Breath is such an important force on our healing journey that it deserves another blog entry. Whoever has taken a Jin Shin Jyustu class will be familiar with the mantra of the Jin Shin Jyutsu breathing cycle: “Exhale down the front of the body. Inhale up the back of the body.” This means that with every exhalation we can feel breath flowing down the front of our body, from the top of our head all the way down to the toes, where it turns and becomes inhalation traveling up the back of our body from the heels through the back and all the way up to the top of our head. Descending and ascending energy play an important role in Jin Shin Jyutsu. They give the Safety Energy Locks an inhaling or exhaling quality depending on whether they are located on the front or the back of the body. Accordingly, any given Jin Shin Jyutsu Flow will have a specific effect depending on whether it is ascending or descending.
For years, I took this mantra for granted although it always seemed a bit odd to me to inhale up the back of the body and exhale down the front. It somehow felt counterintuitive. This said, I thought that the directionality of breathing might hold a special secret (as does everything in Jin Shin Jyutsu). Therefore, I decided to experiment in very stressful situations (when I wasn’t even strong enough or able to apply finger holds or self-help flows) with consciously redirecting my breath, focusing on inhaling up the back of my body and exhaling down the front. I say “redirecting” because I noticed that in stressful situations I felt myself doing the exact opposite: I inhaled up the front of my body and exhaled down the back. To my surprise, each time I consciously worked on redirecting the flow of my breath, I felt a dramatic effect. First, I thought it was a fluke. Which is why I kept testing this simple breath-awareness-flow again and again in the most stressful situations, finding it extremely calming and grounding each time.
After experiencing the benefits of the “inhaling up the back, exhaling down the front” mantra for many years, I only recently had a moment of a deeper revelation still. I was struck by the profound wisdom and power of healing harbored in the Jin Shin Jyutsu cycle of breath. Indeed, we tend to inhale up the front of the body instead of the back, because as human beings we tend to “look” into the future (given that our eyes only look towards what is in front of us and not usually at what is behind of us). As future-oriented beings, we often hold our breath since we are afraid of what lies ahead of us. We take a deep inhale (up the front) and …wait for the next shoe to drop. Exhaling down the front as recommended in Jin Shin Jyutsu, is a constant reminder of living in the present. Exhaling down the front, we clear the path into the future, we leave the future open for whatever it holds, we let go of expectations.
Now let us look at the “inhaling up the back of the body” aspect. Usually, we tend to exhale down the back of the body. By doing so, we constantly emit energy towards all that was, our past. Now, by redirecting our breath, we center ourselves in the here and now. Conversely, inhaling “up the back of our body,” we clear out the past, and reboot ourselves with new energy and oxygen. Inhaling up the back allows us to put a period between the “us” at this moment and thoughts and emotions that we engaged in before. Every inhalation “up the back” will help us let memories be memories and begin a new cycle, open to the present without fear.
This is a good example of how the body takes the lead in Jin Shin Jyutsu, guiding us to a higher plane of understanding and spiritual wisdom – consciously, and even unconsciously.
In several of my Jin Shin Jyutsu classes I was told that Mary Burmeister (who brought Jin Shin Jyutsu to the US from Japan) liked to say: “Give me breath, and it will heal anything.” This notion touched me deeply and stayed with me as I realized, more and more over the years, that breath really was the common denominator of all of the healing modalities I had tried out thus far. Whether there’s a conscious emphasis on deep breathing, as in many schools of meditation and yoga, or whether changes in breathing patterns are an unconscious byproduct of complementary treatments such as acupuncture or massage – it all comes down to breath being the most essential secret force of healing, a force often underutilized in our daily lives. But how to access this healer of all healers?
The longer I practiced Jin Shin Jyutsu self-help, the more it became clear to me that the Breath Mary spoke of, the “Breath that can heal anything,” was quite different from the regular breath I knew and was aware of whenever I happened to be focusing on my breathing. I realized that things shifted dramatically in my body and my emotional state whenever “I” was able to step aside and see my attention dissolve into the breathing activity itself without being engaged in thoughts or emotions. I had to allow myself to “be breathed” by life instead of being the “breather.” When I compared this experience with my experiences of entering deeper layers of breathing during Vipassana meditation, I realized that Jin Shin Jyutsu hand placements immensely facilitated my immersion in the Breath and made it much easier for me to delve into a deeper layer of breathing in a shorter amount of time.
In other words: whenever I practiced Jin Shin Jyutsu, either by holding fingers or by applying self-help flows, it was the body itself that facilitated a shift such that I could let go and immerse myself in this deeper, or shall I say, cellular breath. It was exactly this form of Breath that most effectively dissolved accumulations in my body and shifted my state of mind in the most dramatic way. I have noticed that whenever I accessed this kind of cellular breath my breathing changes in a way I had never experienced before. This adventurous new experience of a very different kind of breath flowing through my body made it very clear to me that there were many different stratospheres of breath – our most mysterious life force – and that there was still much to discover about its healing power for me … and maybe for all of us.
“If you are looking for a helping hand, why don’t you start looking at the end of your own arm?” –Mary Burmeister
Practicing the Art of Self-Healing – Jin Shin Jyutsu begins from understanding the power and magic of our own hands. As obvious as this may sound, and despite the fact that we all know how powerful compassionate touch can be when we are hurting, most of us will still doubt that holding our fingers or placing our hands on the body can be an effective way to treat or alleviate ‘dis-ease’. Can we help ourselves and others through the mere touch of our hands? The answer is yes. Those of us who practice Jin Shin Jyutsu have witnessed countless instances of the power and effectiveness of this innate, ever-accessible, and free ‘medicine’ (no side-effects, guaranteed!): the touch of our own hands. Maybe there is some truth to the notion that what we are most afraid of are our own innate powers. For why else would we come to neglect and distance ourselves from this harmonizing and healing art that is always ‘at hand’?
What is Jin Shin Jyutsu, and how does it work?
The name 'Jin Shin Jyutsu’ comes from the Japanese, and it literally means “the Art of the Creator through Compassionate Man.” Jin Shin Jyutsu® is a traditional Japanese healing art that harmonizes life energy, a ‘physio-philosophy’ that not only alleviates ‘dis-ease’ but guides us to the place where I “now know myself.”
Rediscovered in the early 20th century by Jiro Murai (1886-1960), who cured himself of terminal illness by practicing traditional Japanese hand postures known for their healing power (the so-called ‘Inju’s’), Jin Shin Jyutsu was brought to the West by Jiro Murai’s devoted student Mary Burmeister. Thanks to Jiro Murai’s and Mary Burmeister’s lifelong study and practice of Jin Shin Jyutsu, and thanks to the devotion of the many JSJ-students as well as all JSJ, Inc.-authorized instructors, this art of healing through the innate curative power of our own hands has been passed down through several generations, helping thousands of people in the US and all around the world to heal themselves.
How to practice Jin Shin Jyutsu?
Jin Shin Jyutsu can be easily practiced by placing our hands on specific points on the body – the so-called ‘Safety Energy Locks’ – which sets the healing flow of energy in motion. This creates harmony and supports inner balance in body, mind and spirit. This choreography of touch, as well as the holding of individual fingers, dissolves physical, emotional and spiritual blockages and opens up energy paths, thus restoring our overall harmony and health. Our hands ‘jumper cable’ our life energy, as it were, thereby recharging our ‘battery’ and, consequently, the whole person.
Most recently, Waltraud Riegger-Krause, a long-time student of Mary Burmeister and authorized instructor of Jin Shin Jyutsu has created an easy-to-read-and-use book-and-card-set that allows us to quickly find the appropriate self-treatment (a symptoms index is provided as well) and, thereby, to immediately benefit from Jin Shin Jyutsu’s therapeutic powers, while also gaining an in-depth understanding of its profound wisdom. This book-and-card-set is nothing less than a veritable Jin Shin Jyutsu First Aid Kit together with a thorough presentation of this healing art all in one. As Jed Schwartz, a fellow instructor at JSJ, Inc., so poignantly puts it: HEALTH IS in YOUR HANDS: Jin Shin Jyutsu® – Practicing the Art of Self-Healing is a “must for anyone wanting to learn how to help themselves and those around them, for anyone seeking personal empowerment in their own health.”
I am a Jin Shin Jyutsu practitioner and self-help teacher. I am passionate about sharing the gift of Jin Shin Jyutsu with anybody looking for self-empowerment in their own health and wellness. Guest bloggers from the Jin Shin Jyutsu community who are eager to share their knowledge are always welcome.