Say Goodbye to Back Pain

Our backs and necks are perhaps two of the most neglected areas of our bodies. Statistics show that more than 80% of people will suffer from back and neck pain at some point in their lives – a number too high to ignore. Charlene Yared-West talks to the experts about what to do about it and how to avoid it.

In the hustle and bustle of today’s society, people tend to ignore their neck and back pain until they get to a point where it is unbearable,” says Michelle Ferreira-Teixeira, occupational therapist at Rehab Worx at the Little Company of Mary Hospital in Pretoria.

“Stress plays a major role in back and neck pain, and even though it is not the root cause of pain, it undoubtedly brings out underlying pains in the back and neck areas. People lead very unbalanced lifestyles and hardly ever take time out to relax and de-stress.”

Deevya Vasson, hatha yoga instructor at Phoenix Wellness Studio (, adds that not breathing properly also plays a role. “When we stress, we hold our breath and tense up the shoulders, clenching the jaw,” says Vasson. “And if you are constantly under stress, your body makes a habit of assuming this pose every time you are in a stressful situation.”

The denial of pain can lead to a number of serious complications, says Dr Martin Krüger, chiropractor at The Spine Clinic ( in Johannesburg. “People often don’t come in for pain relief until it has progressed and interfered with something they value,” he says, citing an example of a mother who was experiencing severe back pain, but only came in  when she could no longer pick up her child.

“The way we have been raised is to address our health issues only when there is a crisis, but often when the crisis has occurred, there has been more damage to the tissues of the body as a result of neglect, which was avoidable in the first place,” he explains.

Dr Guy Ashburner, Cape Town osteopath , agrees. “Long-term or chronic pain is very debilitating, and can eventually encompass every part of your life and all aspects of your health. Chronic pain will dictate the way you move, the way you think and your state of mind, stop you from doing things you want to do in your life, such as caring for your children or realizing your ambitions, and affect your energy levels, and your susceptibility to illness and disease,” he says.

“There are so many implications with chronic back and neck pain which can gradually lead to chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and other serious health problems, so see a health professional before your pain gets the better of you.”

Getting the right diagnosis

“If you are in pain – no matter where it is located in your body – always seek out the advice of a qualified professional to get to the root of the problem,” says Ashburner. “This is essential for neck and back pain, because even though a massage may offer temporary relief, the massage therapist is not always qualified to give you a diagnosis.

“An osteopath will sit down with you and, after writing up your case history, do a complete clinical physical examination to ascertain the root cause of the problem or problems, and assess what needs to be done. This does not only mean looking at your back or neck, where the pain resides; rather, treatment will take the form of a holistic approach to health. The person’s whole life will be looked at – from how you sit, your posture and your sleeping to habits that inadvertently cause pain, such as a lack of exercise or inappropriate exercise.”

Krüger agrees. “There is no point treating someone with rheumatoid disease in the same way as you treat a sports injury, so diagnosis is key to ascertaining the appropriate treatment.”

Ilse du Plessis, physiotherapist at Life Rehabilitation Centre at Vincent Pallotti Hospital in Cape Town, notes that without the correct diagnosis, you can easily become addicted to pain medication, which can cause complications and further stress on the body and mind.

“Once you have been assessed by a professional healthcare practitioner, you will be advised of the correct treatment for your particular back and neck pain issues, and this treatment will vary among individuals,” she says.

Krüger adds that the best approach is a multidisciplinary setup, where a variety of practitioners can help assess and treat the cause of a person’s problem.

A multidisciplinary approach

To assess your problems, you can see a qualified osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist, who will be able to consider the appropriate and specific treatment to alleviate your back and neck pain. Many people also swear by inversion therapy, shiatsu, hydrotherapy, aromatherapy, reflexology, yoga and acupuncture, among other treatments, as ways of alleviating the symptoms of neck and back pain. However, Ashburner recommends first seeing a qualified specialist before engaging in any alternative modalities, to ensure that the modality is safe for your specific neck and back pain, which differs from person to person.

“A shiatsu treatment for neck and back pain places the client on a futon on the floor and allows the practitioner to use body weight to apply the necessary pressure, as opposed to a normal massage, which takes place on a therapy bed,” says Markus van der Westhuizen, shiatsu practitioner at Healthy Choice ( in Cape Town.

“The practitioner applies pressure to the appropriate trigger points/acupoints on the body to allow the muscles to relax, which includes the back and neck areas. Pain can be caused by daily stress on the muscles or energetic blocks, and by applying pressure to these areas, blockages are removed and the muscles relax. Releasing this energetic build-up (emotional or mental) may cause the client to experience a variety of reactions, such as crying, laughing, joy or stillness, and these indicate that the body is breaking through old energy patterns which are causing the pain.”

According to Van der Westhuizen, a qualified shiatsu practitioner can show you a few locations on the back and neck area where you can also administer pressure for some relief from pain. “I still recommend that the person see a professional first, and use the self-massage techniques only to keep things in place and to help relieve pain between treatments,” he says.

Michele Shenker, polarity therapist specialising in inversion therapy at Backswing for Health ( in Cape Town, says many forms of back and neck pain are caused by pressure on the spinal discs due to the force of gravity on an already compromised spine. As gravity forces the vertebrae to exert pressure on your discs, they lose moisture and, as a result, flatten and harden over time.

“Inverted, your spine gently extends, the spaces between your vertebrae widen, and discs are given a chance to absorb moisture, including fresh oxygen and nutrients, from surrounding blood vessels. Like sponges, they expand and regenerate,” she says. “Inverting regularly, you can gain up to 5cm in height, which is what astronauts gain when they go into weightless space.”

A study carried out in 1978 showed that patients who received inversion therapy experienced a 35% decrease in pain levels almost immediately. Another study revealed that over 80% of patients who had undergone just eight treatments were able to return to work and normal everyday activities. The most recent study confirmed that just over 70% of patients who were scheduled for back surgery were able to cancel their surgeries.

Getting back to basics

“We appear to be too busy to get the basics right. Other mammals on the planet move with ease and have an innate ability to know the correct management of their musculoskeletal systems. We live in a convenience culture, where it is easy to just take a tablet, have an injection or strap it up to deal with the symptoms, without really addressing the cause of the problem,” says Ashburner.

“How about looking after your posture, doing regular, appropriate exercise and getting enough sleep? All of the body’s systems affect one another, so when our spine and musculoskeletal systems are out of alignment, the nervous, circulatory, lymphatic, respiratory and gastrointestinal systems go out of sync as well.”

He explains that the stiffer we are in our musculoskeletal system, the more energy it takes to maintain the status quo in our bodies, which places greater stress on our overall wellbeing.

“Not only is the reduction in pain an important aspect of the treatment, but so is the correct retraining of muscles,” says Du Plessis. She also suggests that patients do appropriate exercise and stretching, which will help in the prevention and treatment of neck and back pain.

“Care needs to be taken with heavy weight-lifting and repetitive rotational activities in the presence of a back or neck injury,” she says. Other “unilateral sports” such as golf, tennis, bowls and cricket, may load muscles on one side of the body more than the other, which could cause compensatory reactions in other areas, and lead to discomfort, pain and loss of flexibility.

Says Shenker: “Inversion helps re-align the spine, which enhances the body’s performance and wellbeing.”

Avoiding back and neck pain

Ensuring correct back hygiene: “Proper seating is important for good posture. The best kind of chair is firm and provides support up and down the entire spine, but allows a small space at the curve of the lower back,” says Ashburner. “Good sitting posture is as follows: Sit on the chair. Bend forwards, then wriggle your bottom back as far as possible until your spine meets the back of the chair. Then sit up. You will find that your lower back is concave, and the remainder of the curves of your spine are well supported and automatically relaxed. Most importantly, you will find it difficult to slouch!”

Ferreira-Teixeira adds that, in addition to maintaining good posture, lifting heavy objects correctly is important too. “Bend your knees when lifting heavy objects, so that you don’t place too much strain on your back muscles,” she says.

Get some exercise, make time for yourself and stress less: “Exercising will improve blood flow and relieve muscle tension in all areas of the body, including the back and neck. It will also alleviate built-up stress,” says Ferreira-Teixeira. “Participate in leisure activities and find something you enjoy that will take your mind off everyday stressors. This is very important, in order to balance out work, work, work! Make time for yourself and you will see improvements in your overall wellbeing.” She adds that this includes broadening the ways you manage your stress levels, such as relaxation therapy, coping strategies, assertiveness training, improving emotional insight into your condition, and even meditation.

Ashburner adds that exercise is fundamental to maintain optimum health. “After all, ‘movement is life’, says Aristotle. If you are in pain, always consult your healthcare practitioner before continuing. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it and avoid extreme abnormal postures.”

Do some yoga: Vasson explains how yoga helps the body work through its pain, and release it through certain positions and postures. “Getting reacquainted with the breath is number one, as focus on the breath takes the mind off stressful situations, which inadvertently cause pain in the neck and back areas. Secondly, I would recommend some poses to ease the neck and the back,” she says.

She suggests the “cat cow” pose: “Get on to all fours, knees underneath the hips, hip-distance apart, and wrists underneath the shoulders, shoulder-width apart. When you inhale, look up towards the ceiling, arching the spine. The tailbone moves up towards the ceiling too, and then exhale; round the spine, tuck in the chin, look towards your belly-button and draw in the belly. Repeat a few rounds. Don’t jerk your head up towards the ceiling if you’ve got tension in your neck; just look straight ahead instead.”

Sleep support: “Make sure that your neck is fully supported when you sleep, and that your pillow provides that support adequately,” says Ferreira-Teixeira. “This ensures that your spinal column is in alignment and your weight evenly distributed.” Ashburner emphasises the importance of sleep, as it is the vital time that the body needs to restore and repair itself into its natural state of equilibrium.

Try hydrotherapy: According to Du Plessis, hydrotherapy has been proven successful in the treatment of back and neck pain. “The buoyancy of water reduces loading on joints and often assists in relieving pain and muscle spasm. Hydrotherapy also offers psychological benefits from the induced relaxation,” she says.

Learn a few self-massage techniques: “Knowing where the tension spots are and how to release them can really help you deal with on-the-spot back and neck pain,” says Van der Westhuizen. “A qualified shiatsu practitioner will be able to show you a few spots and how to administer the pressure. Alternatively, he recommends a book on trigger-point therapy that can help: Acupressure’s Potent Points – A Guide to Self-Care for Common Ailments by Michael Reed Gach.

Take supplements: “Get checked for vitamin D levels,” says Krüger. “Low levels of vitamin D have been associated with inflammation and joint pain. And, take a high-quality omega-3 oil. The oil should have a high content of EPA, which aids in controlling inflammation in the body, hence helping alleviate neck and back pain.” However, Ashburner adds that taking supplements should not be the first port of call. “The underlying problem should be addressed first, where further examination takes place, followed by treatment or referral if necessary,” he says.

Seek professional help: To get to the root of your problem, see your local osteopath, chiropractor or physiotherapist. “Understanding the problem completely will empower you towards getting back to good health,” says Ashburner. “Armed with diagnosis and a good management plan, there usually is a solution to your pain.”

What are those achy knots I feel in my neck, shoulder and back areas?

“These are called adhesions, which are a sign of a chronically contracted muscle,” says Ashburner. “In a normal functioning muscle, the fibres that make up a muscle glide over one another during contractions; however, with muscle tension and repetitive strain, this gliding action becomes limited, and often small, painful bumps are palpable in the muscle. They are a sign of a chronically contracted muscle and can be treated effectively through osteopathic treatment, which includes deep massage, myofascial release and postural management.”

According to Du Plessis, these muscle spasms prevent the normal sliding of muscle fibres, and a muscle may lose its ability to lengthen as well as contract optimally. “It is very important to treat the underlying cause of muscle spasms and not only the symptoms,” she says. “Pure symptomatic treatment, like going for a massage only, may aid in temporary relief, but the pain will soon return if the cause is not treated as well.”

Source: Longevity Magazine

This Is Why You Don’t Have a Mentor

There is an old Zen kōan about an aspiring swordsman who approaches a master. “How long would it take me to become great under you?” he asks.

“10 years,” the master swordsman replies.

“I don’t have that long,” says the student. “I want to be good soon. What if I worked very hard and dedicated myself completely to the task?”

“Ok, 30 years,” he says back.

“But that’s even longer,” the student says with some perplexity. “I am telling you I am in a hurry.”

And so the master replies, “Precisely, students in a hurry end up taking even longer to learn what is right in front of them.”

Students have been missing the point when it comes to mentorship for centuries. I include myself in that category of misguided young people. A couple less forgiving mentors, a couple situations breaking a different way, and I would have ended up blowing my first opportunities. Regardless, almost every day I get a handful of emails from young people desperate for advice on the topic of mentorship.

They all tend to have the same three misperceptions about how this whole thing is supposed to work. So if you’re looking to find, keep, or form a mentorship, here’s what you have to do right:

1. Mentorship is something you do, not something you get.

In other words, like all relationships, it is a process, not an accomplishment. A mentorship is a flexible and often informal relationship that can vary from person to person and field to field—you might be able to refer to yourself as an apprentice after the fact (I do) but it looks nowhere near as official as that while it is happening.

While you are looking for a mentorship, never actually use the word. Don’t ask anyone to be your mentor, don’t talk about mentorships. No one goes out and asks someone they’re attracted to be their boyfriend or girlfriend—that’s a label that’s eventually applied to something that develops over time. A mentorship is the same way; it’s a dance, not a contractual agreement. 

Mentorship, like all relationships, is a process, not an accomplishment. 

2. Give as much as you get.

To quote Sheryl Sandberg: “We need to stop telling [young people], ‘Get a mentor and you will excel,’ Instead we need to tell them, ‘Excel and you will get a mentor.’” Successful busy people rarely take on substantial commitments pro-bono. They are picking you because they think you’re worth their time and will benefit them too.

So figure out what you can offer them so that this can become a mutual, though lopsided, exchange. Executives, entrepreneurs, and creatives are always looking for the next big thing. They want to help you succeed because along the way you can help them. Even if it’s just energy you’re bringing, even if it’s just thanks and satisfaction. The mentor cannot want your success for you more than you want it for yourself. You better show up every day hungry and dedicated and eager to learn.

One suggestion that’s helped me: provide articles, links, or news that can benefit your mentors. You are less busy than they are, so your time is better spent looking and searching. Also by having other mentorships and pursuing my own interests on the side, I was able to be a source of new information, trends, and opportunities. I asked a lot, but I tried to give in return. 

3. Keep your problems at home.

I often write that passion can be a form of insanity and dysfunction because it makes people selfish and emotional. Not surprisingly, a lot of young people get upset when they read this. And it is these very kids that I wouldn’t want to work with. They’re likely too sensitive to feedback, too wound up to really listen to instructions, and too stuck in their ways to learn.

Typical youthful insanity is sending 3000-word emails at 2 a.m. It’s getting embarrassingly drunk at an event because you’re nervous. It’s hiding a mistake you made because you’re scared. It’s quitting because you’ve fallen behind or don’t feel encouraged. It’s arguing with feedback and thinking you know better, thinking that you’re special. Those weak emotions are luxurious. If you want to indulge them, then you’ve got no right to a busy person’s time.

Your personal life is irrelevant. Your excuses aren’t going to fly. If you get asked to do something, do it the way it was asked. If that means staying up all night to do it, then ok (but that’s to stay your little secret). No one cares what’s going on with you, or at least, they shouldn’t have to.

Your personal life is irrelevant.


If you can step back and see this as something other than a transaction—that you don’t get a mentor, you develop one. If you can contribute thanklessly and make yourself indispensable, you will cease to be an obligation and instead something the mentor works on out of self-interest. If you can work hard to be well-adjusted and dependable—you’re less likely to blow up and ruin the whole opportunity.

For sure, a lot more goes into becoming a master and to getting the most out of a mentorship, but these are the rocks I tend to see people crash on the most often. Myself, I could have easily sunk on all of them. I almost did plenty of times. But it didn’t have to be that way and it doesn’t need to be for you.

How about you?

How have you successfully found a mentor?


Metta Meditation

Mahayana BuddhaMeditation focusing on goodwill and sending love and compassion to all beings

Metta – loving kindness (lit. Pali)

This technique is a well-known Mahayana Buddhist practice. There are many metta meditations depending on what your particular intentions is. You may wish to send metta to your family, your fellow travellers, to world leaders, etc…

  1. Sit in a chair with palms in the lap, right over the left.
  2. Focus on goodwill and loving kindness toward yourself and as you inhale visualise the heart area as a lotus flower opening on the in breath. Feel compassion for yourself and gently feel the energy blooming in the heart centre.
  3. As you exhale visualise compassion expanding from the heart as a beam of light. Send goodwill and loving kindness to all beings. This light expands in every direction throughout the whole universe benefiting all beings.
  4. After a few minutes visualise the energy coming from the flower in the heart chakra as a silver mist. It spreads from the heart to every single cell in your body filling you with compassion and love.
  5. Visualise this compassion expanding from your physical body outwards in all directions filling the whole universe benefiting all beings.

Sûchû Reiki (集中靈氣)

Concentrated Spiritual Energy

This is a technique where several practitioners work on one person. When using this technique treatments are generally performed over a shorter period of time than regular treatments due to the intensity of working together with other practitioners.

  1. Gasshô* — to centre the mind and set intent.
  2. Each practitioner places both hands on the body of the client.
  3. The practitioners cover the main parts of the body and any imbalances. 
  4. Gasshô — to give thanks.
* Literally Gasshô means “to place the two palms together”. It has several interpretations at different levels. Initially it was used as a sign of reverence. It also says, “I revere the Buddha nature in you” — a non-judgmental manner of showing respect for all beings.Gasshô also brings opposites together to create balance and harmony in the body.
Also see blog post on Japanese Terms 

Banishing Fear

Here is a technique for banishing fear that comes from a great kabbalist who lived during the 16th century, Rav Isac Luria (The Ari, the Holy Lion.)

Light a candle and sit down with a pencil and a small piece of paper. Write down your fear on the paper, and meditate upon it. Summon forth the feelings and symptoms associated with the fear. Then write down all the emotions and feelings that this fear causes you. Acknowledge to yourself that your own reactive nature, from this life or a past life, is responsible for the manifestation of this fear.

Now take the paper and burn it!

Find time to do this today. Many people get great relief from this simple technique.

A Response to the Bishops’ Statement on Reiki


On March 25, 2009, U.S. Catholic bishops issued a statement advising Catholic hospitals, health care facilities, and Catholic chaplains not to support the use of Reiki sessions. The statement was issued by The Committee on Doctrine, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and titled: “Guidelines for Evaluating Reiki as Alternative Therapy.”

The statement was based on research the committee had done over a period of several months involving information found on the Internet and in Reiki books. Based on these sources, they concluded that Reiki came from Buddhist texts and has a religious basis; that Reiki healing energy is directed by human thought and will; that Reiki is not validated by scientific studies and has no scientific explanation, and that Reiki is not accepted by the medical community.

When considering the value of the bishops’ statement, it’s important to note the sources they accessed. Much of their research came from information published on Internet Web sites. Overall, the Internet isn’t a good source of factual information because there is no requirement that information published there be checked or approved for accuracy. Anyone can set up a Web site and publish anything they wish. What often happens is that authors of sites copy from each other, so if inaccurate information is published on one site, it can easily spread to many sites across the Internet. If one makes use of the Internet for research, one must use a developed set of selection criteria that limits one to only the most respected and reputable Web sites. Otherwise, one runs the risk of accepting rumor and misinformation as fact.

This is especially true for Reiki Web sites. Reiki information has been riddled with inaccurate ideas from the beginning of its practice in the West. Many Reiki practitioners, teachers and authors fail to check the accuracy of the information they base their teaching and writing on, and this has had a detrimental effect on the quality of information published both on the Internet and in Reiki books.

The best information on Reiki comes from those who have researched the history and practice of Reiki professionally by conducting research in Japan, reading original documents, and interviewing members of the founding Reiki organization in Japan. If the bishops who wrote the statement on Reiki had interviewed several of these experts, they would have realized that much of the published information on Reiki is inaccurate, and they would have had accurate, verifiable information on which to base their conclusions.

Origin of Reiki

One of the stories told by Mrs. Takata about the origin of Reiki indicates that the founder, Mikao Usui discovered the secret of Reiki n Buddhist texts.1 This story has been repeated over and over in Reiki classes, on Internet Web sites and in many Reiki books. Yet we know this isn’t true. For many years, Mrs. Takata was the only source of information about Reiki for those in the West, and most practitioners accepted her statements without question. Language, cultural, and organizational barriers in Japan made research difficult for those who wanted to learn more about the origins and practice of Reiki. It wasn’t until the end of the 90’s that a few researchers were able to make breakthroughs.

Researchers, including Toshitaka Mochizuki, Hiroshi Doi and Frank Arjava Petter, made contact with the original Reiki organization, discovered Mikao Usui’s grave, translated the story of Reiki inscribed on his memorial stone, and uncovered an original document written by Mikao Usui about the nature of Reiki. These sources indicate that Mikao Usui wasn’t seeking to discover a method of healing, but that the ability to heal came to him spontaneously during a spiritual experience on a sacred mountain. Furthermore, in his Reiki Ryoho Hikkei (Reiki Healing Art Handbook), Mikao Usui states: “My Usui Reiki Ryoho (healing art) is original, never before explored, and incomparable in the world.” These facts indicate that Reiki couldn’t have come from Buddhist texts, nor could it be connected to any religion or belief system. In addition, Japanese Reiki Masters who have knowledge of Buddhism have indicated that they can find nothing from Buddhism in the practice of Reiki and that Reiki is religiously neutral.2

The Nature of Reiki Healing

One of the first things I noticed after I took my first Reiki class and began to practice Reiki is that Reiki healing energy directs itself. I was unable to direct it with my mind or will and realized this wasn’t necessary as Reiki had its own form of guidance that was superior to my own. This experience has been verified by other professional Reiki practitioners and forms the basis of one of the important keys to using Reiki: If you want Reiki to provide the best healing experience, it’s necessary for the practitioner to set their own desire, will and ego aside, and allow the Reiki energy to guide itself.

Scientific Explanation for Reiki

There is a scientific explanation for Reiki that is based on scientific studies and factual information. This explanation has been presented as a testable hypothesis by James Oschman, Ph.D.

Dr. Oschman is a scientist with a conventional background who became interested in the practice of energy medicine. Through research, he discovered a number of important scientific studies that point to a scientific basis for energy medicine based on the laws of physics and biology. These findings are discussed in an interview, “Science and the Human Energy Field,” published in the Winter 2002 issue of Reiki News Magazine.

The electrical currents that run through every part of the human body provide the basis for Dr. Oschman’s hypothesis. These currents are present in the nervous system, organs, and cells of the body. For instance, the electrical signals that trigger the heartbeat travel throughout all the tissues of the body and can be detected anywhere on the body.

Ampere’s law indicates that when an electrical current flows through a conductor, an electromagnetic field is produced that reflects the nature of the current that created it. Tests with scientific instruments indicate that electromagnetic fields exist around the body and around each of the organs of the body, including the brain, heart, kidneys, liver, stomach, etc. The heart has the strongest field, which has been measured at a distance of 15 feet from the body.

The fields around each of the organs pulse at different frequencies and stay within a specific frequency range when they are healthy, but move out of this range when they are unhealthy. The hands of healers produce pulsing electromagnetic fields when they are in the process of healing, whereas the hands of non-healer do not produce these fields. When a healer places his or her hands on or near a person in need of healing, the electromagnetic field of the healer’s hands sweeps through a range of frequencies based on the needs of the part of the body being treated. Faraday’s law indicates that one electromagnetic field can induce currents into a nearby conductor and through this process, induce a similar field around it. In this way, a healer induces a healthy electromagnetic field around an unhealthy organ, thus inducing a healthy state in the organ. A detailed explanation of this hypothesis, including descriptions of the scientific studies, diagrams, and references is presented in the interview mentioned above.

Acceptance by the Medical Community

Although Reiki is not universally accepted within the medical community, many medical professionals, hospitals, and healthcare facilities recognize its benefits and accept it as an adjunct therapy. In Holistic Nursing, A Handbook for Practice, Chapter 2 “Scope and Standards of Practice,” the American Holistic Nursing Association (AHNA) lists Reiki as an accepted form of treatment.3 In addition, according to the American Hospital Association, in 2007 Reiki was offered as a standard part of patient care in 15% or over 800 hospitals across the US.4 Doctors have recommended Reiki to their patients for amelioration of various health-related conditions. Surgeons make use of Reiki practitioners prior to, during, and following surgery. As an example, Dr. Mehmet Oz, one of the most respected cardiovascular surgeons in the US, uses Reiki during open-heart surgeries and heart transplants. According to Dr. Oz, “Reiki has become a sought-after healing art among patients and mainstream medical professionals.”5

Ethical Implications

To refuse Reiki treatment to patients that request it creates an ethical issue. According to the AHNA statement in response to the bishops’ statement, the practice of holistic nursing is not subject to regulation by the Catholic church and it would be an ethical violation for a member of the AHNA to withhold Reiki treatment from a patient who requests it; this includes those working in Catholic hospitals.

Scientific Studies

There are a number of reputable scientific studies that provide evidence that Reiki is therapeutic. These studies can be found by using one of the professional medical databases such as PubMed or Cochrane Collection.6 Studies meeting medical and scientific standards are usually published in peer-reviewed journals. There are over 20 such studies on the therapeutic value of Reiki. A review of some of these studies, “An Integrative Review of Reiki Touch Therapy Research” by Anne Vitale, Ph. D., can be found at While the Reiki studies conducted to date are preliminary in nature, they do provide support for additional studies.

One well-designed Reiki study is “Autonomic Nervous-System-Changes During Reiki Treatment: A Preliminary Study.”7 Forty-five subjects were assigned randomly to three groups. One group received no treatment, another received Reiki treatment by experienced Reiki practitioners, and the third group received sham treatment by a person with no Reiki training who used the same hand positions as those receiving real Reiki.

Measurements were made of heart rate, cardiac vagal tone, blood pressure, cardiac sensitivity to baroreflex, and breathing. Heart rate and diastolic blood pressure decreased significantly for those receiving Reiki, but not for those receiving sham Reiki, or no treatment. This study indicates that the body does respond to Reiki energy and that this response isn’t purely psychological. It also indicates a potential therapeutic effect for Reiki.

“Reiki Improves Heart Rate Homeostasis in Laboratory Rats”8 is another valuable study. The value of using animals in this type of study is that they are not affected by belief or skepticism regarding Reiki. In addition, highly accurate telemetric implants were used to transmit the biometric data. White noise was used to increase the heart rate of three implanted laboratory rats. The rats were treated by a Reiki practitioner and by a sham Reiki practitioner prior to being exposed to white noise and after exposure. The procedure involved the practitioner directing their hands toward the caged rat at a distance of four feet. The rats that received Reiki experienced a significant reduction in heart rate, both before having their heart rates elevated by white noise and after, whereas those treated with sham Reiki did not. This is one of the most rigorous Reiki studies to date and demonstrates that Reiki reduces the heart rate in both stressed and unstressed animals and promotes homeostasis, both of which promote healthy heart function.

Reiki is practiced by followers of many religious traditions. Although some practitioners integrate Reiki into their existing religious beliefs, Reiki is not a religion, doctrine, or dogma. Reiki is grounded in the principle of compassionate action, which is common to all religious traditions. While each religion has the right to create its own rules, it’s within the nature of human dignity and free will for each person to decide which path to follow and what activities are appropriate for them.

1 Paul David Mitchell, The Blue Book, revised edition for The Reiki Alliance (Coeur d’Alene, Idaho: 1985), page 13.

2 Personal communication with Japanese Reiki practitioners Hiroshi Doi and Hyakuten Inamoto.

3 page 56. and PubMed is the U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) free digital archive of biomedical and life sciences journal literature. The Cochrane Collection provides access to a collection of databases, which focus on the effects of health care and evidence based medical practice.

7 Nicola Makay, M.Sc., Stig Hansen, Ph.D., and Oona McFarlane, M.A., The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Volume 10, Number 6, 2004, pp. 1077–1081. This study is also discussed in “The Science of Reiki” by Nicole Mackay, Reiki News Magazine (Summer 2005).

8 Ann Linda Baldwin, Ph.D, Christina Wagers, and Gary E. Schwartz, Ph.D., The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, Volume 14, Number 4, 2008, pp. 417–422.

William Lee Rand is president of the International Center for Reiki Training and executive editor of the Reiki News Magazine. He has studied with five Reiki teachers, including two from Japan, and has made three trips to Japan to research the history and nature of Reiki. Rand has practiced Reiki since 1981 and has taught full time for 20 years.

Reiki and Chakras

There is much confusion about Reiki and Chakras. Most Reiki Masters / Teachers will teach students about the Chakra system. However, Chakra is a Sanskrit term and as we all know, Reiki is a Japanese system.

chakra |ˈtʃʌkrə|

(in Indian thought) each of the centers of spiritual power in the human body, usually considered to be seven in number.
ORIGIN from Sanskrit cakra ‘wheel or circle,’ from an Indo-European base meaning ‘turn,’ shared by wheel.

For those who are not familiar with the Meridian System I would like to introduce* you to the most important Acupuncture / Acupressure energy points relevant to Reiki. If you are familiar with the Charka system you will see how these overlap and why some people prefer to just use / teach the Chakra System.

* In this blog entry I’m just going to focus on where some of the most important energy points are located on the body.

Before we start, a quick note about the measurement system used when working with the energy points.

In Acupuncture, Acupressure and Shiatsu the body is measured not in absolute units, but in the relative, proportional units of a given person. The distances are determined by anatomical-topographical landmarks. The basic unit of measurement is the cun (寸 cùn). The measurements are obtained from the measurements of the thumb and fingers of the person/patient.


1 cun = The width of the thumb at the level of the interphalangeal joint.
1.5 cun = The width of the index and middle fingers at the level of the interphalangeal joint.
3 cun = The width of the four fingers held together at the level of the proximal interphalangeal joint of the longer fingers.

The two main Meridian Lines are Ren Mai (Conception Vessel — front of the body) and Du Mai (Governing Vessel — back of the body).

Ren Mai

Ren Mai

RN1 (會陰 huì yīn – Meeting of Yin) energy point, located on the midline, at the midpoint between the anus and the dorsal commissure of the major labia, or the posterior border of the scrotum.

[Men] RN3 (中極 zhōng jí – Middle Pole) energy point, located on the ventral midline, 4 cun below the umbilicus, 1 cun above the superior border of the pubic bone.

[Women] RN4 (關元 guān yuán – Gate of Origin) energy point, located on the veneral midline, 3 cun below the umbilicus, 2 cun above the superior border of the pubic bone.

RN6 (氣海 qì hǎi – Sea of Ki) energy point, located on the ventral midline, 1.5 cun below the umbilicus.

RN8 (神闕 shén quē – Spirit Gateway) energy point, located in the umbilicus.

RN12 (中脘 zhōng guǎn – Middle Cavity) energy point, located on the ventral midline, 4 cun above the umbilicus.

RN17 (羶中 shān zhōng – Chest Centre) energy point, located on the ventral midline, at the level of the fourth intercostal rib, at the midpoint between the nipples.

RN21 (璿璣 xuán jī – Jade Pivot) energy point, located on the ventral midline, 1 cun below the suprasternal notch.

RN22 (天突 tiān tū – Heavenly Prominence) energy point, located in the middle of the suprasternal fossa.

Du Mai

Du Mai

DU1 (長強 cháng qiáng – Long Strong (Sacrum Pump)) energy point, located on the midline, in the centre between the tip of the coccyx and the anus.

DU3 (腰陽關 yāo yáng guān – Lumbar Yang Gate) energy point, located on the dorsal midline, in the depression below the fourth lumbar vetebra (L4).

DU4 (命門 mìng mén – Gate of Life) energy point, located on the dorsal midline, in the depression below the second lumbar vertebra (L2).

DU6 (脊中 jí zhōng – Centre of the Spine) energy point, located on the dorsal midline in the depression below the eleventh thoracic vertebra (T11).

DU11 (神道 shén dào – Spirit Pathway) energy point, located on the dorsal midling, in the depression below the fifth thoracic vertebra (T5).

DU14 (大椎 dà zhuī – Great Vertebra) energy point, located on the dorsal midline, in the depression below the seventh cervical vertebra (C7).

DU17 (腦戶 nǎo hù – Brain’s Door) energy point, located on the dorsal midline, 2.5 cun within the midpoint of the posterior hairline, in the depression a the superior border of the external occipital protuberance.

DU18 (強間 qiáng jiān – Unyielding Space) energy point, located on the dorsal midline, 4 cun within the midpoint of the posterior hairline, 1.5 cun cranial to Du17.

DU20 (百會 bǎi huì – Hundred Meetings) energy point, located on the dorsal midline, 5 cun within the midpoint of the ideal anterior hairline at the midpoint between the two auricular apices.

Kidney Line

KI1 (涌泉 yǒng quán – Gushing Spring) energy points located in the depression formed in the anterior part of the sole, approximately one third of the distance from the anterior and posterior aspect of the sole.

Face points Side of Head Back of head

Extra Head and Neck Points

EX-HN3 (印堂 yìn táng – Hall of Impression) energy point, located on the ventral midline, between the eyebrows.

EX-HN4 (魚腰 yú yāo – Fish Waist) energy points, located directly above the pupil, in the eyebrow.

EX-HN5 (太陽 tài yáng – Supreme Yang) energy points located in the depression approximately one middle finger width dorsal to the midpoint between the lateral border of the eyebrow and the outer canthus of the eye.

Bladder Line

BL1 (睛明 jīng míng – Bright Eyes) energy points, located in the depression 0.1 cun medial and superior to the inner canthus of your eyes.

BL2 (攢竹 cuán zhú – Gathered Bamboo) energy points, located at the medial end of the eyebrow in the incisura frontalis.

BL9 (玉枕 yù zhěn – Jade Pillow) energy points, located 2.5 cun within the ideal posterior hairline, at the level of the upper ridge of the external occipital protuberance, 1.5 cun lateral to the midline.

BL10 (天柱 tiān zhù – Celestial Pillar) energy points, located 0.5 cun within the ideal anterior hairline, 1.3 cun lateral to the midline in the depression at the lateral edge of the trapezius muscle.

BL40 (委中 wěi zhōng – Middle of the Crook) energy points, located in the middle of the popliteal crease.

San Jiao line

SJ17 (翳風 yì fēng – Wind Screen) energy points located dorsal to the earlobe, in the depression between the mastoid process and the lower jaw.

SJ23 (絲竹空 sī zhú kōng – Silken Bamboo Hollow) energy points, located on the posterior border were the temple meets the hairline, ventral to the anterior border of the root of the ear muscle, dorsal to the superficial temporal vein.

Gallbladder line

GB1 (瞳子髎 tóng zǐ liáo – Pupil Cervice) energy points, located 0.5 cun lateral to the outer canthus of the eye, in the depression at the lateral end of the orbit.

Stomach line

ST1 (承泣 chéng qì – Container of Tears) energy points, located directly below the pupil, between the eyeball and inferior infraorbital foramen.

Large Intestine line

LI20 (迎香 yíng xiāng – Welcome Fragrance) energy points, located in the naso-labial groove, near the midpoint of the lateral border of the ala nasi (wing of the nose).

Extra Leg and Foot line

EX-LF2 (鶴頂 hè dǐng – Crane’s Summit) energy points, located in the depression in the middle of the superior border of the patella.

A Skeptic Encounters Reiki

I’m a sceptic by nature, especially when it comes to alternative healing techniques. Perhaps it is because I come from a long line of medical doctors, perhaps it is because I’m a Virgo. But my very first Reiki session was such bliss that I’m tempted to change star signs.

I’ve always been intrigued by Reiki despite my scepticism, mainly because friends swear by it. All I knew about it, was that it is a form of healing and that it works on energy fields. I didn’t know much more because I don’t really understand how energy works. 

What it’s about

Energy medicine posits that living tissues are conductors of electricity, resulting in a biomagnetic field around the body. The heart is said to be the strongest source of electricity, followed by the retina and large muscles.

“Because the blood is a very good conductor of electricity, the whole of the circulatory system pulses with electricity each time the heart beats,” says Dr James Oschman, authority on the scientific understanding of hands-on healing in the Reiki News Magazine.

Any intervention with a living system involves energy in one form or another. Reiki practitioners aim to understand how the body produces different kinds of energy and believe that healing can happen through energy fields emitted from the practitioner’s hands. The practitioner can project healing into a person or remove energy from a site where there is injury or disease.

“One of the ways this works, I believe, is that tissue that is damaged or diseased gives off signals that are induced into the energy systems of the hands that serve to guide you to the right places,” explains Oschman.

Benefits of Reiki

According to my therapist, Markus van der Westhuizen, Reiki:

  • supports the body’s natural ability to heal itself
  • loosens blocked energy and promotes a state of total relaxation
  • strengthens the immune system
  • relieves pain
  • treats symptoms and causes of illnesses
  • vitalises both the body and soul
  • balances the organs and glands
  • re-establishes spiritual equilibrium and mental wellbeing
  • cleanses the body of toxins

My experience

Even though I had done a bit of homework and had a long chat to Markus, I still didn’t know what to expect. Reiki is an individual experience and it is difficult to predict one’s reaction. Markus also mentioned that some people are more sensitive to energy and therefore respond better than others.

I was asked to lie on a massage table – fortunately with my clothes on. He started off by applying gentle, slow, firm pressure to my head. After what felt like ages, I was starting to worry that he might be picking up negative energy radiating from my head. It was only when he started working on the rest of my body, so that I could relax. I expected to feel a tingling or warm sensation, but that never happened. Instead, my experience of this hands-on approach was soothing, reassuring and relaxing.

Because I don’t have any aches, pains or illnesses at the moment, I obviously couldn’t experience any obvious healing benefits.

Markus said that I was welcome to do whatever I liked: fall asleep, just relax or chat away. I chose the silent, relaxed route. As the time went by, I felt more and more relaxed – more relaxed than I’ve felt in months. Gone were my worries about missing the deadline for my tax return, how my child will memorise the G-major scale in time for her exam, and unpaid parking fines.

I was on the brink of falling asleep several times during the session. This is an achievement for someone who can never sleep when the sun’s up. Dignity and vanity were the only things that stopped me from falling asleep – I don’t particularly like snoring in the company of strangers.

The treatment was so relaxing I was pretty disappointed when the session was over. I was in there for over an hour. I guess even Reiki masters need a break.

Spaced out

Afterwards, I was curious to find out whether Markus picked up something I wasn’t aware of. He explained that he had done a general session as an introduction to reiki, using all the different hand movements, and that his aim wasn’t to heal any particular ailment. And I must say, I was pretty chuffed to find out that I “respond well to energy”. Now that’s a compliment I’ve never received before!

A session can last anything between 45 minutes and two hours, depending on the individual and his/her needs and on how long the Reiki flows. Markus charges R200 per treatment, regardless of the length of the session. The price includes pre- and post-treatment consultations. The number of sessions depends on the needs of the client. One can go for a once-off session purely for fun and relaxation (as I did). If you are seeking treatment for an illness or emotional problem, three to 10 sessions may be needed, depending on the severity of the illness.

Reiki is something I would definitely like to try again because it was so pleasurable. I would also like to try it when I do have a condition that needs treatment. I drove back in a state of bliss and felt slightly spaced out. Not even taxi drivers or car guards could irritate or upset me. I think everyone should treat themselves to such a session at least once a month – if nothing else, it will certainly eradicate road rage!

More about the history of reiki

Markus explains that Reiki (“aura” in Japanese) was founded by Mikao Usui in Japan in the late 19th century. Usui trained many people to become reiki masters, who in turn taught others. There was initial resistance to training people who live outside of Japan, so Reiki is relatively new to the West with the first practitioners being trained in the early 1970s.

“Even in the time of Usui Sensei there were many branches or forms of Reiki being taught and being practised in Japan. The term ‘Reiki’ was used to describe any form of energy healing – pretty much like we use the word these days in the West,” says Markus. “I practise and teach Usui Reiki Ryoho also known as Usui Shiki Reiki Ryoho which translates to ‘Usui’s method or aura (or energy) healing’. Usui Reiki Ryoho is the form of Reiki that was first introduced in the West in the 1970s by Mrs Hawayo Takata. This is what most of the more modern branches or forms are based upon.”