Valentines Day is looming – it is the season when worried looking men wander the streets clutching over-blown bouquets and schmaltzy greeting cards. The ostentatious show of romance can be hard to stomach if you are lonely and down at heart or if your relationship is far from the Disney ideal. The writer Oscar Wilde said the heart was made to be broken. Sadly, it is true that many of us carry emotional wounds. Shiatsu, which shares the same theoretical framework as acupuncture and Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), has a wonderfully practical approach to heartache. But first we need to identify when the heart is out of kilter – it is not always obvious. Hurt can be buried so deep we do not even realise we feel bad, we only sense something is wrong. The following mental, physical and emotional symptoms, indicate a heart imbalance.
- Joylessness – Joy is the dominant emotion of the heart. When out of balance we can feel listless, restless, sad, jumpy and worried. These emotions deplete our energy or Qi. Excess joy, such as the manic highs of bi-polar disorder, also suggest a heart imbalance
- Memory loss, insomnia, dream disturbed sleep. The heart is home to the mind and consciousness or Shen, according to TCM. When the heart is out of balance the mind can scatter, making it difficult to focus or recall information. Peaceful sleep can also be disrupted.
- Speech problems – excessive talking, stammering, being unable to talk. When the heart is disturbed it cannot express its truth through speech.
- Choking, feeling something stuck in the throat, pulling sensation on the tongue. A heart imbalance can cause physical tightness and stiffness around chest and throat, which creates the feeling of an obstruction. There is a sense that something cannot be swallowed.
- Palpitations, shortness of breath, panic attacks – are heart related symptoms often caused by anxiety rather than the objective heart rate.
Shiatsu techniques when the Heart is out of kilter
- Set the scene with a soothing environment. It is important to make a person feel relaxed and supported in the treatment – before doing further work. Everyone has different needs. I always check if temperature, light, pressure is ok and have cushions, blankets, essential oils, music on hand to adapt the environment.
- Send energy and awareness down the body. When the heart is out of balance a person often becomes top heavy – with focus and tension in chest and shoulders. The first thing I usually do in a treatment is to bring their awareness to the lower body, perhaps holding the feet or giving firm pressure on the legs. For example, working Stomach 36, below the knee, can be an effective way to dissipate tension in the chest, while supporting and strengthening their foundations.
- Working on and around the heart. Heartache is not an abstract idea, it usually comes with physical sensations such as tightness in the chest. It is good to work on the on the breastbone itself, where there are powerful acupressure points such as Conception Vessel 17, also called the Sea of Tranquility because it calms the emotions. Encourage the client to do this for themselves at home.
- Work the arms to release tension in the chest. Heart Protector 6, above the wrist crease, is good for this. Think of the arms as draining tightness and tension away from the heart. Points around the elbow, Lung 7 near the wrist, and stimulating the finger tips can also energy in the chest and get things moving.
- Backache Heartache often causes aching between the shoulder blades where Heart and Heart protector points are located. It is common for there to be collapsed chest and shoulders. This puts pressure on the vertebrae and muscles so it feels good to reinvigorate the spine around this area.
- Stretch the heart by opening the chest – it can be great to raise the arms above the head while lying in supine – and encourage your client to do the same at at home.
- Stimulate the breath. Heartache is often accompanied by shallow breath which sends stress messages to the nervous system. It is useful to work the lung and kidney points in the chest, along the collar bone to help inspiration. Or simply hold the abdominal area – Hara – for a few minutes while concentrating on your own breath. With one hand under the back and the other on the belly, the breath will soon flow more smoothly and deeply.
Shiatsu is not a miracle cure – but these simple techniques can have a profound effect. They gently awaken people to what is going on in their heart, mind and body.