Austin City Limits is almost upon us and that means fall is here. If you live in Austin long enough, ACL does become a marker of the change of seasons, don’t you think? My first graduate program was in Bloomington, Indiana and I taught at Colorado College for two years so yes, yes I have lived in places that have real season changes. Here, though? A two-weekend music fest is what we have to tell us that fall has arrived. And of course, Austin is known for music at any time of the year and that is certainly one of the joys of this town. As a practitioner of traditional Chinese bodywork here in Austin, in fact, I have treated my share of musicians and singers. In honor of fall, then, and because of my wonderful clients and the work I’ve done with them, I thought I’d write this blog post for musical people near and far.
Musical artists, do you know where your health is or, if not, how you can find it, keep it, and nourish it? Did you know that traditional Chinese medicine, especially bodywork such as tui na, can work wonders for you on many levels? Well, keep reading and I promise to keep things brief and to the point.
~~~Have you heard of tui na? What is that?~~~
In brief: tui na is one of the five pillars of Chinese medicine. Most people have heard of acupuncture and others know about herbs. Qi gong (moving meditation; somewhat akin to yoga), moxa (heated herbal therapy), and tui na are the other three. Tui na is a separate medical specialty in China and it encompasses the same field, relatively speaking, as orthopedics. By way of massage-like techniques and based on Chinese medical theories, your practitioner can do about the same things that acupuncture can do for you and we can even do some things that acupuncture cannot. People I have worked on will say that it’s better than a massage. I agree, but of course I am biased. In addition to tui na, a bodywork session might include cupping (remember the circles on the Olympic athletes’ shoulders?) or gua sha, which is a light scraping therapy. Both of these last two are incredibly good for muscle tension. We can also perform moxa (heated herb) treatments, which are marvelous for pain and muscle dysfunction.
The long story short: traditional Chinese bodywork, including but not limited to tui na, is an ancient practice that can genuinely make a difference in your life, your health, and your capacity to perform at top peak as a musician. Keep reading to see why and how.
~~~Three specific issues that resonate with musicians~~~
(I). Functional use of the body is a core issue and one that requires attention. What about the instrument? A performer’s body is his or her primary instrument, in fact. No matter how it is used to create sound, be it through voice, by way of a violin or a piano or a guitar, or via the combination of voice and musical instrument, one’s physical body is the primary functional driver of the creative expression.
If you are running around on stage, that takes a toll. Do you have to schlep your instrument on and off stage? Or carry it around to different venues? It doesn’t matter if your instrument is large or small. Even a violin can become heavy when carried over long periods of time, especially because the case is hard and the shape of the instrument makes it unwieldy. Right?
What about when you are performing? When you are standing in one place while holding something large like a cello or an upright bass, this action requires strength on one side and manual dexterity on the other. Balance is key if you are moving around with an instrument on your shoulder or held at an angle in front of your body, as with a guitar or, for that matter, a horn.
What about what makes you the artist you are? Hours and hours of practice makes for tired hands and wrists and backs and necks. Repetitive use injury is a significant issue for creative artists whose medium is the musical.
If you have any dysfunction related to the above-listed, then tui na is for you. Chinese medicine strives for balance in the system and a bodywork session will focus on the physical manifestation and correct imbalance, either via the massage-like tui na only or with gua sha (a wonderful technique that involved gentle scraping with a metal or jade tool) for detail work. Added bonus? If you come to me, I can tell you exactly what I am doing and why if you are interested. Personally, I think it’s important for people to know how to take control of their health; some level of instruction, I think, makes for a great treatment. (However, if you prefer to sleep while I’m working on you, that’s fine too).
(II). Artists tend to be more sensitive and it is important to attend to the emotions. The same sensitivity that makes a person able to create generally comes with a price. On the flip side of the creativity coin is a greater susceptibility towards depression and/or anxiety. Chinese medicine can help you without pharmaceutical intervention and, in so doing, ease the pressure without numbing you or dulling your creativity.
This tendency may not be entirely related to the creative genes, in any event.
An artist’s emotional distress could also be due to life stresses that are part and parcel of the musician or singer’s life as discussed here and in many other online articles. Any google search will yield essays that outline how the mundane of an artist’s life can contribute to emotional turmoil. Not having a stable income, needing to spend hours practicing when maybe this means social isolation, and dealing with a wide range of people and personalities are all aspects of the challenging side of this life. One other reality that may be overlooked is the up and down of hormones and neurotransmitters that go along with performing. Maybe before you perform, you are stressed and have mild (or heinous) stage fright. Then you get up and perform and it’s an incredible and joyful rush of energy. The next morning, you wake up exhausted and depleted. That’s a big up and down right there.
What happens the next day? Do you get to rest and replenish or are you rushing around dealing with a hundred other obligations? Is your diet good or do you have an inflamed gut that makes you even more stressed? On the whole, are you depressed or anxious? Do you have insomnia, nightmares, or chronic hyper-arousal? The roller coaster that results from pre and post performance hormone and neurotransmitter fluctuations can all be part of how you feel in general. If you feel awful there is a lot you can do about it with Chinese bodywork.
Keep in mind though: as a practitioner, it is not my goal to replace the work of a licensed psychotherapist. In fact, I have a wonderful referral network of therapists for clients who need talk therapy in conjunction with Chinese medicine’s work on the mind-body connection. I am trained to see the health of the physical body as it is linked with the psyche. That said, assigning meaning to the emotions or making the kind of change you would incur with a psychotherapist is not my goal. Further, I am in agreement with the attached article, here, in that I do not think that being blandly positive about all things is beneficial to an artist of any stripe.
So what can I do for you? In a nutshell: tui na and other related modalities can help you feel better and calmer. When you sleep better, life is better. When your digestion is in check, your whole body feels more at ease and this will include your mind. If you’re really in a challenging state, bodywork AND psychotherapy can work wonders for you. I can help you find where you hold your trauma within your body and send you to your therapist with some concrete suggestions for discussion with him or her. I’ll even speak with your therapist if you give me written permission. There’s a lot that traditional Chinese bodywork can do for your emotional state (and that’s another long essay, if not a book, so I’ll stop here).
(III). Last but not least, you do need to look your best as you keep up with your brand and your self-marketing. Better photo shoots and success at keeping up appearances also fall under the “what marvels can you expect from tui na” category. I have written quite a bit about the facial protocol I developed, here and here. If you smoke or you take full advantage of the free beer that’s generally part of being a performer in a bar or restaurant, you will love what Chinese medicine can do for you. Hands down, we have a lot of strategies that address a lot of conditions. This can be either via bodywork or acupuncture and herbs or by way of a combination of both.
As people who have been following my blog or other social media know, I am in the midst of board exams and will soon be a licensed acupuncturist and herbalist. When that happens, I am amply, and I do mean amply, trained to provide acupuncture facial rejuvenation. I also really want to develop my own skincare line at some point. But that will be a while and, quite frankly, I have spent a lot of time developing my no-needle tui na protocol and it is genuinely marvelous. I’m not going to stop offering it once I can place needles. Nope. It’s too good and I’m super proud of it. (Side note: if you are undecided about bodywork vs. acupuncture, check my blog post here. As much as I love tui na, I will be quite happy to be licensed to practice acupuncture and herbalism again. That said, tui na will always be a mainstay of my practice.) In any event…
As a performing artist, there are two ways that I can help you right now.
First, you can contact me and we can talk about getting you ready for photo shoots. If you are going to get portraits done and want to have an amazing jawline, get in touch with me. I can help you to temporarily get rid of belly bloat, fine lines, and a mushy jawline in two or three treatments. If you want lasting results, you need to get a series and be committed to it. But for photo shoots or special events you can get away with a couple treatments so that your pictures show a healthy, glowing you that is authentic and not just the result of judicious photoshop. (Let’s not even go there with the injectables. No shade–Botox can be great for many people and I’m not against it, per se. But a singer or a musician needs to have an expressive, not a frozen, face, don’t you think?).
Secondly, I can work with you for long term results. I have had excellent outcomes with scars and stretch marks by giving gua sha treatments with a jade instrument, for example (to read more about gua sha, check here). I’m very proud of the work I do with stretch marks and scars and I want you to be happy with the results of my artistry on your skin. Furthermore, I am always honest about what I think I can accomplish and I can explain to you what I think I can do and why and how before you commit to a series of appointments.
So what can I do for you? In summary, I can provide you with Chinese-style Asian bodywork therapy that directly addresses functional problems in your physical body. I can also offer you trauma sensitive protocols that can stand alone or can be part of your work with your psychotherapist. Finally, I can help you to go forth and be fabulous either for the short term or for the longer term. Any or all of these things can make your life and work and art that much better. It all depends on your circumstances and your needs.
How can you get connected with this resource? I do have a book now button on my services page. If you contact me via my “contact” page (all linked, below), please know that I tend not to answer the phone. If you text me or leave a message, I’ll get right back to you as quickly as possible. As noted above, I have an office in South Austin and another up North. If you want to take care of your functional fitness, you want to feel healthier on an emotional level, or you want to see what Chinese aesthetics can do for you, then definitely give Chinese bodywork a try. I think you will love it!
Why wait? Book now and see for yourself. You’ll be glad that you did!
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 and/or my Instagram, connect with me on Facebook, or contact me here to set up an appointment for personal training or health coaching services. If you are interested in Asian bodywork therapy, click here to book an appointment online.