Energy Work and Massage

A Wise Partnership

By Stephanie Mines

Massage therapy and energy medicine should not be separated, says Niko Burkhardt, co-owner of the former Lotus Blooms Massage Institute in Hawaii. “Historically, they have always belonged together,” she says. In fact, massage and energy medicine are each aspects of the same healing vocation, and together they create internal space. Burkhardt says it’s akin to what motivates people to travel all the way to Hawaii to go to spas: the compelling need to find more space in their lives and in their bodies. “This space is experienced much more readily through the combination of massage and energy medicine.”

Burkhardt’s words ring true. The first massage therapists in ancient Greece, Egypt, Rome, and the Orient knew this and always provided multidimensional, holistic services. They did not restrict themselves to rubbing and stroking. They were employed to regenerate exhausted athletes, politicians, statesmen, even emperors, and were thought of as physicians and not “massage therapists.” They treated the whole person because that is what regeneration requires. They created the original healing retreats and spas, which flourished until the concept of regeneration was degraded by an overemphasis on the sensual, and demoted by technology and pharmaceuticals. Now the authentic purpose of massage and its traditional kinship with energy medicine is being restored.

This healing arts family reunion is motivated by the worldwide craving for relief from the shocking stresses of modern life. Mechanization, pollution, and depersonalization erode innate healing and immune responses. Some therapists understand that these responses become dormant, but that they cannot be extinguished. These are the therapists who instead empower their clients through a combination of massage and energy medicine, both keys to rebalancing the nervous system.

The nature of allostatic load, or debilitating stress, is that it separates us from who we really are. Physical symptoms accompany this lack of congruence, like chronic pain. Adrenal fatigue is also common, with its complex array of symptoms so endemic that many just accept them as part of life—like not wanting to go to work or feeling they never have enough time for themselves. The therapist who can treat the energy body along with the physical body can facilitate the reunification of the self with the spirit and thus offer core regeneration, the ultimate antidote to pain and fatigue.

Ancient Roots

The sanitaria at Epidaurus and elsewhere in Greece (430 BCE) were temple-hospitals where the ill came for treatment with herbs, massage, dietary change, exercise, and sanctified sleep. Resting in the temple, patients entered deep contemplation and received insight, guidance, and omens. This, coupled with their other treatments, led not only to symptomatic relief but also to a fresh perspective on life and deep, lasting renewal. While we have evolved beyond the Greeks in terms of our knowledge of anatomy and other matters, the sanitaria remain models of integrative healing.

The other culture we turn to in the quest to understand true regeneration is the Chinese. Here, too, the fundamental principle was, and is, integrative, with massage being seen as a physician’s art. Tui na, the oldest recorded treatment for trauma, is a medical intervention, employing pulse diagnosis to read causative factors. Tui na incorporates multiple massage techniques applied to meridian pathways, manual manipulation or structural adjustments, and herbology. By treating the meridians, the tui na practitioner attends to the mind-body pathways that harmonize the inseparable components of human life. Patients receiving tui na treatments, like those in the sanitaria of ancient Greece, awaken to their own role in their health. Treatment creates profound change through internal congruence.

We can also cite the Egyptians, the Medieval West, and India in identifying source cultures for the origins of healthcare systems, but the Greeks and the Chinese provide a glimpse at the elements of the past we are now called to bring forward. The key point is to draw on these origins to redefine, expand, and enhance the view of massage in the healing and regenerative process.

There is evidence that a new generation of massage therapists is coming forth that embodies this holistic direction. These are people who resonate with quantum reality, and they integrate this awareness into their life-changing treatments. They know that the dance of transcendence is relational. Transformational therapists need clients ready to transform, and practices focused on regeneration will attract them.

There are more integrative therapies available now then ever before. Massage schools that incorporate comprehensive training, including subtle energy modalities, will surely find themselves flooded with students eager to erase the artificial border between massage, meridian based therapies, and other mind-body designs.

Integrative Therapies that Complement Massage

The following modality families merge readily with massage, and they immediately add dimension and scope. The quality of the therapist’s touch shifts when these modalities are introduced, communicating textural change; the client’s connective tissue listens and responds.

It can be beneficial for the therapist to articulate the intention behind this shift. Each situation creates its own contours and the aware therapist will feel what is appropriate in this regard. By its nature, bodywork is about immersion in sensation, but sensation has great intelligence and can also speak for itself. It is precisely this intelligence that creates a personal paradigm shift. Using multiple modalities is by itself conducive to stimulating somatic intelligence, because the body awakens when exposed to more than one language. This is what underlies and distinguishes integrative bodywork.

Cranial Therapies

All massage educators, I believe, should include a cranial treatment component in their curriculum. We know now that the development of the cranial structures and the brain influences everything in our minds and bodies. How the brain responds to each nuance of experience immediately feeds information to all the muscles, nerves, joints, tendons, and ligaments. When there is fluidity, resilience, elasticity, and spaciousness within the cranial structures, the body is free, open, and supple. 

Because cranial therapies can be manipulative, and especially because their designated purposes are alignment and balancing of craniosacral fluid, they may not be officially categorized as energy medicine. They do, however, have a significant subtle application and require highly refined touch, thus they are included here. William Sutherland, DO, articulated this bridge between the physical and the subtle that is the essence of cranial treatment: “Within the cerebrospinal fluid there is an invisible element that I refer to as the ‘breath of life.’ It is the fluid within the fluid, something that has potency as the thing which makes it move. It is an intelligent potency, something you can depend on to work for you.”

Approaches to cranial treatment proliferate, and therapists will do well to avail themselves of this abundance and choose the forms of treatment that suit them.


Meridian-Based Therapies

This genre applies to all therapies that focus on the mind-body pathways called the meridians. The meridians were described 15,000 years ago in Chinese medicine. There are 12 ordinary meridians and eight extraordinary meridians. When points or areas on these meridians are touched gently or with prescribed pressure, stroked, or stimulated with rolling or vibrating touch, signals are sent via connective tissue to designated mind-body locations. Whole systems, like the organs, and even mental states can be balanced through attention to appropriate meridians. Chronic conditions can be relieved, old patterns of movement can change, the neural net can be mended, and circulation can be invigorated through meridian-based treatment. Some specific meridian-based therapies that are easily adapted into massage are shiatsu, tui na, and Jin Shin Tara. Of these, the most subtle is Jin Shin Tara, because, for the most part, it calls for extraordinary meridian points or areas to be held in polarity and without pressure.

Energy Medicine Practice

Energy medicine practices and meridian-based therapies cross-reference each other. The meridians are mind-body pathways that map bioelectrical circuitry; therefore, any contact with them falls under the rubric of energy medicine. In addition, there are systems like reiki or Healing Touch  that orient more toward whole energy fields like the etheric body or chakras.

The etheric body is described as the body just around the physical body that some claim to see and which is reportedly capable of palpation. The chakras—energy centers portrayed in ayurvedic medicine—are related to and within the etheric body. Reading the meridians, the etheric body and the chakras give important clues to the state of essential vitality and regions of energetic or pranic (life force) obstruction. The capacity to assess the etheric body, the meridians, and/or the chakras allows the practitioner to determine underlying factors and to shape treatment and dialogue specifically to erase limitations to optimum health and well-being. Some therapists can read all of these energy systems and find the congruence between them, adding even greater substance to their assessments.

Massage schools can incorporate these teachings so more therapists learn these systems and include them in their practices. The study of any of them will enhance the power of the therapist’s touch and sensitivity by several orders of magnitude. It will also increase comprehension of the human healing process. The reunion of massage and energy medicines—the blending of the wisdoms of the past with the innovations of the present—and merging them for revolutionary and creative transformation is the direction that is called for at this point in history.

Some energy medicine practices have been tested in clinical trials and most stem from a rich, long history of traditional use. Massage therapists who sincerely wants to incorporate energy medicine thoroughly into their practices should undertake a complete education of their system or systems of choice. These wisdom traditions cannot be learned in a weekend. Shiatsu, tui na, and Jin Shin Tara, for instance, have pulse-listening components. This means that the practitioner learns to read the vitality of the meridians through pulse. This takes time, but provides a substantive diagnostic addition to massage and bodywork.


Practitioners Benefit, Too

According to Burkhardt, incorporating subtle practices into bodywork takes the weight and burden off the therapist: “Joints and muscles are freed from strain. As the therapist is liberated from doing, she becomes a conduit of presence and awareness. I cannot imagine a session in which energy medicine would not be beneficial.”

Cranial treatment, meridian-based therapies, and energy medicines are meditative. They call for concentration, but they do not place heavy demands on the practitioner’s physical structure. In Jin Shin Tara, for instance, it is said that the practitioner receives a treatment while giving one. This is because the nature of the treatment insists that the therapist come out of doing and into being. The more relaxed the therapist, the more benefit to the client.

There are postural requirements for subtle interventions. These tend to ask for an erect, elongated spine and spacious alignment. Cranial therapies are best delivered with the practitioner seated at the client’s head with his or her forearms resting on the table. The hands are placed in designated positions on the cranium. Light touch (usually around the weight of a dime) is often the rule, though some systems include greater or lighter contact. Steadiness and focus still the nervous system as the therapist listens, through his or her hands, to cranial waves. The degrees to which the hands and fingers become deft channels of sensation determine the potency of treatment. Well-boundaried resonance and attunement are much more significant than strength. There is no emphasis on pressure, thereby freeing the practitioner’s joints and ligaments.

The cultivation of these skills activates the therapist’s neo-cortical or higher brain and upper chakra faculties. Thus, practitioners evolve their own consciousness while treating the client. The clarity and intelligence of some of the masters of these subtle protocols is a testament to the enduring and invigorating benefits to the practitioner. Osteopath Edward Stiles, who teaches how to sequence or read the body before and throughout treatment using subtle attuned touch, is entering his 70s. He is buoyant, developing new theories, actively teaching, and attracting more and more students.

Mary Iino Burmeister, master of jin shin and the inspiration for Jin Shin Tara, died last year at the age of 86. She was transmitting her wisdom up until her last breath, despite a serious accident 18 years ago.

It may be a secret to longevity to include the use of interventions that fuel and refuel practitioners while they care for others.

The call for inner strength in terms of vision, detachment, joyful witnessing, and educated perception uplifts the therapist while simultaneously providing the highest level of service to others. Manual skills are a blessing, but perceptual and attunement skills provide precious balance and stand on their own as irreplaceable services.

At whatever your level of expertise, the introduction of energy medicine opens the door to miracles. Michael Moriarity, a student doing his internship at Lotus Blooms Massage Institute, where energy medicine studies were provided and encouraged (the school has since closed), reports this experience:

“In my first student massage, I treated a woman who had been receiving massages several times a week for some time. I found a hard knot on her right gluteus maximus. This was so chronically painful that touching her there was entirely impossible. So I held Jin Shin Tara points on the areas surrounding her discomfort. After a minute or so, I gently checked and found that the knot had softened. The massage continued and concluded. An hour later, the client called on the telephone excitedly declaring that she could stand up straight for the first time in years.”

Awareness is freedom and freedom is the sign of health. We feel free in our minds, our bodies, and our spirits when we realize the interconnectedness that is available to everyone at every moment in our own lives. This is the true purpose of all therapies. “Perhaps of the many ills that have been tossed upon contemporary society, none has been more devastating than the feeling of disconnectedness from spiritual existence,” says physician James Eden.  Massage therapists and bodyworkers can, through the integration of massage and energy medicines, mend that rift. This is a priceless gift we are honored to offer.


  Stephanie Mines, PhD, is the founder and director of the TARA Approach for the Resolution of Shock and Trauma. Her design represents the new paradigm in somatic therapy that combines Eastern meridian-based therapies and Western neuropsychology to bring balance to the nervous system and enhance human potential. The TARA Approach is taught worldwide. For more information, please visit


Author’s Note: The therapies mentioned in this article are not intended to be an exhaustive list of integrative modalities. Likewise, the list of resources on page 43 is only intended to spur further research.



A Victory for Integrative Treatment

Licensed massage therapist Von Kobzev has worked in luxury spas on the exquisite Kohala coast of Hawaii and in private practice for more than 20 years. He learned from witnessing his mentor, the esteemed Aunty Margaret who inspires countless lomilomi therapists, that the spoken word and touch are vehicles through which we communicate intrinsic value, self-worth, and affirmation. 

Kobzev’s description of a session summons the image of the priests at Epidaurus who elicited the deepest truths from their patients through their healing treatments and, perhaps most of all, their presence:

“A very timid older Englishwoman was goaded by her friends to get a massage at the spa where I work. It was a real step out for her to lie under a towel with all her underclothes on. Within a few minutes, she began talking about her husband’s death the year before and that her kids had not cried about it and did not think she should either. I responded that she would have to cry for everyone, and then cry she did. I had to close the outside window and then quietly held her head. Soon I was crying too, and we cried together for another 10 minutes.”

My own experience as a therapist has found similar unfoldings. A young athletic woman came to see me for debilitating nerve pain. She was amazingly strong. She was the kind of person who could not be stopped. No obstacle was insurmountable to her. The condition she endured had become the one challenge she could not overcome. Surprisingly her pulses revealed marked depletion, particularly in the Stomach, Spleen, and Heart Meridians.

Her physical body was perfect. Every muscle was toned. Her skin shone with the luster of years of outdoor exercise. Yet, a nerve impingement restricted her lower spine and hips, and a red, irritating rash around her lower back made her frantic with itching.

Using a combination of Jin Shin Tara and cranial therapy I began to introduce both length and lubrication into her spine. Knowing that the spinal nerves are directly related to the soul’s connection to the body, I posited to myself that perhaps something had interrupted this connection.

I asked about her background and she told me of a wonderful family. When she spoke, however, I noticed a tightening in her voice. I pursued that awareness by simply inquiring further, asking her to tell me more. She continued readily. She told me that despite deep support of their children, her parents had, for virtually her entire childhood, hid a crumbling marriage that was always a distraction for them, making it impossible to ever be truly present. They had divorced recently and the secrets were now being revealed.

My client’s stellar performances in gymnastics and other athletics did not compensate for something she yearned for: recognition for just being who she was. Children innocently and purely recognize truth. This young woman had always tried to give her parents a reason to stay together and jointly acknowledge her existence. As she explored her life, I continued to use energy medicine to decompress her spine and her cranial base. She gave every sign of enjoying the entire process. When we checked after the session, the rash was fading. The following day marked the first 24-hour period she had experienced without pain in years. After multiple sessions, her physician told her she had averted the threat of surgery.

In the retelling, this story may seem less complex than it actually was. In our sessions, my client unraveled the buried details of a life with a family that avoided the truth. The unwinding was simultaneously energetic and physiological and the child inside the adult came out of constriction along with her muscles and nerve impingement. In the end, her spine was free to be fluid, because holding back was no longer her means of support. Specific movement exercises were incorporated to maintain elasticity. The indicators of depletion disappeared from her pulses. This was a victory for integrative treatment.





History of Healing and Integrative Treatment

Church, Dawson, PhD. 2007. The genie in your genes: epigenetic medicine and the new biology of intention. Santa Rosa, California: Elite Books.

Eden, James, MD. 1993. Energetic healing: the merging of ancient and modern medical practices. New York, New York: Plenum Press.


Goldner, Diane. 1999. Infinite grace: where the worlds of science and spiritual healing meet. Charlottesville, Virginia: Hampton Roads Books.


Karagulla, Shafica, MD, and Dora Van Gelder Kunz. 1989. The chakras and the human energy fields. Wheaton, Illinois: Quest Books.


McLaren, Brian D. 2008. Finding our way again: the return of the ancient practices. Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.


Porter, Roy. 1997. The greatest benefit to mankind: a medical history of humanity. New York, New York: Norton.


Institutions Providing Integrative Education
(This list is just a sampling of the options available.)


• Craniosacral therapy—

• Jin Shin Tara is studied through Stephanie Mines’ TARA Approach


• Tui na— To view a video on tui na, go to


• Examples of schools with strong integrative components:


• To learn about Dr. Ed Stiles and his methods of sequencing—
and Massage & Bodywork magazine, August/September 2007 and October/November 2007, “The Dance of Love,” (parts one and two).