Helping hands: Can a very hands-on healing treatment help ease your pain?

By Jim Wolfe

Greenwich Time Features Editor

November 12, 2002


I didn't know exactly what to expect recently when I went to visit Siri Baruc, a reiki practitioner, for an hourlong reiki treatment at Hands on Massage on Railroad Avenue in Greenwich.


Now, I've always been a deep-tissue, elbow-in-a-knotted-muscle, if-it-doesn't-hurt-it-isn't-helping sort of guy when it comes to massages and reiki is; well, let Baruc explain.


"Reiki is universal life force," says Baruc, 24, a Stamford resident. "There is an energy that permeates the world, that is within us and around us, which makes everything grow. 


We can't see that energy, she says, but it is there. Sometimes, however, our body is not in balance an that energy is off.

"Then," Baruc says, "the body isn't going to be in an optimal place to heal itself, for whatever might need healing on a physical, mental, emotional or spiritual level."


And that is where a reiki treatment comes in.


"When a practitioner practices reiki, they are allowing the universal life energy around us to be channeled through them and into the receiving client so that whatever is out of balance, or whatever energy needs to be released ... can be released, which then allows good energy to come through Baruc says.


"What I'm doing as a practitioner is not actually healing the person but acting as a conduit for their own healing," Baruc adds. "When the body is in balance it can heal itself."


Soon, I was ready to be healed, although I was a bit skeptical and I wondered if, after my treatment might develop an urge to peddle incense outside the Port Authority Bus Terminal or pester people airports.


Thankfully, neither happened.


My treatment begins with Baruc instructing me to take off my shoes, lie down, fully clothed, face-up standard massage table. Soft music (those Enya-esque New Age strains you hear just about any you get a massage nowadays) plays in the background.


Then Baruc places an "eye pillow," a heavy little sack about as big as a rosin bag, over my eyes. A pleasant scent makes its way up my nose. ("The eye pillow is scented with lavender, which is supposed to be very relaxing," she explains.)


Baruc then sits on a stool at the head of the massage table and places her hands several inches above my eyes. There is no contact: "I don't like to cover the person's face with my hands," she says. "I just think that's a little invasive." Yet I still feel her hands.


Her hands remain there for about five minutes before she moves them, placing them on the crown of the head. Like the area above the eyes, the crown is one of the seven chakras, or energy centers, that reiki practitioners focus on. (Think of these chakras as your body's electromagnetic plumbing. If one of them gets clogged or locks up, the whole system is thrown out of whack and it must be cleared so the

energy in your body flows smoothly.)


Over the course of the next 20 minutes or so, Baroque's hands rest on different focal points.


"It's like a wash," she says, "the front (of the face), the crown, then the back of the head, then the jaw then the throat.


"I tend to spend more time on the head," Baruc adds, "because there seems to be a lot going on there. You know, just really calming the mind.”


And my mind calmed.


After the throat, Baruc moved to the other chakras, the chest the heart, the solar plexus and the sacral. Then came the knees, the ankles and the feet.


I found myself falling into deep sleeps. I was drooling like a St. Bernard and the only thing that kept waking me was the sound of my own snores, snorts actually, like a pig rooting for truffles.


"Obviously you felt you had permission, you felt in a safe enough environment, to let yourself really relax," Baruc says, interpreting my reiki reactions. "And because I did spend a lot of time on your head really cleared your mind in order for you to go into that deep state of relaxation.


Between naps, I also noticed my body twitching occasionally, not uncontrollably, but in small spasms involuntarily, a leg bounce perhaps, or an arm jump.


'I interpret that as releasing energy that's been locked up in your body: stuff that you've been holding in our body that is now releasing itself," Baruc says.


I could also feel a heat coming from her hands, even through my clothes. Actually, heat may be too strong a word. It was more like a warmth.


You really took it to a deep level for yourself and allowed yourself to take in a lot of energy." explains Baruc.


Still, I wasn't quite sure what I had experienced or how I felt.


When my time is up, I pay my $80, the standard rate for an hour session and prepare to go. As I hand the cash over, I take a hold of Baruc's hands to see if there is anything I can see that might set them apart from other hands, but there really isn't. Her fingers are neither bony, nor chubby, about the thickness of breakfast sausages, but perhaps a little longer.


Then I thank Baruc and express a mild regret that I had fallen asleep for a part of the experience. I add that even though I wanted to be there for the whole thing, as a journalist, I wasn't.


"Not consciously," she says. Then she adds, "That was cool."


Anyway, I make my way to the parking lot and get into my car. I insert the key and slowly begin to back out of my spot. Unfortunately I put the car in drive and I lurch forward and almost drive into, I believe, the Pet Pantry.


"Did I tell you before you left about you might be spacey?" Baruc says, when I relate that little mishap to her in a post-treatment interview several days later.


"If I didn't, I'm sorry." she adds. "I like to tell people to be careful driving when they leave because you do get spacey, because you're in a different state of relaxation and your whole body is readjusting and you're getting realigned."


"It's like you just woke up from a nap," she adds.


Slobber and all.

Reiki (pronounced ray-key) is a hands-on healing technique that dates back centuries and traces its roots to Buddhist scriptures, according to Siri Baruc, 24, a reiki practitioner who lives in Stamford.


The word itself is Japanese and means "universal life energy." This universal life energy flows through the body, sort of like how electricity flows through your house. In your body, there are seven main energy centers, or chakras, through which this energy flows: the top of the head, the center of the forehead, the throat area, the center of the chest, above the navel and below the chest, between the navel and the genitals, and the base of the spine.


Now, think of these chakras as circuit breakers. Sometimes these energy centers, these circuit breakers, get " locked up" or over-stimulated, which causes an interruption in the electromagnetic flow of the universal life force.


It is the job of the reiki practitioner to unlock and balance that flow, flipping those circuit breakers back on and restoring the flow of energy.


Baruc was introduced to what she considers the healing powers of reiki when she was 16, by her mother. 


"My mom found reiki through looking for alternative healing methods for migraine headaches and she took a class and got really into it and started sharing it with the family," Baruc says. "She's a reiki master now. She teaches classes.”


And one of her students was Siri.


"There are three main levels (of reiki training) and I took the first level class with her," Baruc explains


On that first level of training you learn to give yourself a treatment, which is really important, Baruc says, "because you need to be in a good place and full of good energy in order to help anyone else."


On that first level, you also learn to give someone else a 15-minute care treatment, which, Baruc says, "is just a miniversion of a laying down treatment."


During the second level of training, which Baruc has completed, you learn to administer a full laying down hour treatment.


And the third level, which is broken down into degrees (sort of like karate belts) is the master level, which Baruc is trying to attain. "I just got accepted into a reiki mastership program," she explains.


Baruc knows that there will be those who believe in the healing powers of reiki and those who won't. But she says everyone can benefit from treatment.


"I would say that, yes, if someone thinks they are going to be healed, that the more they believe that they're going to be healed, the more that they probably will, because obviously the mind is very powerful and what you focus on and believe in will come into effect," she says. "But it's also true that regardless of the person's belief, I still believe it works. I still know it works."


"I'm not saying reiki should replace anything," Baruc adds, "but that it's an adjunct to regular medicine and would help any type of healing.


And some in the conventional health field agree and have noticed the benefits of reiki for dealing with certain ailments. For example, Elaine Petrone, program coordinator for the Health and Fitness Institute at Stamford Hospital, which offers reiki in addition to other types of massage therapy, says doctors often recommend the treatment for people with arthritis, back pain or stress-related problems like headache and sleep disorders.


"Personally, I think they're excellent, especially if the person doing it …. is a certified massage therapist or a qualified reiki master, and I think the best reasons for this is it creates a sense of calmness in a person's body," says Petrone. "They become more self-aware. Many of these effects of living with a stressful life tend to ease up."


And that, Baruc says, is the whole point.


"When all is said and done," she says, "it's all about feeling the love, feeling nurtured, healthy ... and therefore happy.


- Staff writer Lisa Chamoff contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2002, Southern Connecticut Newspapers, Inc.