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Does energy healing really work? The Daily News puts four methods to the test 

Reiki master Gianantonio Corna told the News he can’t even remember the last time he got sick, which he thinks is due to the healing practice. (JUPITERIMAGES/WWW.JUPITERIMAGES.COM)
Friday, July 18, 2014, 2:59 PM

Can a slight touch, a firm touch or even no touch really heal what's ailing you?

Energy healing — tapping into the body's own frequencies as a type of alternative medicine — is being taken seriously by health practitioners trained in both eastern and western modalities of medicine.

And science is backing up its powers: One 2013 study found that 10 minutes of energy healing was as effective as physical therapy in improving the range of motion in people with mobility problems. UCLA even has en electromyography (EMG) lab that studies electrical activity in the body.

But many remain skeptical. Dr. Edzard Ernst, a professor of Complementary Medicine at the University of Exeter in England (the first-ever professor of this branch of study), has repeatedly refuted the efficacy of energy healing, stating once that just five percent of alternative medicine has evidentiary support.

I put four energy-based alternative healing practices to the test to find out if any of them are worthwhile complements to Western medicine. But first a disclaimer. While I don't have any major medical issues that required serious healing, I did try these to get a feel for what each procedure is like.


What it is: A practitioner places his palms lightly on or over various parts of the body in an effort to redistribute energy.

What the expert says: "Reiki is a self-healing technique, a profound meditation technique that you can learn," said Gianantonio Corna, a third-generation energy healer and the owner of Reiki Vitae in SoHo. "I don't even remember the last time I got sick." He recommends at least three sessions to really feel its effects on both physical and emotional levels. So with Reiki, he argues, those stress-related conditions you're fighting can start to subside. He compares it to a GPS for your body, "going around the different energy channels that we have and detecting where the traffic is not good, and giving the information on that spot that (leads) to rebalance."

My verdict: I lay flat on the back in a dark room, while soothing music played in the background. Gianantonio did not touch me once, just hovered his hands over my body. It was slightly awkward, but I reminded myself that Corna does this every day and it doesn't faze him.

Corna told me to expect various memories to pop up in my mind during our 90-minute introductory session. He was right — random slices of life crept back into my conscious during our time together. Corna explained that that is the Reiki energy's way of storing those memories on our human "iCloud," so that they don't take up space on our hard drive anymore. The memories aren't being erased, but rather moved so that we can let go of old patterns and make room for positive encounters.

[MR & PR]

Contrary to popular belief, reflexology is not just done on the feet.


After the treatment, I felt relaxed. After all, I was just lying down for an extended period of time! And Corna was spot-on in his diagnosis of an area of myself I wanted to work on, even giving me practical advice for self-improvement. It was pretty incredible he knew so much about me without me giving him any details!


What it is: Not just confined to the feet, reflexology stimulates specific pressure points on the feet, hands, face and ears to affect various organs, glands and parts of the body. Each reflexology pressure point is said to correspond to, and connect with, a different body part. Whereas a massage uses big, broad strokes, reflexology is just the fingers and thumbs pressing on reflex pressure points.

What the expert says: "Reflexology is a science and an art," said Laura Norman, a certified reflexologist and author who also teaches classes on the subject in Midtown, the Berkshires and South Florida. The feet are the most popular not only because they are "the most neglected and abused," parts of our body, but also because they are the furthest from the heart and contain almost 15,000 nerves. Because of gravity, toxins tend to settle in the feet, which can affect our health.

When reflexologists work on the feet, they're "balancing energy flow, calming the nervous system, improving circulation, and assisting the body to eliminate toxins while helping a variety of health conditions," Norman said.

My verdict: Whether it was the early morning appointment or Norman's magic fingers, or both, I easily drifted in and out of sleep on Norman's table. Some of Norman's clients have told her that reflexology is more relaxing than massages they've had, and I'd have to agree — peeling myself off the table when it was time to go was torture. My tired soles were feeling lighter by day's end, and I noticed a slight change in my sinuses later in the night. Did I feel like all of my problems were solved in the hour? No, but I was able to melt into the treatment and experience a new type of relaxation. It was my favorite of all the treatments (if you really want to know).


What it is: Gentle self-taps on various acupressure points in the body (under the eye, the collarbone) to signal to the brain that it's OK to calm down. Also known as Emotional Freedom Technique.

What the expert says: "When we feel stressed, it's not a sensation we just experience in our head — we feel it in our entire body," said Jessica Ortner, author of "The Tapping Solution for Weight Loss and Body Confidence."

"By stimulating these acupressure points while focusing on the thought that is causing the stress, your body is communicating to your brain that it's safe to relax," she said. Ortner swears the practice is effective for everything from back pain to weight trouble. She cited one study in her book that found 89 women lost an average of 16 pounds over eight weeks without diet and exercise — just by adding two hours of tapping a week, which averages to 15 minutes a day.

My experience: Having just started my job at the News, and adjusting to leaning on my phone's headset for much of the day (a big no-no...I'm aware!) I told Ortner I was feeling some tension on my left side.

Ortner guided me as I very gently tapped nine pressure points on my body six times, while using affirming self-talk. After initially tapping on the side of my hand, I moved up to the eyebrow, side of the eye, under the eye, under the nose, on the chin, on the collarbone, under the arm and the top of the head. Afterwards, I did notice the pain had subsided.

The great thing about this treatment is that you don't need a practitioner's help once you have it down. I have since used tapping when I've found myself in stressful circumstances, and I especially love tapping the underneath my eye — I find it instantly relaxes me.

Reconnective healing

What it is: A practitioner moves his hands above the client's body in a way that opens up the body to different types of frequencies. From there, the intelligence of the body is supposed to intercede — without the practitioner manipulating or touching the body. For example, someone coming in with a knee problem might not realize that the body's intelligence might need to fix something else in the body or mind, which is only presenting itself with a knee issue. It's a quick practice, with three sessions being the maximum recommended.

What the expert says: The practice allows us to "step into our limitless potential," said Dr. Eric Pearl, the movement's founder and the author of "The Reconnection: Heal Yourself, Heal Others." "People come in to have the experience of more fully embodying and embracing their lives." Pearl explained that we need to let go of our belief that the body heals solely through chemicals produced by within the body, and instead embrace the idea that the body can heal through frequency, vibration, resonance, informational exchange and light. "If you're lucky, your healing will come in the form your desires, but if you're truly fortunate, your healing will come in the form that you've not dreamed of, one that the universe has in mind specifically for you," Pearl said.

My experience: I had one of Pearl's associates lead our session. He had me lay face-up and flat on the table and close my eyes.

He waved his arms over me in all sorts of rhythmic patterns and, wow, I felt a tingling, pins-and-needles sensation in my body almost immediately. My ears almost felt like they were filling up with water as well.

The pins and needles came and went for the half hour I was on the table, as did a soft whirring sound in the room. It was the most visceral treatment I had, and put me into a trance-like state. I felt uneasy being a bit "out of control."

[Dr. Eric Pearl, center, teaches people how to do reconnective healing.]

Dr. Eric Pearl, center, teaches people how to do reconnective healing.


Afterwards, I woke up curious about what I had experienced, but Kelly's prompt questions made me feel like the sensations I experienced were normal and to be expected. I can't speak on it healing any condition I have, but I can see how people believe in this practice's capabilities.

What the doctors think

Physicians specializing in both eastern and western medicine both affirmed the power of these healing modalities. Deepak Chopra, a holistic physician who also subscribes to Western teachings, said that science is starting to understand how energy healing works.

"It triggers your own healing system, which is called homeostatis," he said. Homeostatis is what tells your body to create an antibody when you have an infection, or a clot when you fall so that you don't bleed to death.

Dr. Mark Melrose, an emergency medicine physician at Urgent Care Manhattan, said that there's "infinitely more that we don't understand," about medicine, and that alternative therapies such as energy healing could certainly benefit patients, provided that they do no harm and also are complements to traditional treatments.

"If it makes you feel better, then it's probably helping," he said.

The bottom line

If anything, these practices can help with stress reduction, which is linked to an improvement of many health conditions, like heart disease and hypertension. But with so many people extolling the benefits of these techniques, I'm likely to think that there is some unexplainable magic to them. I wouldn't use them as my only method of treating a disease, but I can see how they complement other therapies.

Nuerobiology of healing

The neurobiology of energy healing...a hands on approach. Have you ever considered why we use our hands for healing? After all it's not called "hands on healing" for nothing. Why do some practitioners and techniques insist on receiving with the left and giving with the right? How is it that we can feel a persons energy field through our hands? It turns out there are some very good reasons.

Left Brain, Right Brain.

Let’s look at the concept of the Masculine and Feminine principles which really is about the right and left hemispheres of the brain. Common thinking within metaphysics suggests that the masculine principle is active impulses and the feminine principle is receptive impulses. One generalisation suggests that the left side of the body represents the feminine, while the right side represents the masculine. The 20th century brain theory is called “selective lateralisation of hemispheres,” which is a fancy medical way of describing the way that different functions appear to be assigned, or delegated, to different hemispheres of the brain. And this is commonly called the “right-left brain theory.” The popular conception of this theory is that the right side of the brain is the creative and artistic side, and the left side is supposed to be the logical and linear functioning side. But how can we justify this thinking when it's possible to remove whole sections of the brain to treat violent seizures and convulsions. Patients undergoing this procedure don't lose all logic and linear thinking, they don't become insane or disoriented, or have any problems conceiving time. Of course it does depend on the area of the brain that is affected. For example, the parietal area is concerned with activities. If you take the frontal area, it is concerned with your personality, and if you take the occipital area, it is concerned with your vision. So you can lose something. Damage to the left side of the brain can affect the right side of the body and vice versa. In neurobiology, this idea about the creative/artistic and logical/linear being on different sides of the brain is not absolute. It’s a little bit different from that. What we do know for certain is that the right brain is actually related to the perception of space, language skills, hearing, and speech.

We know that the right brain is connected to motor functions in the left side of the body. Now the left brain, we do know is related to perception of time, and also affects conceptual and comprehension skills, and is connected to the right side of the body. That’s what we do know. However, the skills and functions of the brain are mostly shared between the hemispheres. So there is some concentration of some skills, a little more on the left or on the right, but they’re not absolute. The functions are shared between the hemispheres. Since there’s a connection between the right brain and left body, and the left brain and right body, the energy from the brain can be transmitted outwards through the neurological system, because all of the neurological system is connected to the brain. Since the left side of the brain has a higher concentration of the active functions, the traditional view when people want to project energy with their hands, is to use their right hand. This is because the corresponding left side of the brain has more control over activity...doing something or moving energies. So by using the right hand to project energy, the energy is flowing in the right direction along the right pathways through the neurological system, and so the energy actually comes out through the nerves of the hand, and usually out of the palm of the hand. The right side of the brain tends to be more receptive than active and so the left hand is often denoted as the receiver of energy, or for reading energy. My wife Chris is a typical example of this...only ever using her left hand to “feel” the energy of a client. Anatomy lesson. There are some sound anatomical reasons to support this concept of giving with the right and receiving with the left. Half of your hand is connected to the ulnar nerve, and the other half of the hand is connected to the median nerve. These nerves control the fingers and small muscle movements. The ulnar nerve travels along the inside of the arm, and the median nerve travels upwards through the centre of the arm. The median nerve controls half of the hand, both front and back, the half with the thumb on it. That’s the median side of the hand. The ulnar nerve controls both the front and back of the other half of the hand, that’s the ulnar side. The whole hand is also affected by the radial nerve, which travels along the back of the arm and back of the forearm. To see how this is significant to your energy systems, we need to look at the chart of the nervous system and spinal column on the following page. The medians nerve and ulnar nerves travel from the hand, upwards through the arm towards the spinal column, and enters the spinal column at the T-1, C-8, C-7, C-6, and C-5 vertebrae. This is towards the top of the spinal column in the neck area. The radial nerves are connected even higher on the spinal column, at the C-4 and C-3 vertebrae, which is right near the base of the brain stem.

When you are higher up on the spinal column, near the base of the brain stem, there is more energy information exchange with the brain. In other words, the brain sends more mental energy through those nerves, partly through direct transmission of nerve impulses, and partly through subtle magnetic induction. Magnetic induction happens mostly with the nerves closest to where the brain is, which are the nerves on the top of the spinal column. The brain acts like a large antenna transmitting electrical energy affecting the nerves at the top of the spinal column. This will be covered in more detail shortly. Now let’s consider the significance of the right-left brain theory. All these nerves in the hand are connected to the brain, particularly the hemisphere of the brain which controls motor functions in the side of the body where each hand is located. The nerves in the hand, in particular, are connected to the top of the spinal column, and their connecting vertebrae are physically closest to the brain. What that means is that those nerves carry the most information energy from the brain from the corresponding hemisphere of the brain, all the way down to the hand.

So why is all this significant? What is important in this analysis is the source of the signal. The phenomenon we are analysing is that there is a very strong indication that mental energy is most clearly transmitted through the hands. Proximity to the brain makes a difference in explaining the source of the signal, regardless of how the signal is then carried by the nerves. This makes sense because the brain generates an electrical field containing energy information. All electrical fields radiate outward from the antenna, in this case the brain, and the field strength is inversely proportional to the distance from the antenna. In other words, the closer we are to the brain, the field is stronger, and there is more energy information. The further we are from the brain, the field is weaker, and there is less energy information. Now consider that when a nerve or connecting series of nerves is placed within an electrical field, they will be subject to electromagnetic induction, whereby the energy information in the field will be magnetically induced into the nerve, the same way that an electrical field induces a current in a wire. Therefore, we can reliably conclude that the nerves which will carry the most quantity of energy from the brain’s surrounding energy information field, with the strongest force and clarity, must be the nerves which are physically the closest possible to the brain. Since the nerves which are closer to the brain than any others are the nerves from the hands, it follows that by magnetic induction, the nerves in the hands must carry the most energy information from the brain, and thus the most “mental energy.” There are two senses in the hands, motor senses and tactile senses. The tactile senses are related to touch, heat, cold and pain. The motor senses are activity and movement. So we are not talking about only connections for motor control. There are many nerves in the hand both motor and tactile, which can carry energy information. Also, the hand is the most skilled system of the body, performing highly detailed functions. Neurologically, the nerves in the hand are more precise, more refined. You can say that they are better carriers for complex signals. Better responses can be carried through the nerves of the hand, because of their refinement. So you could argue that the energy from the brain, since it’s connected to all parts of the body equally, would be transmitted along the whole side of the body, but the quality of information would be better in the hand. The energy information from the brain is most easily detected in the hands because of their skill. Considering the fact that the left hemisphere of the brain is connected to the right side of the body, since the hand is the most refined carrier for detailed complex energy information, if we look at the right hand, and read the energy information that’s there, we will get the clearest picture of what energy information is coming from the left side of the brain. But remember the selective lateralisation of hemispheres is not a hard and fast rule. Some people use more skilled functions in their left hand than their right, as in people who write with their left hand. In these people the right cerebrum is more developed. For right handed people, our left cerebrum is more developed. There is a difference between the mass of the cerebrum. But that’s related only to the motor parts of the brain, and not the psychological parts. Confused?? It's like this...writing with your left hand will cause more highly developed motor control areas of the brain, but the parts of that right hemisphere of the brain that are involved with perception of space, language skills, hearing and speech will not be affected. Now here’s the next part. The right side of the brain, which is the more receptive in function, connected to the left hand, is favoured for receiving energy information.

So because the right part of the brain has a higher concentration of receptive functions, the left hand, specifically those nerves in the left hand, can be used as “antennae” to receive energy information. In fact, in medical practice, if you don’t have a thermometer, and you want to test the temperature of a patient, you place your left hand on their body, because it’s more tactile, and more sensitive to detecting the information you need. The left hand is also used for detecting the pulse. So even in conventional medicine, the left hand is used as a sensor to receive information. While that works physically, for reading a person’s temperature, it also works in the subtle world, for using those nerves as antennae to receive electromagnetic subtle energy. According to what we just resolved, this works independent of whether you say you’re left handed or right handed, because that only has to do with your motor skill development, and how you control your muscle groups. But we’re not talking about muscle groups, we’re talking about the nerves as transmitting antennae and receiving antennae. So regardless of which hand is predominant for motor activity, the left hand is still the receiving antenna, and the right hand is still the transmitting antenna. The reason that this is important, is because there are really only two ways we can work with subtle energies as human beings. One is to use alpha state to “tune in” using the pineal body of the brain, and the other way is to “feel” energy with our hands, using the nerves in the hands which are highly refined as antennae. If we want to work with the energy to do healing, we need to project that energy also through the hands, because that’s the best channel for transmitting energy. And that is the same whether you are right or left handed. That is also the difference between diagnosis and treatment. If we want to feel the patient’s energies, and diagnose them, then it's suggested we use the left hand to feel that information. In practice, we may feel that as electrical “tingling” sensations in the nerves of our hand. Then, when we want to give a treatment, to project energy, we use the right hand to project that energy. Some practitioners suggest there is a risk to the healer from using the left hand to receive this information. The issue is, when you put your left hand on or near a person, you are receiving their information energy, and that goes directly to the right hemisphere of your brain. Perhaps it doesn’t go exclusively to the right hemisphere, but mostly to the right part of the brain. So when you are reading information from someone using your left hand, that energy is going into your own energy system. The energy from a person who is not well is “illness energy.” It is energy information, waveforms, frequencies, and pulses that are characterised by illness. When you feel that with your left hand, that can go into your own energy system, and by magnetic induction, or by just direct transmission, can cause illness in your own body. I do not agree with this concept but I guess there is always a possibility. It is therefore suggested by some practitioners to read a persons energies with the right hand. When you put your right hand a few inches away from a persons body, both of the different energy fields are pushing against each other, and there’s an interference pattern. You can’t clearly read the energy directly using your right hand, because the signal is corrupted by your own energies coming out. However, you can learn or train yourself, to feel the interference between the two. So when the two fields interact, you can feel the difference between your energy and theirs.

When you’re learning to feel these subtle energies, it’s like learning a foreign language and building a vocabulary. Then you eventually learn...“when I feel X, it means this,” and “when I feel Y, it means that”...building up a vocabulary. In summary. Anatomically speaking, the left hand is deemed to be the best receiver, and the right hand as the best transmitter of energy for healing purposes. For the purposes of reducing the risk of absorbing negative energies it is suggested by some to do the reverse and learn to interpret appropriately. I don't agree, as some people are vulnerable to other energies no matter what they do. I certainly do recommend that you build a vocabulary to interpret the energies whichever hand you use. And which hand is that? Whichever you are comfortable with...whatever works for you. From my experience there is definitely a connection between the left side, right brain and feminine or emotional aspects of a person. And conversely there is a connection between the right side, left brain and masculine analytical aspects of a person. But as previously described, different sides of the brain are not isolated in their roles so nothing is absolute or set in stone. There are many other aspects to projecting energy and can be done while sitting on your hands, so to speak. The same for receiving energy information from a person. I believe you use your entire body to receive information from another energy field. And anyone can do it. So that's the neurobiology behind hands on's not just a lot of hocus pocus after all, there is a fundamental basis to most techniques. 

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