For most people in the West, acupuncture treatment with needles is probably Chinese medicine’s most well-known and widely practiced export. A less widely familiar traditional Chinese healing modality is tui na (“pushing” and “grasping”, respectively). This is a manual therapy that is, at first glance, akin to massage. But to categorize this art as such ignores its place in Chinese medical history and limits its scope. Tui na has been practiced for over 2000 years in China and the form is considered a medical specialty in its own right. In the United States, practitioners undergo a rigorous course of study and can then apply for American Association of Asian Bodywork Therapists certified practitioner (AOBTA-CP) status. Tui na’s benefits are numerous and can be employed to address a range of conditions that does include but is not limited to stress or muscle ache, as in the case of the type of massage that one enjoys at a spa.
Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) holds the notion of balance as its central tenet. For someone who may not be familiar with TCM, the umbrella concept of yin (aspects that are dark, cool, still, interior, and other similar) and yang (aspects that are, among many possible things, bright, hot, moveable, and exterior) could seem odd. Yet if we remember that all bodies—in terms that are framed by Western discourse—strive for homeostasis (not too much of this, nor too little of that; in effect, balance), this ancient Chinese philosophy of practice makes perfect sense. Chinese medicine, furthermore, highly values preventative care. Tui na’s role in this endeavor becomes increasingly clear when we realize how many conditions can be addressed with manual therapy that not only can soothe aching muscles, restore vitality, or ameliorate stress and anxiety. It can also be employed in cases of digestive disorder, respiratory ailments, and chronic conditions such as insomnia or headaches or even fibromyalgia. Tui na can restore beauty to the visage and thus can be used for facial rejuvenation purposes too.
For me, the study of Chinese medicine truly came alive when I began to study tui na under the direction of my beloved teacher, Dr. Fan. As a child, I thought it great fun to massage my favorite aunt’s temples and hands and I’ve always been generous with the offers to massage loved ones. Tui na study thus opened a whole new vista of techniques and artistry for me as I learned how to apply specific techniques to effect specific goals. At the sincerest heart level, I will say that I genuinely love muscles and bones, and when I give a tui na treatment I am always, always left feeling a sense of awe and wonder at the marvel that is humanity. After three terms of tui na study, two extra terms as an auditor, and the requisite internship hours, tui na is, for me, a cornerstone of my practice, both as a stand-alone modality and as a diagnostic tool in the acupuncture treatment setting.
During a tui na treatment, you can expect to begin with an intake that can last from fifteen minutes to a half an hour. Though a practitioner will not diagnose conditions, we do identify patterns and syndromes according to the precepts of Chinese medicine and respond accordingly. A practitioner will take all information into account for your benefit. If you are anxious, for example, I will factor that into my treatment plan. If you are tired, I will approach things from a different perspective. Whatever I plan to do, it will be highly personalized and respectful of you and what you bring to the encounter. And then your treatment begins. You will remain fully clothed and during the next hour, I will press, rub, roll, tap, or knead the relevant channels and acupoints, paying careful attention to any sore spots you may have. I will have listened carefully to you when you told me what you hoped to gain from the session. My hands will listen with equal attention and care while I perform this venerable healing art. My goal for you is a return to harmonious balance within, bringing with this state ease, health, and the beautiful magic that is so characteristic an aspect of tui na.
Two Hearts Wellness is a local holistic health and wellness outfit with a passion for all things nourishing, including but not limited to: joyful living, great food, art, and literature, and–of course–traditional Chinese medicine. If you want to learn more about me, click here and do feel free to follow my blog, follow me on Instagram, connect with me on Facebook, or contact me here.
Two Hearts Asian bodywork therapy is now available by appointment on Sundays and Mondays at 2919 Manchaca Rd., Ste. 101 in Austin, TX 78741 (located inside Heather Gordon Spa and Wellness). For appointments in North Austin (Monday mornings, Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays), 2HW can be found at 4131 Spicewood Springs Rd Ste N8, Austin, TX 78759. You can book online here.
If you are not in Austin and would like to find a practitioner, try the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA®)’s Find a Practitioner link.