According to traditional Eastern philosophies, life force energy or Chi travels through the body along pathways or channels called meridians. For the body to maintain good health, a balanced and unrestricted flow of Chi is thought to be essential, whereas any disruptions or blockages to its flow can cause disharmony not only in the physical, but also the mental/emotional body. Many Oriental bodywork modalities therefore work on restoring and maintaining proper flow of Chi in order to support all organs, tissues, and functions of the mind-body-spirit.
In acupuncture this is accomplished by inserting thin needles for a certain amount of time into key points along the meridians. Licensed acupuncturists with extensive training can also give dietary recommendations and, like a Western medical doctor, prescribe formulas to help alleviate symptoms of illness and imbalance.
In acupressure, instead of using needles, the therapist uses fingertips to balance the flow of Chi. The actual pressure used is often very light, since the objective is more the balancing of energy rather than intense pressure on physical structures. If we think of Chi as electromagnetic energy, a practitioner creates two magnetic poles with fingers of the left and right hand at different points along energetic pathways, between which the energy current can balance out. This adjustment of energy current or Chi flow is palpable and noticeable to the sensitive and trained practitioner, and generally happens within a few minutes, after which he or she moves on to the next set of points along the channel.
The points themselves are comparable to openings or “locks” through which the practitioner can access or “key into” the flow of Chi and aid the body in removing blockages, alleviate stagnation, slow down rushing or harmonize erratic flow, and even redirect reversals of it.
In order to determine what needs adjustment, a number of diagnostic tools are employed. Aside from gathering information via questionnaires and dialogue, they may include visual, tactile and auditory assessment, as well as tongue reading, iridology, facial diagnosis, and other body reading techniques.
After taking into consideration obvious symptoms such as pain, swelling, fatigue, or discomfort of any kind, other factors like a person’s mental/emotional state can also point to certain imbalances. (Please see the previous article on mind-body-connection.) A most important tool for assessment is pulse diagnosis, the art of reading or “listening” to the (Chi) pulse.
Reading the pulses according to Oriental medicine provides information about the person’s entire constitution and condition. Pulses reflect the state of Chi, the internal organs, and the balance of Yin and Yang in the body. As a science in itself pulse reading is very complex. It requires considerable skill and expertise to discern the subtle distinctions between different types and qualities of pulse.
The practitioner generally places three fingertips on each wrist of the client, taking into account all six positions, as well as reading two or three different levels or “depths” per position, registering the speed, strength, rhythm and quality of each pulse. Qualities of pulse can range from empty to choppy, wiry, bubbly, gummy, and more, each one revealing certain conditions of the mind/body.
Receiving the work
During a treatment the receiving person generally lies fully clothed, face up on a comfortable treatment table, in the case of acupuncture also sometimes with their face pointing down in a headrest, to give the practitioner access to points on the back of the body. To reach these points in an acupressure treatment with the client face up, the therapist simply slides their hands under the person’s back.
As the energy flow balances out, most people experience a state of profound relaxation while their body goes from disharmony, agitation or depletion to a state of more ease and balance.
Because of the gentle nature of these healing modalities, they are suited for a broad range of populations and treatment goals, including people recovering from major trauma, illness or surgery, who might not want to receive more vigorous types of bodywork.
versus fixing brokenness
While these Eastern approaches can be powerful adjuncts to Western medicine during times of acute crisis, they are equally effective in preventing imbalance in the first place, thereby supporting health and wholeness through a proactive approach.
While a common belief in some corners of the world may be: “Don’t fix it if it isn’t broken!” this proactive approach is more like: “Support wholeness, and there will be less chance of damage.”
In other words: “A well maintained tool won’t break as easily and will last much longer.”
Makes sense, doesn’t it? Why wait for it to break?
Ata Susanne Morse is a licensed massage therapist and body worker with a professional practice in Moab. You can reach her with questions or comments at 435-260-2874 or firstname.lastname@example.org