Shiatsu is a reflection of life. Life is a reflection of shiatsu– by George Dellar
‘To understand that fire energy is expanding and water energy some say is predominately at rest and floating, is fine in theory. However, how do you recognise the different types of energy when you find them in a body?’
I am often asked by students to simplify theory. Also I field many comments that a lot of texts they read are over their heads. I have attempted to write something here for those starting out.
Heightening sensitivity of different sensations
Maybe these thoughts are obvious but I would like to explain them further using the analogy of how we learn to understand taste. The first time the ‘sense of taste’ is used to discover the difference between potatoes and carrots for instance they are logged as distinct. The process of how this happens is understood from a western science perspective. Taste is a chemical process that means you have to dissolve the food before it can be tasted and smelt in the olfactory receptors. 10,000 taste buds are found on the tongue and soft palate. The ones at the front are responsible for tasting sweet, just behind them to the side of the tongue is the area responsible for transmitting the salty tastes, sour and bitter behind that and so on. The system is very sophisticated and just like touch, has millions of combinations of understanding and sensitivity. In a simple example if you were to put both potato and carrot in your mouth at the same time, the taste is different but whereas this combined taste is individual you can still identify the separate tastes. It is possible to tune into the part you want to experience. In the same way with touch you can easily be confused by the many signals that are transmitted and you need to learn to separate out the sensations and read and understand the cocktail of sensations under your touch. Someone with an experienced pallet, a chef for instance, will be able to identify all the ingredients in a dish, this ability is only acquired by developing ‘the sense of taste’ through experience.
Tuning into various energies in the body and developing a ‘sense of touch’ is arrived at in the same way. It is much the same with the senses of smell, sight, and hearing. We can all become experienced at processing the individual sensations rather that the cacophony of smells, sights and sounds around us all the time. With touch there is a myriad of energies and combinations of energies all giving the receiver a complex sense, or you could say ‘taste’. To be an effective shiatsu practitioner you need a discerning ‘sense of touch’. If you are able to identify which is the predominate Ki within a client and demonstrate you understand an imbalance through touch, only then can the balancing and healing process can be effective
With touch there is a myriad of energies and combinations of energies all giving the receiver a complex sense or you could say ‘taste’.’
How everyday life gives us all the clues
Everybody has a predominant energy coursing through their bodies at any given time. There is the energy of the moment and the energy of the underlying constitutional individual.
We all discern different energies around us every day, it is innate within us, when for instance we walk into a room and our partner is there in an angry mood we are able feel it straight away. We are experienced in understanding their posture, tone of voice and the many other signals that they are transmitting. Let’s say, for the sake of this example, your partner is talking to you about the days events but you know they are bottling the real emotion. Whereas things appear to be happening as normal the energy in that person is predominately an aspect of Wood at this time. Their energy is rising, you respond to that energy, appropriately in order to re-establish balance.
First you may try to ask what is wrong, you would be keen to show empathy and ready to back off (in the same way you might when feeling Jitsu Wood energy in the body) if it seemed that your comments were adding to the anger. If you are going to communicate successfully your energy (style of communication) needs to be in the same space as theirs. So you might find that you become angry too, in other words your first attempts have not been successful in bringing that person to a place that matches your energy and you can’t communicate. You feel frustrated and your own energy rises, so you meet their energy with anger. Now at least you are communicating and you have provided an antidote for the imbalance. At least you have connected with the prime energy and you are now both in the same space energy wise. So in summary, you are adjusting all the time to the energies you find around you in order to interact successfully on a day to day basis and achieve balance.
Tuning in and meeting
All of the above said, one of the best ways to understand what the energy feels like when gauging the sensation within a person is to put yourself in a mental space that rules that type of energy requirement. I am not suggesting that you do this once the concept is understood, tested and learnt, as the open mind is always important with shiatsu. To enlarge upon this, one aspect of fire energy is described as expanding in all directions, energy at its peak and associated with the emotion of joy. We all have the ability to turn our fire energy switch on.
If for example you elect to go to a party you are not likely to go unless you can turn the volume of the fire energy in yourself high, or at least up. A party should be a fun environment, everyone there is in a similar space, energy wise, that is to say in this aspect of fire energy, expanding and joyful. If you were to go to that same party with say the water energy volume high, (for the sake of the example, energy at rest) this would mean you may sit in the corner of the room and not relate, ‘not resonate’ with the surrounding energy (people). If you took twenty friends all of whom had the water energy switch on (in other words they were expecting to go to a meditation evening and now they are in the party room with high water energy volume rather than fire) the likely result is that those with the fire volume high would leave or be so strongly influenced by the predominant energy in the room, that they too might move their energy more to that of water (Water controls Fire in the Ko cycle, Fig. 1). Another way of looking at it maybe, if you were running and playing outdoors on a summers day and then were to go into a room full of people meditating, somehow it would seem inappropriate to continue to skip and shout, immediately on entering you innately feel the energy of the place and switch from a rising (wood) energy to a more meditative still energy (water). So the water has as in the creation cycle ‘Sheng’ influenced the fire in a relatively more yin way.
‘We all have the ability to turn our fire energy ‘switch ‘ on’
Going back, lets say you were at this party with your partner and they become a little too excited (fire energy out of control). They may have drunk too much and their fire energy is out of balance. You have become angry at the way they are behaving (the emotion associated with wood), your energy is rising and you want to leave the party immediately with your partner. You have two courses of action, one you could use this rising wood energy to argue and show your frustration to change your excited partners energy to wood too. In other words you approach with the wrong body language and shout to a very happy person that you want to leave. Immediately their energy is resonating with yours they too are angry now.
You leave the party both with an imbalance of predominant wood energy, so one imbalance has replaced another. Or choice 2, you could approach you partner allowing yourself to feel their energy and resonate with that and maybe dance with them allowing your own fire energy to increase in volume before suggesting in a genuine way you are tired and would like to go. It has to be real and you must have found that fire switch for it to work. So, much better, by resonating in the same energy space as the person you want to communicate with. You have shown you understand where they are emotionally and physically and made the environment a good one in which to communicate. Then you have gently brought that energy to a new place, still resonating in the same style as the person you want to communicate with.
I hope the bodywork comparisons are becoming obvious. You have demonstrated you understand and feel the energy of fire recognised it was imbalanced (too excited) and by resonating with it influenced it in a positive way. You can now both go home content, balanced.
‘A 100m race example is a good way to explain how to turn the wood energy on strongly in a positive way.’
When we touch and look for energies that are predominant it is vital to resonate with that energy. Only then can the receiver understand that you are able to speak their language as it were. Only then will you be able to help create a balance.
We all do this every day in conversations we have, if somebody you know is sad and weeping, one manifestation of metal energy at a high volume. You would be respectful of their needs. Imagine the scenario of a funeral, you want to say how sorry you are to the bereaved person. Immediately an aspect your metal energy is on at full volume. You make sure you are going to say the right thing, rehearse the words in your mind before speaking. When you choose your moment to approach, you get their full attention, look them in the eyes and say your piece. The statement in the way it is delivered is poignant, and carefully phrased. This is one way you could approach a metal energy in the body. When working with metal energy it responds well if your touch is considered and poignant. You may imagine your qi to be a pinpoint and penetrate slowly with good effect. Rather like the difference between belly flopping into a swimming pool and gently lowering yourself into the water. If your qi is flat (not poignant) it ‘belly flops’ when working with the metal energy, if however it is sharp and projects slowly (in a poignant fashion) it can connect successfully with the energy
In yourself you recognise when you are angry, stressed, frustrated, which brings about energy rising (wood) associated with tight shoulders and tension all over the body. To help with this emotion and resulting physical state you may for example turn to exercise. So you are moving in a wood way, stretching, running, walking, establishing a free flow of qi. A 100m race example is a good way to explain how to turn the wood energy on strongly. There you are lined up with the other runners, the crowd in the arena watching and cheering. Your movements are about muscles and sinews as you stretch and move in a wood style preparing to run. Your attention is solely on the finish line. Your Hun, vision and capacity for planning is at its height, as you plan your run, the noise of the crowd is blanked out as you visualise yourself through the finish line.
If you find yourself stressed, angry, frustrated, all things that block the free flow of qi. First you need to resonate with the predominate wood energy in order to feel better. This may be about stretching and moving the qi. Then you need to find the antidote for this anger and body tightness. The ‘Sheng’ cycle (5 element creation cycle) might be one way to find the antidote, the child of wood is fire, this would be seen as a reducing (dispersing) energy. Turning up the fire energy in yourself could be the stress buster required for countering the rising wood energy. (See fig. 1) In other words, go out to meet friends and laugh Or the wood element might need reinforcing (toning) so you turn to the water element, the mother of wood, to find the stress busting antidote, meditation, or an activity which is more about energy at rest.
Life shows shiatsu the way
In summary it is important to resonate with the predominate energy, rather like you would in a conversation with someone. You respond to their conversation in an appropriate way, in that conversation you may feel they are over excited or frustrated, and once you have shown them you understand what the problem is, you help them move their energy to a new place through communication. It may be if they were over excited you would help them calm down by using the mother or child energy of fire. Or if they were frustrated, you may help them move to a new place this time by using the mother or child energy of wood. The Ko cycle (control cycle) can offer other solutions. The options available are numerous, and experimenting with these ideas brings new strengths and levels of understanding to styles of touch
Making the real difference by ‘Tasting’ the Ki
Once you are able to identify the predominate Ki within a person through touch, and importantly learn to connect with it in a resonating way it will make a real difference, as this will change the way you approach all your body work. I teach a module that starts by teaching students to touch in 5 basic ways (each of the elements). It teaches you to be a rounded communicator, to be able to identify the predominant Ki with your receiver and connect in a way that will ‘talk’ with that energy. This alone is a successful treatment; just listening appropriately is most of the battle. I have often found that students develop in a certain way. Often they will only be able to connect in one way with their clients. It is often the case they have learnt to connect with water energy well, that is their style, their preferred way of communicating and therefore the success they might have with someone that has a predominate water imbalance is wonderful. However when it comes to working with another imbalance that requires a different listening skill the results are not so good. Then helping that imbalance move, is the work of a skilled shiatsu practitioner, letting the client communicate where they would like to go with the ‘conversation’ and being able to move into a new way of communicating with them to facilitate this change is going to result in true balance.
Listening rather than insisting with your body work, hara, back and channels is without doubt a successful way to effect change, through identifying how and what to listen to and how and what to ‘say’ in response. It is something that can be learnt over time, it can be a difficult task as you have to adapt to the styles required to provide the antidotes needed which are often varied. We all tend to favour a particular form of communication and this translates through to our bodywork. We all need to learn to adapt our styles of touch and grow our understanding of the multitude and nuances of ‘conversation’. In the beginning this will feel strange, however as your experience develops the breath of understanding grows, confidence increases as familiarity with opening to various approaches creates real benefits for you clients.
George Dellar MRSS(T) MBRCP Lic. Au. Teaches Shiatsu and Acupuncture as well as running a busy practice in Wiltshire. You can contact George via his email. firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 01672 539582 Also look out for courses run with George on the ‘developing touch’ in 2008/9
Acupuncture Reduces Nausea, Pain of Breast Surgery
Acupuncture is just as effective as the leading medication used to reduce nausea and vomiting after major breast surgery, according to a new study conducted by Duke University Medical Center researchers. The 5,000-year-old Chinese practice also decreased postoperative pain in these women, they report.
Based on strong trends emerging during the course of their ongoing clinical trial, the Duke researchers believe acupuncture is an effective antiemetic (a drug that reduces nausea and vomiting) that is less expensive and has fewer side effects than medications currently used.
“Up to 70 percent of women who undergo major breast surgery experience significant postoperative nausea and vomiting, so it is an important medical issue,” said lead investigator and Duke anesthesiologist Dr. Tong Joo (T.J.) Gan.
“We’ve known from previous studies that acupuncture can be an effective antiemetic when compared to placebo, but it has never been tested against one of the most commonly used medications ondansetron (Zofran),” Gan continued. “Acupuncture turns out to be just as effective as the drug or better, and our patients also reported much less pain after surgery, a finding that surprised us.”
Gan presented the results of his team’s study today (Oct. 15) during the annual scientific sessions of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.
The study enrolled 40 women who were undergoing major breast surgery (breast augmentation, breast reduction or mastectomy) requiring general anesthesia. The procedures lasted between two and four hours, and most women were discharged after spending the night in the hospital.
Women were equally divided into three groups. One received acupuncture before the surgery, one received ondansetron prior to surgery and one received neither. They found that two hours following surgery, 23 percent of acupuncture patients reported nausea, compared to 36 percent for the drug and 69 percent for placebo. After 24 hours, 38 percent of acupuncture patients reported nausea, compared to 57 percent for the drug and 61 percent for placebo.
n regards to vomiting, 7 percent of acupuncture patients reported vomiting two hours following surgery, compared to 7 percent who received ondansetron and 23 percent who received the placebo. After 24 hours, 23 percent of acupuncture patients reported vomiting, compared to 28 percent for the drug and 46 percent for placebo.
“We were most surprised by the level of pain reported by women, with 31 percent of acupuncture patients reporting moderate to severe pain two hours after surgery, compared to 64 percent for ondansetron and 77 percent for placebo,” Gan said.
Specifically, the researchers applied acupuncture at the sixth point along the pericardial meridian, which is located two inches below the bottom of the palm of the hand and between the two tendons connecting the lower arm with the wrist. According to Chinese healing practices, there are about 360 specific points along 14 different lines, or meridians, that course throughout the body just under the skin.
“The Chinese believe that our vital energy, known as chi, courses throughout the body along these meridians,” Gan explained. “While healthiness is a state where the chi is in balance, unhealthiness arises from either too much or too little chi, or a blockage in the flow of the chi. By applying acupuncture to certain well-known points, the Chinese believe they can bring the chi back into balance.”
For their study, the researchers used electroacupuncture, which uses an electrode, like that used in standard EKG tests, at the appropriate point. Instead of actually breaking the skin with the traditional long slender needles, the electroacupuncture device delivers a small electrical pulse through the skin.
“Electroacupuncture enhances or heightens the effects of traditional acupuncture,” Gan explained. “In China, when acupuncture is used during surgery for pain relief, they commonly use electroacupuncture devices.”
While it is not completely known why or how acupuncture ? whether electroacupuncture or traditional ? works, recent research seems to point to its ability to stimulate the release of hormones or the body’s own painkillers, known as endorphins, Gan said.
“Ten years ago, a study involving acupuncture would not have been accepted at a scientific meeting like this,” Gan said. “In many ways, the practices of the East are being accepted by the West, especially as we continue to learn why practices like acupuncture work.”
The Duke trial will continue with a total of 75 patients, at which point the results will be used as the basis of an application to the National Institutes of Health for a larger clinical trial. The researchers also will look to combine acupuncture with antiemetics to see if this combination of Eastern and Western approaches has greater effectiveness.
The research was supported by Duke’s department of anesthesiology. Duke colleagues Dr. Steve Parillo, Dr. Jennifer Fortney and Dr. Gregory Georgiade were part of Gan’s research team 2005.