Stressed Out? Try This Ancient Breathing Technique

Jin Shin Jyutsu is an ancient Japanese healing method based on our innate knowledge to harmonize and heal ourselves. Its motto is “the ART of getting to know (HEAL) myself.” Rediscovered in the early 1900’s by Master Jiro Murai, it was brought to the United States by his student Mary Burmeister.

Born in a family of doctors in 1886, Master Murai was very competitive and reckless as a youth. He often overate and drank too much, even winning popular eating competitions. This resulted in a terminal illness at the age of 26 (a very important number in Jin Shin Jyutsu).

Shocked and scared, Master Murai retreated alone to a mountain cabin and started his journey into healing himself. He fasted, meditated and prayed for 7 days. Passing in and out of consciousness, he felt freezing cold and then blazing hot.




Eventually, he attained a state of deep calmness, and knew that he was healed. He also reported that he was visited by ancestor spirits who taught him specific breathing techniques, plus finger mudras, to assist in removing energetic blockages and healing. Eventually, he healed himself and continued on a lifelong journey of research and practice into the art of Jin Shin Jyutsu, eventually finding and researching “The Kojiki,” the oldest extant chronicle in Japan.

Never heard of this exercise before but I'm pretty amazed how easy and effective this is for my anxiety!

Mary Burmeister was born in Seattle, and returned to Japan in the 1940’s to study Japanese. While there, she worked as an English tutor, and met Master Murai at her student’s home. He asked her to meet and study with him, and then take the gift of Jin Shin Jyutsu to America.

She studied with him for 5 years in Japan, and 7 more via correspondence after returning to Seattle. But it was 17 years before she began giving this gift away. She began with a neighbor who had a back problem. Then she moved and the neighbor went back to her chiropractor. That chiropractor contacted Ms. Burmeister and she became her first student.

After working with her for 2 years, Ms. Burmeister began to record the information with text and drawings. The chiropractor brought some of her colleagues to Mary, and the group expanded to 6 students, including a psychologist, a physician and another chiropractor. From this beginning, the practice has spread across the country.

Literally translated, Jin (Man of Knowing and Compassion), Shin (Creator), and Jyutsu (Art), means “Art of the Creator through Man of Knowing and Compassion.” The practice expresses the Art of releasing tensions within the body that create blockages within the energy pathways in the body. The Art is breathing and other techniques like “finger mudras” to manifest a “skillful Creation” of harmonizing and balancing oneself with the universe.

A physio-philosophy of life, Jin Shin Jyutso is the art of harmonizing the life energy of the body. It is based on the premise that disharmony causes pain and illness by blocking energy. Life-giving energy flows up the back and down the front of the body, through 26 safety energy locks known as specialists. Blockages cause disharmony, which in turn causes illness.

Jin Shin Jyuto strives to help individuals remove these blockages and restore their own harmony and health.

“In the breath that I am,
I am always new.”
-Mary Iino Burmeister

Jin Shin Jyutso teaches its practitioners to focus on the breath exhalation. Students are told to exhale with a smile, from their head to their toes, releasing all impurities. Beth Molaro, of Spiral Way Healing Arts in Asheville, NC, says that , “ In Jin Shin Jyutsu, we are invited to focus not on the inhalation . . . but instead to observe the Exhalation.

The exhalation is the key to clearing the body. Clear your clutter. Too many of us are hoarders of one kind or another. Many of us hoard our breath by not exhaling fully. WE keep the old stuff in and don’t make room for the new purified air, the abundant out-pouring of limitless life-power, our birth-right.”

This is the opposite of many teachings in which the inhalation is the focus. The inhalation becomes a response that is created naturally once the exhalation is complete.

There are many breathing techniques in Jin Shin Jyutso. I like one named 36 Breaths. Rene Marion, a massage therapist in Pilot Mountain, NC, taught me this technique to help alleviate tension and anxiety symptoms. In my practice, I have used this method with my anxiety clients when they are in the midst of an episode. It has truly helped them focus their attention and alleviate the disruptive symptoms.

36 breaths, also known as “The Meditation of 36 Conscious Exhalations,” is also a popular meditative and healing practice that helps balance the body and mind by helping to remove energy blockages that cause disharmony, tension and illness.

It is easy to learn, though takes some focus and practice to apply. Like reflexology, Jin Shin Jyutsu teaches that a nerve connection exists between each part of the body and specific places on the hands and fingers. Specific finger and hand movements, known as finger mudras, are considered to be quite powerful healers in conjunction with conscious breath work.

Stressed Out - Try This Ancient Breathing Exercise

To do 36 Breaths, you start by getting comfortable where you are. At your desk at work. At home. On the bus or subway. You shouldn’t do this while driving or operating machinery, however. Count each exhalation by holding each finger, plus thumb, with the opposite hand. One, exhale…then inhale. Two, exhale… inhale. Three, exhale…inhale. Allow yourself to breathe naturally. Focus on each exhalation. Each finger will begin to pulse eventually, though it may take some practice to notice this.

In some versions, practitioners are instructed to hold the finger and breathe until they feel the pulse. After each finger is held, hold the palm with the opposite hand and breathe the 3 breaths. Continue until your anxiety or tension is reduced.

“Breath is the bridge
which connects life to consciousness,
which unites your body to your thoughts.”
~Thich Nhat Hanh

Jin Shin Jyutso is a mindfulness process and philosophy of life, on which conscious breathing is the base. In breathing consciously, we learn to release and let go of limiting beliefs and feelings, thereby eliminating energy blockages. In my practice, I often pair 36 Breaths with music. The two enhance each other and my clients report they feel less anxious and able to resume their daily lives after a brief session of both.