It’s like clearing a clogged drain to let the water flow freely, again.
There are many ways to explain energy healing and energy healers leave no stone unturned to break it down into simple, layman terms. Everything around us comprises energy. What makes this energy move, is governed by emotions and thoughts, says Maria Leonard, who has been an energy healer in Dubai for over a decade.
This energy vibrates at different frequencies, explains Soniyaa Kiran Punjabi from the Dubai Energy Healing Centre, Illuminations. “It is a practice that believes our bodies have a flow of energy, similar to a river. When this energy becomes unblocked or unbalanced, it can lead to physical or emotional issues,” she says.
For Tom Prabhu, a Dubai-based energy healer at Energy Healing Wellness Centre, this practice changed his life. He resorted to it out of desperation as he says, as his second son went through several difficulties such as being unable to speak in his early years. Today, his son, can function like any other child. He emphasises just like the other healers, “It’s a complementary method; we do not interfere with medicines and doctors treatments.”
Energy healers use techniques to help remove these blockages and restore the smooth flow of energy, which helps to promote better health and well-being on the physical, mental, emotional and spiritual level, says Punjabi.
The history and cultural implications of energy healing
Energy healing is not new; it’s travelled far and wide through space and time.
The idea that energy can be used to heal the body, has been part of several cultures during ancient times and is now gaining more prominence. Energy medicine is now a broad umbrella term for many different practices that have emerged after centuries of different practices and beliefs. There are many schools of thought, including Qigong, Reiki and Pranic Healing.
Qigong in China
The phenomenon of energy and healing was first noticed thousands of years ago by Chinese healers who identified 12 major meridians, or pathways of energy, in the body, according to an academic article on the energy healing site, Academy of Intuition and Medicine. These meridians are connected to various limbs and organs together in a rather complex manner.
The belief is that when the energy field is strong and vibrant, the entire organism remains healthy and balanced. When it is weakened or disturbed by any number of factors, the body becomes increasingly subject to weakness, sickness, and eventually death. “Chinese medicine proposes the presence of 72,000 meridians or pathways through which this energy circulates. Modalities such as acupuncture and acupressure are forms of energy healing that follow this principle,” explains Punjabi.
Referred to as Qigong in Chinese, this practice involves using exercises to optimise energy within the body and spirit, with the aim of improving and maintaining health and well-being.
The term ‘qigong’ is a combination of two words: ‘qi’, which means ‘subtle breath’ or ‘vital energy’, and ‘gong’, which translates to ‘skill cultivated through steady practice’.
According to the National Center and for Complementary and Integrative Health, an American academic portal, qigong primarily focuses on body movements, especially movements of the arms and legs. The movements are meant to be relaxing, with breaths being slow, long and deep. Meditative qigong techniques are practised in any posture that can be maintained over time and involve breath and mind exercises, with almost no body movement.
These gentle movements, co-ordinated with breathwork, are believed to warm up the tendons and ligaments, mobilise the joints and promote the circulation of body fluids. The deep breathing is expected to calm the sympathetic nervous system, which is the fight-or-flight mode, as well as the parasympathetic nervous system. Qigong is believed to optimise the flow of energy in the body, and attend to the different conditions in the body.
Reiki in Japan
The word ‘Reiki’ in Japanese itself, means universal life energy.
While the most current form is said to have originated with Buddhist monk Mikao Usui in 1865, it is believed that people have practised Reiki for over 2500 years. It’s a hands-on method, explains Punjabi.
The general term for life energy is ki in Japanese, and Reiki is the highest of the seven energies in the material universe, explains American researcher and Reiki teacher Don Beckett in his book, Reiki: The True Story. It is believed that energy can stagnate in the body, where there has been physical or emotional pain.
These ‘energy blocks’ are removed through Reiki. Here, the healers become a conduit between you and the source of universal energy. And so, the energy is expected to flow from the healers hands to you.
In the pranic method of healing, it is all about utilising the energy around you, or ‘prana’ as it is called in Sanskrit, and healing the afflicted part of you. There’s also focus on the ‘chakras’ which are energy centers in the body. Chakras are responsible for controlling and energising organs and parts of our body. If one chakra is contaminated, the body won’t function properly, according to the beliefs of pranic healing. So the ‘dirty and negative’ energy is cleansed and the ‘chakra’ is sufficiently energised.
Punjabi explains the similar idea behind yoga as well, “Yoga embraces the concept of seven primary energy centers within the body, which are positioned just above the endocrine glands of the physical body,” she says. “Through certain breathing, postures and visualisation one can balance and cleanse the energy and chakra centers,” she adds.
‘Energy healing is a non-invasive approach’
It’s mainly belief and intention, explains Leonard. “You do not require a practical mindset for energy healing,” she explains. You just need to believe in your intentions.
Leonard has taken crucial elements from the different schools of thought on energy healing, and crafted her own modality, which involves breathwork. As she explains, when it comes to anxiety, many people don’t logically know why they are stressed out. This focusing on commanding the breathing to shift the energy around in the body, which aims to provide them with more clarity and is expected to restore energy and psychological balance. Here, you inhale and exhale without force.
As many techniques involve acupressure, Leonard explains how this works as well. “The body has many energy lines. When you press down on certain points, you are increasing the vitality of the system. By pressing down with your thumb, this is said to release more energy and spreads it to different parts of the body,” she says.
The whole idea behind energy healing is meant to be non-invasive. “It is guided by the philosophy that we exist across four distinct levels, which are our thoughts, emotions, energy and physical body,” says Punjabi. “Any disruption that occurs at the level of our thoughts and emotions, affects the circulation of energy within our chakras. A blocked chakra or energy pathway can interfere with the hormonal flow in the physical body, which results in conditions like headaches and inflammations,” she says. She gives an example: If you keep on holding to a fearful thought, it can evolve into ongoing worry, which disturbs the energy flow in your body.
“Just as we maintain a daily shower routine to cleanse our physical body, we must also adopt practices that cleanse our energy body,” she explains.
Energy healing is also about understanding why our body is overreacting or attacking us, says Tom Prabhu. It’s about finding the core issues of the problem and making lifestyle changes. “Belief is key to energy healing,” says Prabhu, echoing Leonard’s words. This could be physical or emotional.
Just as we maintain a daily shower routine to cleanse our physical body, we must also adopt practices that cleanse our energy body
The scientific connections between energy and our emotions
As Leonard had said earlier, our energy is governed by thoughts and emotions.
“Recently, quantum physicists, biologists, and medical professionals have begun emphasising the profound influence our thoughts and emotions have on our physical health and overall well-being. Pioneering research is progressively validating the science behind the mind-body connection,” says Punjabi.
There have been ‘brain scans’ and ‘brain mapping’ methods, where people are connected to monitors, to evaluate their brainwaves, says Leonard. If the person is alert, they will have different brainwaves. In short, there is something manipulating the brainwaves. Leonard also suggests American physician David Hawkins “map of consciousness”, which is a scale that charts the energy of different predominant states that he believed corresponded with someone’s level of consciousness.
It was a tool to measure awareness and truthfulness as well in human beings. The map is a logarithmic scale that ranges from 0 to 1000, where each level represents a different state of consciousness. The lower levels are associated with negative emotions such as shame, guilt, fear, anger, and pride. The higher levels are associated with positive emotions such as courage, acceptance, love, joy, and peace.
Stress leads to a high level of cortisol in the body and this adversely affects our body. “Feelings of anxiety and worry trigger the production of toxins that compromise immunity and trigger health problems,” says Punjabi. So, the belief behind energy healing is to cleanse the body of negative emotions, in order for it to function better.
Scientific investigations on the efficacy of energy healing: Does it really work?
Energy affects our emotions. But does it heal the body? The power surrounding the power of energy healing stands contested. There has been much study by the scientific community on the efficacy of energy healing, with mixed results and heated debates.
At the age of nine, American born Emily Rosa decided to evaluate whether or not therapeutic practitioners could really feel their clients energy. She tested 21 participants under blinded conditions, in the sense that none of them knew what was happening and what the outcome was. She published her findings, much later, in the Journal of the American Medical Association, where she mentioned that the practitioners didn’t perform better than random chance. The idea is that in order for Reiki to feel effective, the patient must actually know that they need to feel better.
In 2001, an American systematic review of 23 trials was published, which did not see any concrete conclusions either. German physician Edzard Ernst, who conducted the review on complementary therapies, said that while some of the trials suggested that healing is effective, the evidence was “highly conflicting”. Owing to the methodological shortcomings, he could not draw concrete conclusions.
He said that "as long as it is not used as an alternative to effective therapies, … [energy] healing should be virtually devoid of risks”. On his own website he wrote in 2014 after conducting another study, “Medicine is no popularity contest, and the existing clinical trials have mostly failed to show that these treatments work beyond a sometimes remarkably strong placebo effect. Consequently, several systematic reviews have arrived at conclusions that were far from positive.” Ernst ended with his post saying that the “treatments were entirely implausible” and “not supported by clinical evidence”. In his 2008 book titled Trick of Treatment with Simon Singh, he wrote that the effects rely on a placebo response, and “ at worst”, it provides comfort.
There's still much scepticism surrounding it, but the studies are still ongoing. It needs to be funded more, adds Leonard.