Healthy Flow of Energy Is Focus of Eastern Bodywork
by Nancy Tegan, B.S., MAEd, NCTMB
By now, most of us have experienced the benefits of a relaxation or therapeutic massage, delivered by the hands of a trained therapist. Skilled at reducing tension, relaxing muscles and soothing nerves, massage therapists can be our partners in helping us cope with the stress of daily life.
However, most of us are not as familiar with Asian bodywork that is part of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). TCM is an ancient holistic system of healing, based on harmony and balance. In TCM, harmony brings health and well-being. Illness is thought to result from imbalances in the natural flow of energy or chi (life force). Acupuncture, herbs and exercise are part of TCM, along with Shiatsu, cupping, moxibustion and tui na, for the purpose of restoring balance. Massage therapists, as part of their scope of practice, may choose to add Asian bodywork modalities.
Shiatsu, directly translated as “finger pressure,” manipulates pressure points along specific meridians to balance energy and improve the flow of chi. Practiced on a thick floor mat without oil, clients wear loose-fitting clothing, then receive finger and palm pressure techniques to improve the flow of chi.
Cupping is a therapy in which heated glass cups are applied to the skin along the meridians of the body, creating suction to stimulate the flow of energy. Cupping is said to help with everything from circulation to neck and shoulder pain, as well as detoxing the body. These cups just so happen to leave colorful circles as a result.
Moxi is dried mugwort which is ground up into fluff or processed into a cigar-shaped stick. The resulting heat is applied to specific points on the body. This modality is called moxibustion and has been used throughout Asia for thousands of year with the intention to strengthen the blood, stimulate the flow of chi and maintain general health.
Tui na (twee nah) is a form of massage which impacts the circulatory flow and chi to improve general function and resistance to disease. Tui na is used to treat injuries, joint or muscle problems, and internal disorders. It is also used to protect health by building immunity, thereby acting as a preventative care mechanism. As in Shiatsus, the client remains clothed but wears loose fitting-clothing.
Massage therapists, who offer both Eastern and Western modalities, pass along the benefits of both traditions to their clients.
Nancy Tegan is the Lead Instructor of Massage Therapy at East West College of Natural Medicine, located at 3808 Tamiami Trail, Sarasota. For more information on Eastern and Western massage, join us for an open house event on February 3, 6–8 p.m. Free and open to the public. For more information on East West College of Natural Medicine, call 941-355-9080.