Originally published in Massage & Bodywork magazine, August/September 2005.
Copyright 2005. Associated Bodywork and Massage Professionals. All rights reserved.
National obesity figures are at an all-time high -- and growing. Weight is no longer just a personal problem; it's a national problem requiring immediate attention. In California alone, obesity is costing the state $22 billion per year.1
That's in California -- a state we all imagine being populated with the healthiest people in the country.
Weight is threatening our future. Recent reports indicate that within the next 10 years, obesity threatens to cut up to five years off the average U.S. life expectancy.2
And, for the first time in history, children may not live as long as their parents.3
The financial loss can be measured in dollars. The loss in life expectancy can be measured in years. But the loss in quality of life is immeasurable.
Weight is a "tip of the iceberg" symptom of both mental and physical health -- and also energetic health. Being overweight, or underweight, is not one problem. It is the result of a series of factors. Once we see weight in the context of the bigger picture -- as the result of behavior patterns such as excess consumption, loss of control, and disrupted energy -- we can find ways to track the components amenable to change and healing. Let's explore some of the ways in which the aura, or energy field, can be realigned in order to yield both precursors to weight loss, as well as actual weight loss.An Energetic Approach to Working with Weight
Our weight is the result of a complex interaction of factors, ranging from genetics to stress. By categorizing the factors that affect weight, diet, and exercise into physical, psychological, and lifestyle areas, it becomes possible to work on the myriad of issues affecting weight through energetic realignment.
The physical factors affecting weight include genetics, metabolism, hormones, and thyroid function. Our constitution, gender, and age determine our metabolic rate. Constitution can be defined as the natural functional tendency of the sum of your genetic makeup when left undisturbed. Genetics determines your body type (ie., ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph), and body type, like height, needs to be taken into account in assessing ideal weight, as well as weight gain tendencies.
With regard to gender, men tend to metabolize faster than women. As we age, our metabolism slows. It's inevitable we will begin to gain weight, unless we cut down on caloric intake or increase our frequency and duration of exercise. The effects of perimenopausal and menopausal changes in women, and the tendency to gain weight during midlife, are also well recognized.
Blood sugar disorders, namely hypoglycemia and diabetes, are also inherited. However, according to the National Association of Diabetes, the prevalence of diabetes has reached an alarming rate of 18.3
percent for people over the age of 60, suggesting an incidence of diabetes that exceeds genetic explanation and points to lifestyle causes.4
FACTORS AFFECTING WEIGHT
Genetics (diabetes, hypoglycemia)
Metabolism (inherited constitution, age, gender)
General Health, Well-Being
Mental Health (anorexia, bulimia, depression)
While the physical facts of constitution, gender, and age can yield an ideal weight chart, actual weight will be influenced by personal psychology. Behavioral issues around gaining or losing weight need to be distinguished from eating disorders that can be classified as diagnosable illnesses, such as anorexia nervosa, bulimia, and depression. Such illnesses can be life-threatening and are best treated under the supervision of professionals qualified in psychiatry and psychology. The touchstone for assessing "diagnosable illness" versus "behavioral issue" is the relationship to reality. For example, an anorexic believes herself to be fat, even when the scales show otherwise.
Psychological factors affecting weight include personality traits and behavior patterns, or unconscious and conscious learning. Weight gain and weight loss are influenced by constructs such as self-image (the way the client values and respects herself in general) and body image (the way the client perceives her body). Personality traits such as self-discipline (the ability to get yourself to do something) and self-control (the ability to stop yourself from doing something undesirable) play a huge role in weight-related behaviors. The visible behaviors are driven by unconscious material. For example, unresolved issues regarding authority figures (parents, teachers, bosses) trigger challenges with self-discipline and self-control, showing up as over-indulgence patterns that cause weight gain. Emotional states, such as anxiety, can lead to weight gain because food is commonly used as a tranquilizer. Emotional states can also lead to weight loss in an attempt to exercise rigid control over the environment via stringent dieting.
Weight gain and weight loss can also be triggered by traumatic experiences -- either sustained trauma (an abusive relationship) or sudden trauma (an accident, divorce, or bereavement).
Excess stress is a major cause of disease and weight problems in our Western lifestyle. Prolonged stress overstimulates the adrenals, leading to a cascade of hormone disruption. Elevated stress hormones interfere with progesterone and estrogen levels, diminish thyroid function, and disrupt sugar metabolism, leading to insulin resistance. A client who complains she cannot lose weight, despite dieting, should be taken seriously. Inability to lose weight is a major symptom of insulin resistance and could well be an indicator of hormone imbalance induced by adrenal fatigue. Insulin resistance is a precursor to diabetes and heart disease. Unfortunately, because of our demanding lifestyles, many people are caught in a downward spiral of poor diet, exercise, work, and sleep habits, which leads to more stress and decreased health.
It is imperative to take action that can break the cycle and reverse the spiral toward health and well-being. In weight management, people usually cause themselves even more stress by attempting to impose on themselves changes in diet and exercise. Since psychological factors generate patterns of behavior like excess consumption, loss of control, and self-medication, lasting change needs to address the underlying "why" of these behavior patterns. Unless there is treatable pathology or imbalance, predisposing physical factors are unchangeable. When it comes to the psychological factors, history cannot be changed, but interpretations, attitudes, and reactions to past experiences can be.
Realignment of the aura offers a powerful way to directly alter interpretations, attitudes, and reactions. For example, if the client enters the session stressed, her tension will generate great concern about the time. As the tension dissipates, her attitude toward time will gain a more relaxed perspective. Changes in the energy field generate changes in perspective and paradigm and consequently changes in experience.
By working directly on the energy field, it is possible to reprogram the physical, psychological, and lifestyle patterns affecting the system. An Orientation to the Human Energy Field
We are becoming more and more familiar with the concept of the human energy field or aura -- the part of us that extends beyond the physical body. Thanks to the respected work of Barbara Brennan, Rosalyn Bruyere, and the Healing Touch Movement, energy work is becoming more extensively recognized in the medical environment.
The aura emanates from the physical body and forms an electromagnetic energy field around the physical body. Chakras give access to the energy field. In the Vedic system, the oldest written tradition in India, there are seven major chakras. They are given names and an associated color of the rainbow: the root chakra (red), the hara or sacral chakra (orange), the solar plexus chakra (yellow), the heart chakra (green and also pink), the throat chakra (sky blue), the third eye chakra (indigo), and the crown chakra (violet).
Each chakra gives rise to a layer in the aura, the first layer being the physical body. Altogether there are seven layers. In a balanced system, the chakras and aura layers work harmoniously together forming an invisible field of white light that surrounds and permeates the physical body, maintaining energetic health and well-being. Under stress, the chakras spin unevenly and layers of the aura can separate, pull away from each other, form bubbles, or, through extreme trauma or substance abuse, even form leaks.
The chakras and the layers of the aura form a grid, with areas corresponding to points in the physical body. By scanning this grid, one can locate points or spots in the aura requiring adjustment, beginning by checking a "suspect" chakra at each layer of the aura.
Only a small proportion of people can see the energy field in a way that offers accurate information. A much larger proportion are guided by what they feel. You could sense a zing, a ping, a buzz, a gap or hole, a breeze, a falling sensation, a temperature change, or simply a "click" in your mind. If you're an empathic healer, you may have to process information as a personal experience, even though it should be experienced as outside stimuli. If you're clairsentient, you will be guided by "just knowing," rather than by seeing or feeling energy.
In the end, each practitioner will develop a personal style for detecting irregularities in the energy field and learning how to interpret the information. Trust your nervous system to clue you in.
Watch your client for physiological signs that show you're having an effect -- this is your most reliable indicator. Some of these signs include changes in breathing, changes in facial coloring (pinking up indicates increased energy flow, becoming paler indicates deep relaxation), rapid eye movements under closed lids and with eyes open, blinking, twitching, and jerking.
Before using new techniques on a client, it is advisable to practice on a colleague or friend, especially if you know someone who can feel energy and can give reliable feedback. Train yourself by translating what you sense or feel into words. This will help you build a vocabulary that gives you access to energy information.Understanding How It Works
It would require an entire manual to catalog all the possible ways to work on weight, so let's use a case study to act as a template of understanding for a step-by-step energetic approach.The Facts
Suzy is a busy, 45-year-old executive. She has recently been gaining weight and seems unable to trim the pounds, even though she has always been successful in maintaining a healthy weight in the past. Suzy exercises regularly, but not as much as she used to. There was a time when she worked out six times per week, with a fairly rigorous cross-training schedule. Now, married with two teenage children, Suzy only has time to exercise three times per week. She was promoted a year ago and has just received another surprise promotion. She has come for massage to help recover from a whiplash injury sustained in a car accident 18 months ago.The Assessment
According to our list of factors, Suzy is probably subject to a gamut of physical factors affecting weight, namely metabolic changes due to age and gender, hormonal changes from entering perimenopause, and the possibility of thyroid and constitutional metabolic changes in a 45-year-old.
With regard to lifestyle, we already know that Suzy has reduced the amount of exercise she is getting by half. Stressful change, due to job promotion and teenage children, is evident. The likelihood of maintaining a healthy eating regimen during such changes is poor and worth asking some questions about. Caffeine consumption and other forms of self-medication are usually employed during times of change and stress. It appears that Suzy's energy has been disrupted, leading to a loss of her previous self-control and self-discipline.
With regard to psychology, Suzy is undergoing changes in her self-image -- a rising star as an executive, together with a change in her body image as she becomes a middle-aged woman. Such changes probably stimulate conflicting feelings with regard to self-acceptance. The ability to process this conflict will depend on Suzy's personality. Finally, the car accident was clearly a traumatic event, evidenced by the fact that the whiplash injury has not yet healed after 18 months.The ProcedureEstablish intention
-- Both the practitioner and the client need to consciously share the same intention for the session, including weight loss goals.Assess the weight spot
-- The weight spot is in the seventh layer of the aura, above the pancreas (third chakra) at a point where the second chakra (emotions), third chakra (will, pancreas, spleen) and fifth chakra (self-expression and self-acceptance) intersect. Form the intention to "find" the weight spot. Using your finger, or a fine crystal, start above the skin at the physical location of the pancreas. Move slowly upward into the seventh layer of the aura. When you find the weight spot, both you and the client should be able to register the moment. (Of course, this may require some practice at first to build confidence.)
Sense the properties of the weight spot. Is it firm and stable, indicating a routine and systematic diet and exercise regimen? Is it spongy, showing irregular diet and exercise efforts (yo-yo dieting, blood sugar levels)? Does a lack of routine make the weight spot loose and wavy? Or is it brittle, indicating rigid discipline? Clear and calm the energy field
-- Using your fingers like a rake, or using a feather or crystal, "comb" and "brush" the energy field about two feet away from the physical body. Start above the head and with smooth, flowing action comb through the energy field to below the feet. This will calm the nervous system by brushing away outside stimuli that interfere with the client's energy. Watch for changes in breathing, showing that what you're doing is having an effect -- the breathing should slow and deepen, and there could be one or two sigh-like breathing releases. Repeat 3-5 times.Balance chakras
-- Using your hand, a wand, or a crystal, open the chakras. (Please note that the terms "open" chakra and "closed" chakra denote a receptive mind or a closed, unreceptive mind.) To open the chakras, start at what you deem to be the center of the chakra and move your hand (or implement) clockwise in an ever-widening spiral, starting about two inches above the physical body and ending about 18 inches to two feet above the body. If you have learned a different method for opening the chakras, and it works for you, that will do equally well. Energy follows intention and as long as you hold the clear intention to open the chakras, your technique should work. Start at the root chakra and proceed slowly from chakra to chakra, ending at the crown. This technique will regulate the chakras by getting them all spinning harmoniously with each other, bringing about alignment and centeredness, thereby reducing stress and anxiety and increasing energy flow.Detect the trouble spots in the energy field via the grid
-- Suzy's information provides a springboard for detecting the likely trouble spots in her aura. We know the whiplash injury will be detectable in the throat chakra. At this point, you need a fine tool, so a finger or slender crystal with a fine point is ideal. Starting just above the physical body, close to the skin, test the consistency of the throat chakra, layer by layer. When you sense the trouble spot, massage and palpate its place in the energy field to stimulate healing in the physical body. In this instance, the intention is to free stuck energy and get Suzy's system moving out of the shock experience of the car accident so that regular metabolic function can resume. Adjusting the throat chakra will also balance issues of self-acceptance and self-expression.
In Suzy's case, the same procedure should then be used to detect energy disturbances in the second chakra (perimenopause: ovaries, uterus), the third chakra (self-control, self-discipline), and the sixth chakra (pituitary: hormone balance).
It is not necessary to check every chakra at every level. This would be too time-consuming and very tiring. "Intentionalize" to be guided to the key energy blocks, for that day, that will create a flow to help the entire system realign. It is also helpful to remember that "all roads lead to Rome," so whichever one or two pathways you find, they will feed into the bigger picture, giving you the desired effect. Infuse energy into the chakras and through the feet
-- Using your hands, or crystals, infuse energy into the soles of the feet and into either all, or selected, chakras. Think of this like watering a plant: You're adding energy to the system and the system will take it up and use it where it's needed, just as the plant takes in water at the roots and then distributes it into each of the cells, as needed.Adjust the weight spot
-- Return to the weight spot for the purposes of adjustment. Using your implement of choice, "pick up" the weight spot and direct it to flow and stabilize, by describing an infinity sign above the physical body that extends through the seventh layer of the aura, two feet beyond the right side of the body and one foot beyond the left side of the body, with the intersection point of the infinity sign two feet above the pancreas. (Distances are approximate. Be guided by your own sense.) Repeat about 4 to 5 times, and then test the texture of the weight spot. If it feels firm, mission accomplished. If it is still loose, brittle, or spongy, seek a trouble spot closer to the body in the same trajectory above the pancreas. There may be a spot closer to the physical body that requires prior adjustment before the weight spot will realign.Ground the Energy
-- Complete the energy session by grounding the energy. Hold the feet, with your thumbs in the insteps and fingers on the top of the foot for 1 to 2 minutes.The Aftermath
Suzy will feel calm and refreshed. Stress levels will be reduced and she should feel centered and grounded. Desire for sugar and self-medication should be greatly reduced. A sense of regaining control, the ability to maintain self-discipline, and the drive to exercise should reassert themselves. The energy field will be prepped for the following to become probable: As Suzy drives home, and during the next couple of weeks, it is very likely that the realignment of the energy field will stimulate insight and positive thought process. Suzy will think of and follow through on finding the right supplements and procedures for maintaining metabolic and hormonal levels to keep her balanced. She will also make constructive decisions about how to handle her new demands at work and balance her family life.
After an effective energy healing session, clients usually look around, surprised, and say: "I feel much better. I feel like me again."Additional Vibrational Techniques
Vibrational tools, such as aromatherapy, flower essences, and crystals, are great aids for reprogramming energy and can be used effectively to support energy healing both during and after a session. As already discussed, weight is a symptom of underlying issues, so insight into the problem is required in determining which specific oil, essence, or crystal will be of assistance. Begin your detective work by consulting the list of physical, lifestyle, and psychological reasons for weight gain and then create a match from the keynote energy of the substance. If conditions such as insulin resistance and hormone deficiencies are suspected, direct your client to a suitable practitioner, such as a naturopath, who can provide the necessary support.
Vibrational techniques such as feng shui, DNA reprogramming, acupuncture, and reflexology can also be used to affect health, mood, and weight. By uncluttering the home and realigning the furniture, one can reduce stress and restore energy flow, leading to all manner of positive changes. DNA reprogramming can directly address metabolic function, hormonal levels, and thinking patterns, including deeply held beliefs about the self. In opening the flow of energy along the meridians, both acupuncture and reflexology restore balance and function to the system.
With national obesity on the rise, weight is becoming a serious health and economic issue. Morbidly obese people do not generally self-select to come to massage therapists and bodyworkers. However, since more and more people are struggling to maintain a healthy weight, and since weight is so integral to our health and well-being, the more techniques we have to manage weight and avert weight gain, the better. Good diet and exercise habits are not easy to establish. Because of the complex series of changes required, it has become the task of the helping professions to assist clients in the whys and wherefores underlying their diet and exercise patterns. Vivien Schapera has been in private practice for more than 22 years as an Alexander teacher and an energy healer. She is the founder and chair of FourWinds Academy for the Healing Arts and Sciences, a school for training healers, and director of Alexander Technique of Cincinnati, a school for training Alexander teachers. This article is based on information adapted from
How to Lose Weight and Gain Money: A Program for Putting Your Life in Order by Schapera and Drew Logan, FourWinds Press, 2004. You can reach Schapera online at www.4windsacademy.org or www.loseweightgainmoney.com.References