Massage therapist can show you how to work on your energy flow

Fitness Q & A

Health & Fitness

May 09, 2004|By Gailor Large | Gailor Large,Special to the Sun

I had a shiatsu massage and it really energized me. I know shiatsu is based on stimulating the body's meridians. What exactly are the meridians and how else can I stimulate them?

The body's meridians, or energy pathways, are also stimulated in acupuncture and acupressure sessions (shiatsu massage incorporates elements of acupressure). The theory is that the energy flow along these meridians, which is sometimes disrupted, can be restored by stimulating certain points. This steady flow of chi is said to keep the body in balance. To stimulate these pressure points without visiting a massage therapist or acupuncturist, Janine Cormier, director of the Holistic Massage Training Institute in Baltimore, recommends asking your practitioner to show you ways that you can work on your own pressure points at home.

When I asked for a yoga recommendation from a friend, he suggested I try bikram or ashtanga. What's the difference, and is one or the other better for a beginner?

Not for the faint of heart, bikram yoga, also known as hot yoga, takes place in a heated studio. Temperatures in these studios can reach 100 degrees, or even a few degrees hotter.

Bikram yogis swear by this practice for its cleansing powers -- you'll sweat a lot -- and for the mental clarity and flexibility the heat helps provide. Ashtanga yoga, on the other hand, moves quickly from pose to pose. It's not a bad place to start if you pick up movements and yoga poses quickly. If you are fit and eager to learn, you can most likely handle either bikram or ashtanga. If a class is too difficult for you, you can always ask to switch to a more basic practice.

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