An Interview with Judith Mayer about her Seminars on “Using the Five Elements to Restore Health and Inner Balance” (Berlin, August 2015)
How long have you been a shiatsu practitioner, and how long have you been studying the five elements?
For around fifteen years, since 2000. The five elements theory lies at the heart of shiatsu.
Let’s briefly talk about its treatment methods. What do shiatsu treatments focus on?
Shiatsu treats energy pathways known as meridians. They are understood to be linked to the human’s organ systems and the theory of the five elements. Each element has two meridians, a Yin and a Yang meridian. The only exception is the fire element, which has four meridians.
What are the remaining elements?
The other elements are water, wood, earth, and metal. They’re all arranged in a cycle in which each element is transformed into the next. And you can find them in all areas of life. Ideally, they’re in a state of mutual balance.
Let’s begin with the fire element – which organs are fire organs, and what does it symbolize?
Since fire has four organ systems, it’s subdivided into a raging fire on the one hand and a soothing evening fire on the other. Raging fire is associated with the heart and the small intestine, soothing fire with the pericardium and the triple burner.
According to conventional medicine, pericardium and triple burner aren’t organs. Traditional Chinese Medicine has a different perspective. It considers them as organ systems that develop after birth. The triple burner is responsible for distributing energy and warmth and balancing the body’s three energy centres.
How can I feel the fire element in everyday life?
Generally speaking, the five elements are present in all things in life, from the seasons to colours and life phases to tastes, food, types of sport, emotions …
The fire element, for example, is associated with joy, love, passion and luck. If you lack these qualities in life, you can strengthen your fire element through shiatsu and a specific diet, a specific choice of colours and other things.
What does the earth element represent?
The stomach and the spleen. It’s about grounding yourself and developing roots, about caring for yourself and others, about nourishing yourself and enjoying a healthy diet, about maintaining emotional ties and creating a home for yourself so you can feel emotionally safe and secure.
Next in our introduction is the metal element. What can you tell us about it?
This element is all about letting go and taking leave. The season the metal element is associated with is autumn; its organ systems are the large intestine and the lung. For nature, autumn means leaving many things behind, and the large intestine is responsible for cleaning the body up. This makes it a good time to perhaps also clean out your home and tidy out old things, and end old relationships that weigh you down.
The lung supports us in opening up new spaces for ourselves. It helps us to concentrate on what’s essential.
The next element, I think, is water. Which organs and characteristics does it represent?
That would be the kidney and the bladder, and winter. Water helps you to relax, recharge your batteries, and increase our emotional self-awareness. Fear and trust are important water element themes. A calm and balanced water element will allow you to relax and open up to your feelings and emotions, and to let go and sleep well. An unbalanced water element, however, can cause stress or burnout. Water energy represents our life energy, and it’s our choice to manage it carefully.
Let’s turn to the final element in our interview. What can you tell us about it?
The wood element is associated with spring and represents childhood. Life awakes again, it grows and openly encounters the world, and seeks adventure playfully. People with a balanced wood element are creative and willing to discover the new. They’re emotionally flexible and enjoy travelling. People with too much wood energy, though, are rather tough and have a tendency to stay in control of situations.
The organs connected to the wood element are the gallbladder and the liver.
Can clients experience the cycle of these elements in a shiatsu treatment?
Yes, although I more or less concentrate on one or two elements currently needing support. Clients who want to learn more also have the chance to participate in my seminars. Each seminar focuses on one element and takes place in the respective element’s season, so clients can experience the element with all their senses.
What does such a seminar offer?
The seminars are very hands-on. We definitely won’t focus on theory. They last from 10 a.m. till 5 p.m. and begin with an introduction and warming-up phase that includes qigong and shiatsu exercises. During these exercises, we’ll make sure to stretch the respective meridians. What I want to achieve is create space for an individual experience of the respective element.
For that, following the exercises we’ll go on a body journey, a form of guided meditation drawing on images reflecting the respective element’s qualities. With their help, participants can identify the role that element plays in their everyday life. There’ll be partner exercises to support and strengthen that.
Then, for lunch we’ll cook a 3-course organic and vegan menu. In this way, participants can learn which recipes and ingredients actually balance “their” element and what it feels like in their body.
Following that, I’ll give a short shiatsu treatment of one of the element’s meridians, which participants can then give each other under my supervision. Also, there’ll be time for a focused self-massage for body points and some useful everyday tips.
This means that such a seminar highlights some of the practical and individual possibilities I have to redirect my energies?
How long have you been giving this seminar series?
I’ve been giving these seminars continuously for around two years – since 2013 – which means that people can join anytime and participate in all five seminars or perhaps just the one they’re interested in.
What do participants find most helpful?
In general, participants of course learn that the five elements are something they can actually experience and develop a positive influence on. They take home many impressions and tips, and I’m always impressed how much my seminars help even those already practising shiatsu.
Everyone can improve their inner balance, and feel better and healthier.
Have you received that feedback?
Yes, definitely. One female participant for example realised during the guided body journey that she wanted to redesign one of her living rooms because its current colours made her restless. She decided on the “right” colour on the basis of the element she was focused on balancing.
At the end of each seminar, I always see content faces.
Interviewer: Dirk Olschewski.