In learning the 5-elements, massage therapists have a wonderful opportunity to recognize signs and symptoms that an element is out of balance, and use a combination of massage techniques, acupressure, and energy work to assist re-balancing this element – all during a 1 hour massage.
Let’s look at the Water Element being out of balance and some things we might see in clinical experience.
Physically we may see:
Low back pain, knee pain, broken – brittle or weak bones like osteoporosis, or the person appears much older than their stated age.
There might be dark circles under the eyes or hair that is thinning.
They may use language that refers to feeling drained, exhausted, or overwhelmed – my energy level feels so low compared to what it used to be.
The person might feel cold and ask for a space heater or extra blanket.
Symptoms might include anxiety, any chronic illness that has been present for more than 1 year, cloudy or foggy thinking, some forms of infertility, hormone imbalances, feeling a lack or loss of purpose in life. There can be any physical issues with the fluids of the body – lymph, too much fluid like edema or too little showing as dryness, blood – which is about 83% water, saliva, tears, and urine. There can also be any physical issues with the organs of the Kidneys or Bladder.
Using the actual words “in fear of”, “scared of or scared to”, “I’m afraid that…”, “I can’t do that”, “I would, BUT” and other things on this line. It’s very interesting how our language and the words we spontaneously choose pick up our energetic health.
There can be various forms of subtle fear, such as: no self-confidence, staying in an unhealthy job or relationship, not following dreams or passions, an unusual fear of death – for the self or others.
Mentally a person might say they feel a lack of creativity such as writer’s block, an artist that can’t come up with an idea, or someone who doesn’t see any options to a situation. Or there can be a lack of motivation to do things or complete projects that are started, leaving a pile of unfinished business.
These are some of the basic and common things a massage therapist would likely come across. And luckily, a massage that addresses the Water Element can have
immediate benefit for some of these things. Regular massage that continues to work with the Water Element can even have very deep and long lasting effects.
In modifying a massage to address an Element there are 3 main things to consider:
First – What specific techniques can be used?
Second – What meridians and acupoints can be stimulated?
Third – What can I bring into my own energy field to change the current vibration into a vibration that will carry a healing tone for this person?
This is a fascinating aspect of bodywork. Our science can show that during a healing session, the heart waves of the healer – massage therapist in this case – can be found in the recipient for a period of time after the healing session has ended. This is profound information. For more on this topic you can look into the HeartMath Institute which puts out incredible research in this area.
To answer #1, What specific techniques can be used?
Two ideas I would consider are that water likes flow and fluidity. We can make our massage strokes very graceful and flowing. Next, round rubbing the lower back through the sheet, to warm that area which brings Qi and Blood to nourish the kidneys right where they are located. An advanced Oriental medicine therapist may choose to do some Moxa if appropriate, or use an essential oil blend that addresses the specific symptoms.
A few of my favorite basic essential oils for the Water Element are Ginger, Fennel, and Juniper Berry – then Frankincense if anxiety is a symptom.
To answer #2: What meridians and acupoints can be stimulated?
On the front of the body we can very easily stimulate the Kidney meridian in the lower legs during effleurage strokes. We can choose several strong acupoints to stimulate, such as Kidney 1 , Yong Quan and KI-3 Tai Xi.
On the back of the body, we can stimulate the Bladder meridian in both the back and legs, and use the Kidney Shu points.
To answer #3: What can I bring into my own energy field to change the current vibration into a healing tone for this person?
For this, we need to look at the emotion of fear and how to embody the opposite of this. Can we imagine someone we would call fearless? What kind of characteristics does this person have?
They stand strong and tall, look you in the eye and smile, there’s a deep sense of confidence, they know that no matter what the situation they will act to do something – even if they don’t know exactly what that something is – they are creative and have a million options, they are at ease with life and allow life to have a spontaneous flow, they feel ALIVE – like they’re in the Zone.
This aspect can take some practice – which is where meditation, QiGong, and Medical QiGong practices can really help a lot. But we can still start somewhere, such as internally saying a mantra like “I am strong” “I am confident” “I have so much flow in my life”….. and then feel these things as we say them.
You might find that if you really get into a kind of groove while thinking these and doing the massage at the same time, you experience an energetic connection and strength that is powerful and healing.
I hope this generates some curiosity, and opens new possibilities for you. We teach this style in our classes at Alaska Institute of Oriental Medicine, Acupuncture & Massage Therapy.