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Shiatsu to Balance Your Internal Fire Energy

by Debbie Heaney(more info)

listed in shiatsu, originally published in issue 199 - October 2012

Is your summer long, happy, days lazing in the sun… or do the stresses of life leave you feeling burnt out?

Think of those summer months… a time when you can raise your face and get that delicious, tingling sensation of the sun dancing over it and warming you to the core. Summer is associated with the Fire energy in Traditional Oriental Medicine, which is epitomized by our vibrancy, sociability and expressiveness. It is not surprising that the Ancient Chinese associated this element with the sound of laughter and the emotion of joy.

Fire energy is expressed in our openness and vibrancy

Fire energy is expressed in our openness and vibrancy

This is the time of year for openness - flowers are in full bloom in the hedgerows, poppies and cornflowers nod in the fields, and the leaves on the trees are out in full as if to soak up every last drop of summer. This is the time of year when we, too, are at our most open and outgoing - spending time outdoors, meeting up with friends and holidays with family - making the most of the long days and warm evenings. It sounds idyllic and infinitely achievable. And yet for many people such an idyll seems always to be out of reach.

As a Shiatsu Therapist, I tend to see clients when their energy is out of balance. An imbalance in Fire energy can manifest as physical pain – particularly in the neck, shoulders, arms and hips - or through other physical associations like weight loss, anaemia, menstrual blood problems (for women), or experiencing low energy levels. Clients often feel too hot or too cold - especially in extremities (hands and feet). An imbalance, however, is often also in evidence at an emotional level. Clients are often harbouring emotional stress or vulnerability which can produce symptoms like restlessness and insomnia, dream-disturbed sleep, nervousness, irritability, or anxiety. In addition a disharmony can show itself in speech problems feelings of detachment or numbness, dizziness or palpitations.

Here are some signs that your Fire element may be out of balance:

  • Do you have times of emotional unease?
  • Are you easily wounded, rejected or offended?
  • Do you laugh frequently at inappropriate times?
  • Do you have a tendency to talk rapidly without taking a breath?
  • Do you feel tense when meeting new people?
  • Do you suffer from sleeplessness or have an overactive mind?
  • Do you have circulatory problems?
  • Do you have a ruddy or flushed complexion?
  • Do you often have cold hands or feet?
  • Do you have digestive problems?

What can Cause Disharmony?

Shiatsu is based on principles of Traditional Oriental Medicine. It thus works with Ki (often more familiar to people by the Chinese spelling  ‘Chi’ or ‘Qi’), the body’s natural energy. Ki flows around the body via meridians, linking vital organs with other parts. Ki can get out of balance for a wide range of reasons, often due to an individual’s ability (or lack of ability) to adapt to changes going on inside or outside the body, and resulting in pain or ailment.

Emotions and lifestyle are significant contributing factors to this. Fire energy is associated with the Heart and Small Intestine meridians of the body, hence the close relationship with the emotions. The Heart, in particular, is seen as being responsible for maintaining a stable emotional core; it provides the seat of conscious and houses our spirit (‘Shen’) - keeping us emotionally balanced so that our body can flourish, and enabling us to have an open, warm and sensible disposition and a sparkle in the eyes. Meanwhile, the Small Intestine acts as a shock absorber. Its principle role is one of assimilation - on a physical level this relates to the assimilation of food into the body, and on a deeper level the assimilation of ideas and emotions. In its role as a ‘shock absorber’ the Small Intestine meridian takes on and processes the unpleasant things that life throws at us to protect the Heart - which is regarded as the most vulnerable organ in the body - from having to deal with too much. Emotional upsets - relationship problems and breakdowns, loss of loved ones, confusion and hurt, along with stress, anxiety and overwork - all require a considerable amount of processing and can upset the balance of our Heart and Small Intestine meridians.

Seeking Harmony through Shiatsu

Shiatsu is a subtle yet powerful and effective healing art originating from Japan. Shiatsu involves working on the whole person, addressing imbalances of the body at physical, psychological, emotional and spiritual levels, unblocking and encouraging the flow of Ki. In a treatment, an initial diagnosis is made to identify the client’s energetic disharmony. Gentle thumb and palm pressure are then applied along the meridians and to specific acupressure points, along with manipulations and stretches. “It is a new name for the oldest form of medicine - healing with hands.”[Lundberg, 1999] The experienced Shiatsu therapist is able to tune in to the flow of their client’s energy and is able to sense how it responds to touch. Just as every person is an individual, every treatment will be different, as it is tailored to the specific needs of the client. So for some, the Heart or Small Intestine meridian will need to be calmed (sedated), whilst in others it will need to be boosted (tonified); this will be done bearing in mind the client’s specific set of circumstances. Factors like the location of aches and pains, other medical conditions or ailments, lifestyle and current situation, stress levels or emotional state are all part of the client’s make up and are all taken into consideration in determining how to give a treatment that will help them to feel relaxed and revitalized, and to regain a sense of calmness and connectedness.

Along with an energetic diagnosis and treatment, the Shiatsu therapist will often advise the client on lifestyle adjustments that will help to address the root causes of an imbalance. It is this holistic approach working at multiple levels and seeking out underlying causes rather than just treating the symptoms, that makes Shiatsu such an effective treatment.

Going with the Energy of Summer

Everyone can take responsibility for maintaining their own well-being. We can help to keep our Fire energy in balance by focusing on being grounded and emotionally stable, so that these extremes do not occur. Looking at how nature is balanced and adjusts with the changes from season to season provides us with a good indication of how to maintain a balance within ourselves. The key function of the Heart and Small Intestine meridians of the Fire element is to maintain a stable emotional centre. This stability enables us to be warm and open, to experience and express happiness, and to deal with life’s knocks whilst maintaining a zest for life.

Whilst there is a greater tendency for our Fire energy to get out of balance in summer, disharmony can occur at any time of year. It is important to go with the energy of the summer - to make the most of the warm weather, enjoying time with family and friends, we also need to make time for quietness and contemplation in order to maintain a sense of perspective and sense of balance with the intensity of living in the moment.

Top Tips for Balancing your Fire Element

Fire creates light, revealing the darker edges of our lives and bringing everything into bright relief. It is an intense experience, heightening our sense of being alive and more aware of every thought, emotion and sensation. It is easy to either get carried away by this, or conversely to shy away from its intensity. There are practical things you can do to help keep your Fire energy in balance:

  • Make time to reflect on your emotions and note the quality of them;
  • Slow down and try to spend a bit of time everyday on living in the moment - not worrying about what’s gone before or what is to come… but concentrating on the here and now. Take time to notice what is around you, breathe deeply and just be;
  • If you have a tendency to withdraw from company, make an effort to arrange something social;
  • If you tend to take on too much, try saying ‘no’ to some invitations;
  • Give yourself permission to spend time doing nothing - sit quietly in the garden with a book or go for a stroll;
  • Meditation makes a lovely antidote to our busy lives. Spend ten minutes every day to just sit and breathe;
  • Practise Tai Chi, Qi Gong or Yoga - any form of exercise that helps you to relax, get grounded and clear the business from your head;
  • Book a Shiatsu massage to help rebalance your energy.

This is the time of year of openness - flowers are blooming and trees are in full leaf; and we, too, are at our most open and outgoing - making the most of the long days and warm evenings. Cherish this season. It is the time of year when we build up our reserves for the autumn and winter to come.


Beresford-Cooke Carola. Shiatsu Theory and Practice: a comprehensive text for the student and professional. Churchill Livingstone. Edinburgh. ISBN 978 070202 963 9. 2011.

Lundberg Paul. The Book of Shiatsu. Gaia. London. ISBN 1 85675 195 3. 1999.

Reichstein Gail. Wood Becomes Water: Chinese Medicine in Everyday Life. Kodansha. New York. ISBN: 978 1 56836 209 0. 1998.

Woodd S and Hanson J. Energy in Season: Five Keys to Vitality. Lotus Publishing. Chichester. ISBN 978 1 905367 20 7. 2011.


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About Debbie Heaney

Debbie Heaney MRSS graduated from the Shiatsu College, Brighton in 2010, and has completed a post-graduate year to become a member of the Register of Professional Practitioners of the Shiatsu Society. She has set up her own practice in Godalming, Surrey where she is based at Luck’s Yard Health Clinic in Milford. In 2012 she was a founding partner of Godalming Back Rub. She is also a qualified Tai Chi and Qi Gong instructor, and runs several weekly classes in and around Godalming. For more information about Debbie and what she can offer go to

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