One thing that is heard over and over when studying various non-allopathic modalities is the concept of energy and “energy flow."
Whether you’re in a yoga class or receiving acupuncture, talking with a homeopath or receiving massage, they all use this language of “energy." Then there are whole modalities dedicated to “energy work” like Reiki, Pranic Healing, and chakra meditation, at which point it starts to sound very hokey. But is it?
Every cell in your body is energetic. Physics has proven that all matter vibrates with some form of energy, even a rock. If the matter did not vibrate, it would cease to have form. Though why matter vibrates as it does (a rock in one way, wood in another, water in another, liver tissue in still another) remains a mystery, and is at the center of modern physics research (string theory, the quest for the theory of everything, study of 11 dimensions etc). But the fact that all matter does vibrate, and all matter is energy is a confirmed fact.
Chinese healers mapped the “energy flows” of the human body more than 3,500 years ago, called them “meridians," and likened them to rivers and streams. If we place a map of “meridians” against modern maps of the circulatory and endocrine systems, we discover that they are nearly identical.
Understanding this is often a revelation for people who would otherwise write off terms like “Energy Flow” as hudu-guru. Putting it in terms of modern science empowers us to get over our culture’s resistance to eastern medicine and use it’s wisdom in our own lives.
So what does it matter that our bodies are made of cells, which each use and create energy? It matters because if one part of the body is harmed, the vibrations effect other parts of the body. The most obvious picture of this is the nervous system.
If you step on a tack, the nerves on your feet send a message to your brain, then your brain sends appropriate messages to the other parts of the body to respond for healing. Your hands are told to remove the tack; white blood cells are recruited to clot the hole and begin healing the wound; and among other things, your immune system starts killing any infectious materials that may have entered the foot on the tack.
What eastern medicine recognizes is that all of this energy plays upon the whole body in an organized fashion. Even St. Paul notes this as he uses the body as a spiritual analogy, saying, “If one part (of the body) suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” (I Corinthinas 12:26). How true it is!
A doctor’s joke goes like this: “(Question): What is the most important part of your body?” (Answer): Whatever part is hurt.” You may have heart disease, but for those few moments when the tack is in your foot, that is the most important part of your body, and all of the systems in your body have been alerted to the issue in order to appropriately respond.
So what do “alternative practitioners” suppose that they can do with energy in your body? There are many ways that the energy in your body manifests itself. It is very methodical, actually.
Just as the brain has been mapped by neuroscience, so also has the flow of energy in your body been mapped by eastern medicines. In both cases, we see the patterns of energy. Neuroscientists watch (via machines) how electrical impulses travel in the brain when your body does or thinks about certain things. If a foot is tickled a certain area “lights up." If a person is told to think about a loved one, another area lights up. And, if a person is told to remember a tragedy, still another area.
Like the brain, the body can be mapped according to its energy pathways. When organs do their jobs, they create an output of energy as a byproduct, similar to a water heater. The water heater heats the water, then sends it through pipes to the washing machine, or a shower stall, or a sink. And, if you put your hand closely to any of the pipes in the system along the way, you'll feel the heat coming from them.
Likewise, each organ of the body has a pipeline that is associated with it. When too many toxins build up in these pipelines, a clog occurs. Then, the energy (in the blood, nervous sytem, lymphatic system, etc.) starts to back up.
An acupuncturist or pressure point therapist finds these clogs and clears them out, through touch or injection. Then the blood/energy matter can start moving freely again. When our pipelines are clean and clear, the organ (lung, heart, intestines, etc.) becomes healthier because it doesn't have to work as hard.
Finally, there are energy workers like Reiki and Pranic healers. They work with chakra energy, which is a bit more complicated and will be looked at in a future article. They work on the premise that the energy can be felt without actually putting hands on the body, similar to how you don't have to touch the hot water pipe to feel the heat of the water passing through it.
For now, I hope that this discussion on the energy systems of the body helps take the mystical edge off of healing practices like reflexology, acupuncture and acupressure techniques.
Join me next week for a more in depth look at Each of these three modalities. Meanwhile, if you're interested in finding a good acupuncture practitioner in the neighborhood, contact or . And if you want to try out some reflexology, head down to the on Main Street in Manayunk.