It's hard to get through the day when we're in pain, tired, overworked, overwhelmed, or just plain stressed-out. Simple, everyday experiences, thoughts and emotions affect us in many ways, all the while impacting us energetically. When our energy flow is steady and balanced, we're more likely to feel comfortable in our bodies, clear-minded, focused, centered and calm. However, if one aspect of our lives is "out of sync," so to speak, restrictions or blocks may occur in other areas as well, initiating changes that can manifest as pain, illness, stress or worry.
One approach to energy therapy is NEUROFEEDBACK. As a more technically-focused tool, the goal of Neurofeedback is to improve one's quality of life by improving electrical pathway activity in the brain. There are multiple options of active neurofeedback and passive neurofeedback, both of which have benefits and drawbacks. Whereas I am a trained practitioner, it is a service that I only provide in certain environments. If you're interested in learning more about neurofeedback or pursuing it as a means of treatment, please contact me directly for more information.
ENERGY THERAPY of the person-to-person variety is a type of integrative healing that includes the ancient arts of Reiki, Jin Shin Jyutsu (JSJ), Integrative Energy Therapy (IET), Therapeutic Touch (TT), Qi Gong and Kabbalistic approaches. Integrative approaches stimulate healing energy (also known as Chi, Ki or Prana) to "recalibrate" imbalances in our systems.
WHAT CAN YOU EXPECT FROM AN ENERGY THERAPY SESSION? Integrative energy approaches can:
- be received via direct, gentle and appropriate touch;
- occur within close proximity to the body without contact (e.g., in cases of skin sensitivity or severe burns, in respect to religious or cultural customs, and in deference to personal space preferences);
- be offered via distance healing.
Clients typically prefer to receive treatments lying on a massage table, while reclined or in a sitting position, although the recipient may remain in any stance or location that is most comfortable. All clients remain fully clothed during treatments -- private parts of the body are never touched.
Results vary from person to person, but most people report experiencing deep relaxation, a sense of calmness, an open and clear mind, and the release of physical and emotional tension. You may also feel warmth, coolness or gentle tingling.
HOW DOES IT WORK? Good Question. There are several theories that address the mechanism behind energy therapies from a variety of perspectives, fields of study and traditions. I've outlined some of them here:
A. SPIRITUAL: Many define spirit in terms of personality, thoughts, emotions, beliefs, or something ethereal and obscure yet meaningful and relevant. Others believe that what we perceive as "spiritual" experiences are simply the product of neurochemical changes in our brains -- nothing more, nothing less. There are religious and cultural traditions that describe the spirit as the central "essence" of every living creature, unique to the individual, yet a common thread that unites us all to a Divine Presence. Or perhaps spirituality is recognizing our inherent relationship to nature as beings connected to the earth and stars combined.
When energy practitioners discuss spirit in terms of a therapeutic session, it is typically in reference to what is called "universal life energy" that flows through each of us and keeps us ticking. Margrit Coates (2003) refers to 'spirit' as "the life force or vital essence of a living being, so to describe our life as spiritual means tuning in to our non-physical part." Energy therapies interact with this life force, which in turn affect energy centers that maintain our overall physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual wellness. You may be familiar with these energy pathways by the names "chakras" or "meridians," since they share a common heritage with yoga, meditation, acupuncture and acupressure.
The healing aspect of this energy work is based upon the notion that each individual is an integrated whole of interconnected parts. Symptoms don't stand alone as distinct and separate from the rest of your being; they may offer a clue as to what is out of balance. Etiology, or source of the energy block, can occur somewhere other than the location of discomfort or disease. In addition, an energy center, point or lock may be blocked or backed-up due to emotional, cognitive or psychological reasons. That's why treating the "whole package" of you, so to speak -- not just your individual physiological systems -- balances your body, heart, mind and spirit. When these are in harmony, you feel better, too. Generally speaking, accessing universal life energy as a source of healing activates an all-encompassing "decompression", vital energy is replenished, and your system can recalibrate and re-set to a more ideal baseline.
Reiki, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Therapeutic Touch, Qi Gong, Kabbalistic Healing, and other energy therapies are spiritual approaches, in that compassion is the cornerstone of their practice,with the intention of promoting what is in the highest good for our clients. This requires practitioners to let go of any judgment or expectation, trusting that universal energy will go where it needs to go and do what it needs to do. We practitioners rely upon our training, experience, and where we are intuitively directed, in addition to incorporating any clinical information that may be provided, to work towards this goal.
Image below: "Tree of Life" by my good friend Karla Gudeon -- www.karlagudeon.com
Energy therapies are not religions; there is no dogma or faith system associated with any of these modalities. Members of many religious affiliations, including Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist faiths, use these methods and find them compatible with their beliefs. Basically, anyone who is willing and open to receive and participate in their own healing has access to their benefits.
B. BIOLOGCAL: Research has shown that simple and direct physical contact between one human being and another, when provided in an authentic, therapeutic manner, initiates what's called the galvanic skin response. The recipient of this light touch experiences normalization of body temperature, heart rate, blood pressure, and breathing patterns that re-set our systems to "relaxation" mode.
Other changes in our bodies include:
- Reduced activity in the hypothalamic region of the brain (i.e., "fight or flight" response)
- Decreased levels of cortisol and DHEA (physiological markers of stress)
- Increased release of endorphins (which improves mood, pulse rate, and sleep patterns)
- Reduced BUN levels (Blood Urea Nitrogen -- a measurement of kidney distress)
- Trend toward normalization of blood glucose levels (e.g., diabetes management)
A calm physiological system (i.e., one that is functioning in an ideal, optimal capacity with little effort) is primed to most effectively receive and process therapeutic input -- pharmacological, naturopathic, or otherwise. In addition, the psychological and emotional benefits of a relaxed mind and body allow us ease in times of stress. Similar outcomes have been noted with other complementary and alternative modalities, such as guided imagery and meditation, aromatherapy, art therapy, the use of light and color, music, and pet therapy.
C. ENERGY AS A SCIENTIFIC STUDY: Integrative Energy Practitioners are commonly trained in multiple Human Energy Field (HEF) or biofield- based healing arts. Regardless of which approach you use, the HEF Theory of Physiology offers an integrated system that unites Eastern and Western concepts of the human body, other systems of healing, and wellness medicine.
Based upon the theory that everything in the universe is made up of energy -- referred to as "Life Force Energy" (LFE) -- this energy flows all around us and is drawn in by the body to nourish cells, organs and glands. This same energy also radiates from the body, and in this state is referrerd to the HEF.
Energy practitioners use gentle touch -- direct or slightly above the skin -- to harmonize the energy flow within the body to restore balance, alleviate stress, and enhance the body's natural ability to heal and rejuvenate.
Below: image of synapses communicating through release of electrical pulse within the nervous system
HOW WE MEASURE THESE CHANGES: This is where energy therapies get a little trickier to explain. I find it helpful to keep in mind that all human beings are walking, talking, breathing conductors of electricity: in other words, our bodies use electrical pulses to communicate information between its systems.
Most people are familiar with this concept as it applies to heart functioning and brain activity. For example, if a cardiologist wants to collect information about how your heart is working, you may have an ECG or electrocardiogram, a test that measure and evaluates your heart's pattern of electrical activity. However, if information is needed to better understand your brain functioning, a neurologist might choose to conduct an EEG or electroencephalogram to examine the pattern of electrical impulses in your noggin.
Modern medicine not only measures energy for medical purposes, but incorporates therapeutic use of energy as a treatment modality. Pulsed EMFs (pEMFs) have been used for over 40 years in treating non-union bone fractures; osteoarthritis; tissue damage; migraine headaches; sleep disorders; and Multiple Sclerosis. In addition, pEMFs have been shown to impact cell growth and reproduction (called "proliferation"), as well as cell-surface binding with growth factors. The same goes for ultrasound therapy (using specialized sound waves), neurofield input (direct, gentle pulses of electricity), and light-emitting devices (e.g., IR 940).
By definition, a conductor of electricity (e.g., a human being) emits an electromagnetic field (EMF) of energy around itself. Soooo...When two conductors of electricity (or people, in this case) are close to each other, their electromagnetic fields interact and create a measurable change at the site where energy is being released and received.
An interesting study that measured such electromagnetic output and input examined the energy exchange occurring between an energy therapy practitioner and a recipient. Using a SQUID (Superconducting Quantum Interference Device), researchers identified significant changes around the energy practitioner's hands and the recipient (at the sight where the practitioner's hands were placed) during a treatment session. Not only that, but the level of pEMF's measured during the session fell in the same range as those considered "therapeutic levels" for medical pEMF devices.
But energy interaction doesn't only occur in therapeutic environments. As a matter of fact, we interact with and affect energy changes everyday. When two people (let's call them person A and person B) are in each other's company, person A's ECG (heart info) will register to person B's EEG (brain info), and A's brain info (EEG) registers on person B's heart info (ECG)... and vice versa. Thus, human beings can "re- calibrate" their electrical activity in reference to each other.
Talk about "being on the same wavelength"!
The interactive aspect of energy in our environment is not restricted to humans. Consistent, positive results occur with animals, cell changes in water samples, and vegetation...life forms that are incapable of "psychological influence" or the placebo effect. I guess we shouldn't be that surprised -- after all, migratory birds respond to the magnetic pull of the earth, rats know when to abandon ship, the tides and winds change in direct response to the moon's position, and vegetation responds to the rising and setting of the sun. If all life forms respond to changes in energy, why should humans be any different?
So what does this all mean? Beats me, although I've got some theories based upon research, experience, and what makes sense to my sensibilities:
Science shows that we're all built with very similar and comparable systems, but in reality each of our bodies has unique and individual quirks. A perfect example is allergies to foods or medications. A prescriber's choice of pharmacological treatment, doses, etc., is based upon statistics, i.e., how the majority of individuals respond to a therapeutic approach. But if there are norms, means and medians, there are also outliers -- numbers indicating that there are people who don't respond in a "typical" manner. The truth is, despite how similar we may be in form and function, we're each individuals with anomalies in comparison to the "average" person, yet our bodies adapt and function in their own way.
The same can be true of integrative or complementary approaches. I've worked with clients who have had amazing outcomes with a particular CAM therapy, and others who see no results but respond remarkably well to another modality. Luckily there are no disastrous outcomes with energy therapy, although pursuit of an "alternative" treatment without a balanced model that includes and consults with allopathic medicine can be very dangerous.
Personally, I believe there is a unique balance of individualized physical and metaphysical approaches that can benefit our wellness and healing -- one that may change over time -- and it's our job to find what that effective combination of systems might be at any given moment: Western medicine, complementary and alternative, spiritually-based, or some amalgamation thereof. I don't believe they are mutually exclusive, nor do I believe there is a conflict between the scientific and integrative approaches or outcomes if provided ethically, appropriately, and with respect to each other.
Is there a placebo effect? Research suggests that it can and occur in some. But placebo does doesn't explain consistent healing responses in animals, plant-life and the molecular shape of water crystals, not to mention the efficacious collection of data regarding human beings. An interesting place to start your own investigation could be the exploration of scientific studies discussed by several different authors in, Measuring the Immeasurable: The scientific case for spirituality. In addition, Deepak Chopra makes some very relevant points regarding the "outliers" of unexplained responses to mindful approaches in healing: rather than dismissing these unexpected outcomes as aberrations, it is to society's benefit to examine the mechanism fueling their successes (e.g., Grow Younger, Live Longer, 2001).
Speaking of research, how sound is it? Like all fields of research, some studies are well-controlled, others are not, which always creates a challenge for consumers. In any case,despite the fact that IM research indicates that there is something significant being measured, it's not been clearly determined WHAT it is. The nature of this energy, from where it emanates, and how it "turns on and off," so to speak, has not been conclusively identified.
In the meantime, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the World Health Organization (WHO) acknowledge that CAM therapies are worth the time, effort and funding of research that builds upon the commonality and benefit of these approaches. Advancing our understanding of the healing process can only serve to improve our wellness outcomes.
So what do you do now?
That's entirely up to you.
Whatever approach feels right in respect to your belief system, your experiences, your knowledge, your emotions and your spiritual connection -- that is what matters. If you're asking for my two cents, here it is: Approach healing with an open mind, do your homework and due-diligence regarding research and referrals from people you trust, and do NOT engage in any practice that can be harmful or out of your price range. Trust your instincts; the answer lies in what feels safe for you on ALL levels.
Wherever you go from here, I wish you the best on your personal journey. If you'd like to talk about it person-to-person -- which happens to be my favorite means of communication -- please don't hesitate to give me a call. Or send an email if that feels more comfortable. Most importantly, remember that it's your life, so it's your choice.
Good luck, Grasshopper!
© Hayley Kamis, MA, RM/T, IARP, CCC-SLP