibration and manifestation. The concept of Ki, as it is called in Japanese, or Qi, as it is known in Chinese, refers to the energy that is found in the tiniest particles that create and form everything in the universe.

While we are alive, Ki flows through every part of your body from the earth to the top of your head, keeping each cell and every bodily function alive.

While we are alive, Ki flows through every part of your body from the earth to the top of your head, keeping each cell and every bodily function alive.

It is widely accepted in quantum physics that the entire universe is comprised of the same energy in varying stages. Ki is not only the mysterious, such as aura, spirit, consciousness, but also the observable, such as earth, rock, metal and this includes you.

Everything that exists is ki continually transforming itself into varying forms. If you consider the process of life, beginning with conception, then birth, growth and finally death you can see that there are many stages of form at a cellular level. Ki is manifesting as the underlying change in all processes in the universe.

An example of ki’s observable transformation is a naturally occurring forest fire during a period of hot and dry weather. The dry plants and undergrowth become susceptible to the flammable essences in the air. Once these plants begin to burn they turn into smoke and ash that floats into the air around the forest; eventually the ash falls and settles onto the newly cleared forest floor, where it will become part of the soil.

Smoke, charred wood and ash actually cue certain plants to begin germination. The ash mixes into the soil promotes the germination of seeds, these seeds grow into plant life and new trees. In this illustration we witness the change in form from tree to ash to soil and back to tree and recognize that the energy remains the guiding process.

In the United States, we use to have a policy to suppress and prevent all naturally occurring forest fires.

In the 1960s, this standard was reformed when it was realized that by preventing the natural process of the forest fires we were preventing a number of important processes in nature. Including the natural growth of new Giant Sequoia trees found in California and population control of molds and bacteria that inhabit the forest floor.

Ki is "The One" from the opening line in Lau Tzu's Tao Te Ching: The Tao begets the One..

Ki is "The One" from the opening line in Lau Tzu's Tao Te Ching: The Tao begets the One...

As a healer and teacher, I have witnessed many healings by harnessing the power of ki. The techniques that I teach include using more than 350 acupressure points in combination with breath and energy-exercises to improve the function of the body, mind and spirit.

The focus is to maintain a natural balance of internal ki, which keeps your body’s natural healing abilities at their peak.

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.