Good Vibrations

WELLNESS-October 2011
By Genevieve Morgan
Illustration by Jamie Hogan

Energy Medicine: The Force is with you


Quick: What surrounds you all the time, but you can’t see, hear, taste, or smell it? For an energy healer, the answer is easy: it’s your aura, that nimbus of luminous, ever-shifting energy emanating from your body like your own personal aurora borealis. In many cultures, the holier the person the more visible the aura, which is why so many religious illustrations from around the world depict saints with golden halos and prophets cloaked in shimmering radiance. The vibrancy, color, and reach of a person’s aura are associated with their energetic balance and flow. Those of us fortunate enough to walk around in a state of enlightened bliss have auras that supposedly extend more than twenty feet, shedding lightness and contentment upon anyone in our perimeter. Conversely, if our energy is sluggish, confused, or blocked, our auras shrink to an inch or two and, in my case, become a Death Star tractor beam that sucks unsuspecting friends and family over to the Dark Side.

Far out, right? But take a minute to think about how we often refer to our own energy or the energy of those around us without thinking: Do you catch my vibe? Are we on the same wavelength? I thought we had a really strong connection. However you describe it—mojo, groove, personal space, the zone, sixth sense, intuition, balance, focus, center—most of us sense our own energy field and those of the people around us, and we know instinctively when they are well aligned and moving freely and when they are not.

Every living thing generates biomagnetic energy. (In case you forgot your high school physics: all magnetic fields are energetic, but not all energy is magnetic—there are also kinetic and thermal energies.) Because humans are composed primarily of nonmagnetic elements, we have a weak, barely detectable magnetic energy field; the earth, in contrast, has a strong electromagnetic field, largely due to its iron core. Birds, fish, insects, and most animals—including humans—inherit proteins called cryptochromes that act like bio-compasses and enable them to tune in to the earth’s magnetic field and navigate around the world (this may also be why cows face the same way in a field). New research being done at the University of Massachusetts Medical School suggests that, like cows, humans may also use cryptochromes to orient ourselves to our surroundings. In certain locations, like Maine, where the bedrock contains quartz and a lot of granite, scientists have found that the Earth’s electromagnetic field exerts less force on our bodies (and, I imagine, contributes to greater energetic elbow room). Point being: we are energy—conclusively, scientifically, and inescapably—so why not take the leap and experiment with an energy healer to help keep that energy flowing free? Especially here in Maine, where the vibrations are particularly good and there are so many excellent energy healers. After all, who doesn’t want to be draped in a cloak of invigorating, revitalizing light?

Energy healers use a variety of hands-on and hands-off techniques to channel healing energy and restore harmony and flow, thereby avoiding psychological log jams and biophysical blockages that may manifest in the body as illness and disease. Energy medicine is one of the five categories recognized by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, but like the sibling who quit school to follow the Grateful Dead, the field’s practitioners have had to work a lot harder to gain respect in mainstream Western culture. Eastern medical systems have acknowledged the importance of energy flow for thousands of years. In traditional Chinese medicine, the body’s vital energy, or qi (pronounced chē), is meant to flow in constant, harmonious motion through meridians that crisscross the body. If qi is obstructed, insufficient, or moves haphazardly across the meridians, illness will follow.

In Indian traditions, the body’s life energy, or prana, is believed to flow upward along the spinal column through a chain of seven wheel-like energy centers called chakras that begin in your seat and rise to the crown of your head. Chakras work together to keep prana flowing through the body. If any of the lower chakras are blocked, the higher chakras will suffer. Since the higher chakras govern our more sophisticated physical, intellectual, and emotional functions, a blocked lower chakra produces a less optimal state of being.

Each energy healer has had different training, and every energy session will be unique. Since practitioners will be guided by your individual energetic needs, several or all of the modalities described below may be used. Some healers are truly gifted, and frankly, some are goofballs…but it is extremely unlikely that any harm will be done (it is always wise to find a practitioner with a sterling reputation through a personal referral). At worst, an energy session may feel like a waste of time and money. But at its best, you will experience a cumulative, and possibly permanent, shift in the way you feel, while lingering energetic imbalances will be corrected before they make you sick. To help you select the right therapy, here’s a quick description of the most popular and effective energy manipulation techniques used by local practitioners:

Acupuncture is a 5,000-year-old traditional Chinese technique that uses small needles to painlessly puncture skin at certain important points and release blocked energy in the meridians. Heat may also be applied. Beneficial effects include pain reduction and improved functioning of internal organs and body systems.

Acupressure is a traditional Chinese practice similar to acupuncture—instead of needles, practitioners apply pressure with their fingers and hands.

Ayurvedic healers increase prana and open the chakras as part of a complicated diagnostic and healing methodology that strives to maintain physiological harmony in the body and a lasting balance between mind, body, and spirit.

Qigong is an ancient Chinese physical exercise that, when practiced regularly, helps regulate and control qi in the body.

Polarity therapy works with biomagnetic currents in the body using a hands-on technique that manipulates energy. Both hands are used to invigorate energy levels and clear blockages.

Reiki is a Japanese healing technique that reduces pain and stress and stimulates healing by moving energy through the chakras. It restores, balances, repairs, and recharges the body’s life force and strengthens the natural healing mechanisms that are already present. Crystals and gemstones are thought to be natural conduits and receptors for energies associated with internal organs, and they may be used in a session to heal the body, enlighten the spirit, inspire the intuition, ward off negative vibrations, and balance energy flow.

Therapeutic Touch is a contemporary amalgamation of many practices, including visualization, physical touch, and aura therapy. It was developed in 1972 and has proven to be effective in treating a variety of medical conditions. Practitioners are able to “read” the patient’s energy field and work to replenish areas of weakness and release congestion and blockages, generally with little or no hands-on contact.

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