By Karrie Osborn
Originally published in the Spring/Summer 2004 issue of Body Sense magazine.
You already know about the power of massage and may even have exposed your children to its gentle ways. Maybe you’ve been educated in infant massage yourself so as to offer touch to your child when it can be most effective — after baths, before bedtime, or when cradling your colicky baby in the middle of the night. Or maybe you take your pre-teen to the spa with you for a day of rejuvenating bodywork. So you know massage has incredible soothing power, but have you ever considered energy medicine for your child?
Real or Surreal?
Don’t be fooled by the name. Energy medicine is neither mystical nor mythical. “Energy healing often works at levels beyond the physical — areas inaccessible to more traditional forms of medicine,” says Brian Dailey, M.D., an emergency room doctor at Rochester General Hospital, Rochester, N.Y. Not only does Dailey practice and teach Western medicine, but he’s also trained in the field of energy medicine as a reiki master. Dailey is convinced that combining traditional medicine with energy medicine is often the best complement for health, and children can be the best recipients.
Many energy therapies such as reiki, polarity therapy, therapeutic touch, and even therapies that combine physical manipulation with energetic theories like Zero Balancing are based on the Laws of Nature. Fritz Smith, the developer of Zero Balancing says, “Energy exists as a force in the universe, and in the body. Every culture has a name for it — chi, prana, etc. In my view, it’s vibration. We are a vibrating entity and that is a system different than the physical body. The body is the container for the vibratory field.” He explains that illness and discord happen when we move out of step with our own vibratory fields. By bringing them back into harmony, we become in tune and feel better.
Just as massage is meant to help you find physical balance, energy therapy works to help find balance for the rest of you. An energy practitioner’s goal is to help you find peace and calm while reestablishing a harmonious alignment amongst the body, mind, and spirit. The goals are the same when working with children.
Energy at Work
Energy medicine and children — it’s really not that foreign a concept. Think about how you already use energy therapy without even knowing it. What’s the first thing you do when your child falls down and gets bumped or bruised? You rub the “owie” and make it better. You hug until the tears dry. And you kiss the sore spot. Your child knows your energy is healing — that’s why you’re his first choice for comfort when it comes to pain or fear.
In that same vein, parents already witness the subtle energy that’s at work within their child: They see it peak when the environment is pleasant, when the company is friendly, and when diapers are dry and tummies are full. They see it plummet when the child is in the throes of teething, coupled with short naps and gassy bellies. Positive energies are evident in their welcoming smiles; its absence apparent in too-young furrowed brows.
In many ways, children are blank canvases, with each year of their lives adding another color or element to the work of art. It’s for that reason that energy medicine is a perfect fit for youngsters.
Mietek Wirkus of Bethesda, Md., who has been working in the energy healing field for 60 years as a bioenergy consultant, says children are more sensitive and receptive to energy work than adults because of that blank canvas. “They respond more readily,” he says. Unfortunately, most mainstream medicine does not consider energy work when talking about a child’s health, Wirkus says. “That’s a mistake. It’s an important part of healing.”
From the unborn child to the teenager, age is not a factor when it comes to energy therapy, Wirkus adds.
It can be used in utero before the child is born, especially if the mother is having a stressful pregnancy. Couple that with pregnancy massage, and you create a calmness and security that goes directly into that baby. Stress isn’t the only condition under which energy work can be used in utero. In circumstances of trauma, fatigue, and emotional upheaval on the expectant mother, energy therapy can create peaceful change.
There are even more applications postnatally. Failure to thrive has been reversed, weight gain problems have been upended, and fussy, sleepless babies have been known to quickly calm, all with the help of energy medicine.
Colic is one familiar circumstance easily treated with energy therapy, its painful effects often dispersing in 3 to 5 minutes, Dailey says. A simple, easily-learned reiki technique that directs energy through the hands can quickly calm an inconsolable, colicky child. Dailey says a physician friend, accustomed to driving his two children in the car at 2 a.m. to get them to sleep, used this energy technique with great results. “They both quickly fell asleep in their beds as I rested my hands on each of their stomachs,” the friend relays. “If I had learned this earlier, I could have saved a lot of car mileage.”
Energy therapy works so effectively with children because they have none of the “junk” life adds to our bodies with time. “When we live for a while, we have the clutter, the mental baggage, that manifests in the physical body as illness,” says Ronette (Rayah) Rideout, a Colorado reiki teacher and practitioner who works with children and adults. Adults find ways to armor, to set up barriers — either to hold onto the traumas unconsciously or to protect against further pain. This clutter and these barriers mean it takes longer to access their energy and begin a healing process. Babies, on the other hand, can just draw that energy, whether in utero or postnatally. “The life force goes directly into them,” Rideout says.
The benefits of energy medicine don’t stop just because the child’s canvas starts filling up with age. Energy work also has countless applications for older childhood/juvenile problems — emotional disorders, bonding issues, socialization inadequacies, etc. Sometimes the subtlety of the therapy can permeate
the toughest of teenage skins.
Reiki in Particular
Reiki, as evident here, is one of the more popular energy therapies used on children. Its gentle approach is non-threatening to a wary, easily frightened child, and its effects leave them calm and nurtured. “It is very safe and gentle,” Rideout says.
Typically a session with a child is 10 to 20 minutes. “They don’t have the blockages, shielding, and emotional defenses that get in the way, so it goes quickly for them,” Rideout says. The best time to work with children is when they’re sleeping, she adds. “It’s very soothing for them.”
Reiki is said to work even when the child can’t be touched. “If you have a fussy baby in intensive care, you can direct the energy to their fontanel (soft spot) and watch them calm down,” Rideout says.
She even encourages new parents to seek out minimal levels of reiki training themselves so they can administer the energy work more readily to their children. “Hands-on reiki gives the baby a sense of security,” Rideout says. And with the nature of reiki being to ground us, its effect on a child can help them be more connected to this world. Who couldn’t use some of that?
If you’ve never experienced energy medicine, give it a try. Then see for yourself what it might offer your child. Talk to your massage therapist and see if they are trained in any energy therapies. If not, ask if they can recommend you to a qualified practitioner who might be able to offer the energy work you seek. Whether it be calming an unborn child during his mother’s stressful pregnancy, strengthening a child that isn’t thriving or moving negativity through and out of his consciousness, energy medicine offers interesting and safe possibilities for the youngest of clients. And you, too.
Karrie Osborn is contributing editor to Body Sense magazine.
For More Information
• Touch Research Institute: The research site for
bodywork and children. www.miami.edu/touch-research
• Kennedy Krieger Institute: Current studies involve
energy therapy and children with developmental
disabilities. Previous studies looked at attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: www.kennedykrieger.org