Archive for the 'yin yang TCM' Category

Apr 14 2015

The Da Vinci Code of Tai Chi

Published by under tai chi,yin yang TCM

Could Tai Chi evolve into a profound healing technology that
enables a world out of balance to find harmony?

The recent uproar over The Da Vinci Code book, and now movie, has diverged into a tedious argument about historical factual details. However, one thing that is indisputable is that the book touched something in millions of readers across the planet. Perhaps the magic spark that excited readers to tell others about the book, eventually making it a global best seller, was not the facts or fiction of the book, but rather the metaphoric truth it exposed.

That truth was about the male and female aspects of consciousness, or what ancient Chinese philosophers would refer to as the yin and the yang. The male, or yang aspects of consciousness are the seen world, the linear and active, constructive and analytical world. The female or yin being the unseen and non-linear, the receptive, the contemplative, and the intuitive aspect of consciousness and reality.

Chinese philosophers millennia ago, began to realize the duality of reality, just as modern physics now understands that there are positive and negative polarities at the very root of all existence, and it is the dance of these polarities that enables creation to continually destruct and be reborn into endless possibilities of creation. This means that within each being’s atoms there are both positive and negative polarities that harmonize in a dynamic balance of life, just as there are feminine and masculine aspects to the consciousness of each human being. Just as in nature, when we find harmony within our consciousness for both these polarities, that is when we are functioning and evolving at our highest levels.

The Da Vinci Code was a poem if you will, a metaphoric message bringing up the reality that beginning with the decision not to employ the gospel of Mary Magdalene, and the persistent rumors of her being diminished as a prostitute had a domino effect. Perhaps setting into motion a consciousness that later enabled the murder of tens of thousands of outspoken women branded as “witches” through the dark ages, and the current renunciation of women to the priesthood. These dominos of the basic renunciation of the feminine or yin power in society has had an effect on the consciousness of humanity over these many centuries. These facts and their result are undeniable.

What impact has this had on society? In a world of plenty billions often go hungry, while millions actually die of starvation and abject poverty annually. Estimates are that a mere $20 billion dollars a year could end starvation in the world. A mere pittance when compared to the world’s nearly one trillion dollars in annual arms & military expenditures, as noted by the prestigious Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SPIRI), for 2003. Yang energy solves problems by striking out, aggressive efforts to control and bend reality to certain ends.

However, feminine or yin energy has a contemplative side that can offer us an opportunity to open to multiple views and myriad options, weighing not in a linear fashion how to most immediately control resources, but a more communal approach that may take more time, but rather can result in more sustainable long term solutions to family and global problems. The nesting aspects of women are an example of this. They yearn on some deep level to keep a household in order, not because they enjoy the tedious tasks required to do so, but because on some unseen level there is a knowing that that order will nurture those who inhabit that dwelling. Before suggesting this is a sexist observation, be honest and compare the households of young bachelors and those of young women. If you are honest, although there are always exceptions to the norms, you’ll have to admit that the young men’s bachelor pads are more often less appealing to live in, and to eat in.

Most would agree that global warming and other environmental challenges equate to the world’s house being in an increasing state of “disorder.” The world knows that it is unbalanced with male or yang energy at this time. Perhaps this was necessary for the world to develop and expand and connect. I’m not judging one energy to be better than another, all are necessary. However, the universe is designed for balance. And it appears now that the world is in dire need of becoming more conscious of its yin/feminine energy. Ideas like energy conservation are yin/feminine concepts, just as exploring and drilling more and more holes for oil are obvious yang/male concepts.

The popularity of The Da Vinci Code, may show an awareness of our need to value the feminine energy of us all at this critical time in human history. So, how do we do that? How do we emerge from centuries of dismissing and repressing feminine or yin energy, in a way and at a speed that can help us through the challenges of our modern times? Tai Chi may be a huge part of a global healing, by providing a vehicle to expand the power of the feminine, yin, energy throughout humanity.

Yet, within every endeavor in life the yang/masculine and yin/feminine energies are involved, and there is a struggle to find balance. And although Tai Chi may be part of the healing solutions, even Tai Chi is not above the fray in this struggle for balance and wholeness. The originators of Tai Chi seem to have been aware of creating something that profoundly balances humans on the deepest levels. We see the results of their awareness they wove into the technology of Tai Chi, in the emerging medical research reporting that Tai Chi can help balance hormonal levels in aging men and women (lowering men’s high estrogen levels, while raising women’s low estrogen levels), and lowering the blood sugar levels of people with Type II diabetes, for example. These results show us a physical shadow of the internal balancing Tai Chi has on people.

Yet, Tai Chi itself, as mentioned before also struggles with finding balance to become its most effective and profound self. Tai Chi is known worldwide as a “martial art,” and indeed it is a highly developed form of self-defense that enables practitioners to defend themselves from attack both physically from attackers, and health wise from invading viruses and bacteria. These are examples of the yang or masculine aspect of Tai Chi.

However, there is also a powerful yin or feminine aspect that Tai Chi offers, perhaps more than any other known exercise. This is the unseen, the receptive, the intuitive nature of Tai Chi. When one is not doing Tai Chi as a martial arts Kata (series of fighting forms), consciously warding off enemies with each thought and muscle motion, or with a conscious intention to heal something, but rather losing oneself in the flow of motion, breath, and physical release . . . that is when the mind, heart, and body are immersed in the yin or feminine aspects of Tai Chi.

This is not a utilitarian aspect of Tai Chi. It is not being done to “defend,” or “to strike,” or even to “heal oneself” with the motions. For utilitarian usage of Tai Chi immediately puts the mind and body into a Yang or Masculine modality where form and outcome are utmost and control is needed to exact the “desired outcome.” The yin or feminine energy seeks no result, but rather opens to the pleasure of what is, as it unfolds from within the opening petals of consciousness and experience coming together without any destination or intention, or judgment, or analysis of right and wrong, correct or incorrect, superior or inferior.

What good is such practice? Some might ask. Creativity and inspiration come from the unseen, the yin, the receptive, the intuitive. Albert Einstein once said, “Imagination is more important that knowledge.” Einstein didn’t devalue the masculine or yang consciousness, for he also defined success as “10% inspiration and 90% perspiration.” However, he did exalt the yin, feminine, intuitive consciousness as the MOST important. For without that all important “spark” of awareness or inspiration which can only come from quiet contemplative thought, the 90% perspiration would be as purposeful as a busy hamster running around its endless wheel that leads nowhere. Just as many of the world’s actions today are resulting in environmental and political messes that could easily be avoided, if preceded by deep “contemplation” before action occurs. Too often our endless business (busy-ness) is not purposeful at all as far as solving our global problems, but to the unaware observer the decision makers look “very busy.”

Qi, or life energy, is a subtle unseen power that emerges from the very fabric of the subatomic field that makes up all matter. In this field all things are connected, and insights from this pure consciousness can be powerfully complex solutions that seem simple and elegant and obvious, once they come to mind. Tai Chi may help cultivate such intuitive, receptive states of mind if taught to that end. Tai Chi can be incorporated with gentle deep breathing, and physical loosening, and mental images of constantly “letting go” of everything so that this unseen force of the universe can flow through us, emanating from every cell and atom of our being, and expanding effortlessly from each airy fold of the tissues of our mind. We can allow every atom of our being to glow with and be permeated by this energy of life as we move through the flowing motions of Tai Chi “without purpose,” “without analysis,” “without grades, or self judgments.” But rather, only for the sheer pleasure of being, while experiencing the thousands of wonderful sensations tingling and percolating through the body. Tai Chi becomes an effortless self massage that flows through the yielding heart, mind, and body. This state is not directed by the mind, but allows the mind to let go and be massaged by the pleasant sensations flowing through it, holding on to nothing, not analyzing or even naming the sensations caressing and washing the mind as they flow through.

This pool of sensation Tai Chi can bathe us in again and again, day after day, enables the subtle possibilities and gentle power of the yin and feminine to permeate our being and consciousness, and through that, affect our actions in the world. It can change the way we function, so that rather than charging into personal, or social, or national decisions, we now instinctively contemplate and intuit all the possible outcomes of that action BEFORE taking that action. This could keep us out of costly wars, and reduce futile quests to find where on earth to dump thousands of tons of highly toxic nuclear waste that will be poisonous for tens of thousands of years. It may open us up to more subtle yielding approaches to international relations, that can get us the desired results through the subtle dance of negotiation which entails listening before acting, which is a very yin or feminine quality. It may draw us more to passive energy solutions like solar or wind that could easily solve all our energy needs, and we would never need to fight anyone anywhere over the sun or the wind, which is available to all equally.

This treatise is not meant to dispute that Tai Chi is a highly effective martial application, and a highly effective health tool. Those powerful aspects are embraced within Tai Chi’s even larger possibilities. It is not an either or argument, there is no contention in this essay. However, a call is made to open to what may be a profound larger aspect of Tai Chi that can be made available to billions of people worldwide at a time when the world desperately needs to learn to find a balance in the deepest part of our being, a balance that extols the subtle and quiet power of the feminine or yin aspect of who we are individually and as communities and nations. Tai Chi is now taught in virtually every nation in the world, and can perhaps now contribute to solving humanity’s hunger for balance between the male and female, between the yin and the yang. Generations may look back and see that Tai Chi teachers of today played a pivotal role in human history.

If so, this would make what we do as Tai Chi & Qigong teachers more interesting and exciting than any novel could be, as we write The Tai Chi Code with the actions, and non-actions, of our lives and our teaching. Tai Chi & Qigong have evolved over many centuries, and are continuing to evolve today through teachers worldwide. We may play a part in helping to bring balance to our world by evolving the way we teach Tai Chi & Qigong, so that it best fills the needs of people seeking it to improve their lives and world. Plus to open to the shear pleasure of the exercise and the teaching of it, simply feels good.


So How Do I, as a Tai Chi Teacher, Focus on the Yin of Tai Chi?

Isn’t focusing on something yang?

Transcendental meditation techniques employ the use of a word, or mantra, preferably a word that has no literal meaning to the meditator using it. The mantra is meant to take the mind out of conscious linear thought by keeping it busy enough not to get tangled up in analysis, regret, etc. that the mind often gets drawn to when we close our eyes. The repetition of that word is not an analytical process, but a monotonous repetition that allows the mind to dis-engage from the empirical world, to drift in the unseen, or field of consciousness as TM’s founder used to say.

Tai Chi offers an opportunity for practitioners to use the physical pleasure of gentle, effortless motions, breath, and visualization of relaxation to be a mantra that occupies the mind so that it doesn’t drift back into the entanglements of life. Each Qigong warm up, and Tai Chi movement can be used as a meditation by constantly bringing our minds back inside to the pleasure of sensation, allowing the mind to bath in pure sensation, pure thought, BEFORE they become named or analyzed. The preverbal state of pure consciousness enables Tai Chi practitioners to bathe in yin or feminine, receptive energy.

Rather than instructing students to do this as you go through warm ups or Tai Chi movements, it is better to talk yourself through this, reminding yourself to absolutely let go of every atom of your being as the 50 trillions cells that make you up begin to massage one another as the dan tien takes your body through effortless motions, absolutely letting go of every atom with each exhale of the body. As you talk yourself through this loosening pleasure mantra of feeling the body, your vocal cords relax, the vibration of your voice becomes more soothing to the students, they resonate with your internal loosening to relax deeper inside themselves. I talk myself through allowing the movements and breath to loosen me, reminding myself on each deep exhale to “let the shoulders drop” and allow the body to “relax onto the vertical axis.” I’m saying these words out loud so the class can hear, but when I encourage them to breathe and to deeply let go, as if every atom of your being were exhaling and letting go, or reminding them to absolutely let go with each loosening breath, as the dan tien effortlessly moves and rotates the body, enjoying the sensation of 50 trillion cells massaging one another through this cleansing field of light and energy, I am actually making space for myself to feel those things. When I tell the class to breathe and let go, I then let myself breathe and let go, to feel what they are feeling. This is different than instructing my class. Because now I allow myself to immerse in the experience, and to be loosened and healed by it as my mouth talks me through it out loud.

I used to watch my students when they went through the Qigong warm ups at the beginning of class. Now, I have my eyes closed encouraging new students to look at me to get an idea of what I’m doing and then close their eyes to feel inside themselves as layer upon layer within continues to let go. As I relax into the experience, the entire room relaxes more into it.

I don’t intellectually challenge my students to always do something new. I have students who’ve been with me for years still doing the same series of Qigong warm ups. Why don’t they get bored with it? Because we explore new ground each time we do it, not intellectually with new yang information to fill the yang mind more, but deeper and wider in a sensory, receptive yin experience that is ever more expansive within. They don’t intellectually learn more and more, but rather through the familiarity and internal awareness repetition allows, they sink deeper and deeper into the experience over the years.

This is a pleasant, effortless, and profoundly beneficial experience for me as the teacher, and for the students. This is not me making the class good, but us as a group immersing ourselves in an effortless, mutually beneficial experience. My class instruction has become more yielding, more feeling, more yin, more feminine . . . and many of my students keep coming back year after year.


Bill Douglas is the author of the ebook, How to be a Successful Tai Chi Teacher (Namasta University Publishing). He is also the Founder of World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, and is a best selling Tai Chi author, whose internationally popular book, The Complete Idiot’s Guide to T’ai Chi & Qigong (Penguin Putnam) is now in 3rd edition. Bill is the presenter in the DVD, Anthology of T’ai Chi & Qigong: The Prescription for the Future, and has been a Tai Chi source for The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, USA Weekend, Parade Magazine, Reader’s Digest, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post, Russia’s Omsk Weekly News, and over 100 media worldwide. You can contact Bill, find his ebook on teaching, or learn more about World Tai Chi & Qigong Day at:

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Apr 14 2015

themed yin and yang shoe and coat rack cabinet

Published by under cabinet making,yin yang TCM

nothing can really prepare you for the enthusiasm coming from being able to draw a picture on a peace of paper and then be able to make it become a reality. Its been 20 years since i last made anything from wood, the last item i made was a tv cabinet made from solid ash when i was back at college and i remember the feeling when i had finished it there is nothing more rewarding. So here i am 20 years later going back to my roots so what better way than to start off and do something simple, ya right, it took a while to get things going in my head and the best way to do things, so this cabinet is only a test peace. The wood i have used for this came out of a house that was being knocked down and i got lots of it. Im not sure what type of wood that it is however i was told that its called oregon some a dark reddish in color and some a light brown, and needless to say because it is reclaimed wood and about 50 years old there are a few holes either from nails or bolts or wood eating insects however this all adds to the character of the cabinet. To start with the wood came in lengths from 4 meters to 6 meters long by 100mm by 50mm thick, so with that thickness there was a lot of time spent on the jointer and table saw to be able to get two 20mm peace out of each length cut, and this is repeated through out the entire process of the work peace, once peaces are all cut to size its then joining the wood together to make panels, these panels then make up the Caracas ( frame ) of what you are making. Its at this point when you can see things starting to go together. but no matter what you make it is important to make sure that you do a good job sanding the wood to get all the machine marks and rough sanding marks out, the higher the grit on the sand paper the more the grain of the wood will pop out when you finish it with lacquer.
on this cabinet you will see that the bottom cabinet is a lighter color and the top cabinet has a panel on one side the same color as the bottom and then goes darker on the top and other side this a a representation of yin going in to yang and yang going to yin, and the back panels go dark light dark light this means that yin is always in yang and yang is always in yin they cannot be separated, (for more on yin and yang go to our blog). for this reason can safely say they is no other cabinet like this in the world and a hugh pleasure to make, so this is one of my therapies, stay tuned for the table coming soon.

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Mar 17 2013

Yang Style Tai Chi

Published by under tai chi,yin yang TCM

Yang style tai chi is the first style of tai chi to be properly formulated in to forms and one of the most popular styles today. In my opinion it is the most true to the principals of Tai Chi, being that even today after hundreds of years has changed very little, (bar the new short forms) There are those that say they are doing Yang style tai chi, but if it is not true to one of the foundation forms, such as the Yang Lu Chan form or the Yang Cheng fu form, then it is probably not true to Yang style. The newer short forms try their best to look like Tai Chi but in my opinion are just a shell and underneath there is no essence left.
Yang Lu Chan 1799–1872, was the inventor of the old yang style. Old because it is the oldest of the Yang style forms, many regard this as the ultimate Tai Chi form, as it has a perfect balance of slow energy gathering movements and explosive energy releasing movements. It also has a perfect balance of movements on both left and right sides. Some other forms do not have such a perfect balance and have to be done on both left and right sides to get what you would get from the Yang Lu Chan form on one side alone. It is the epitome of what Tai Chi is, a martial/healing art. Unlike other forms which are just for health, the old form also teaches you about deadly Dim-Mak fighting. But still retains the highest healing qualities of all the forms.
Yang Cheng fu 1883–1936, was the inventor of the Yang Chen Fu form, which is also know as the long form because most schools don’t teach the Old form so this has become to them the longest form. Yang Cheng Fu changed the old form slightly, taking out the more explosive moves and some of the more strenuous jumps and kicks. This enabled everyone to practice tai chi, including older more frail students. Even though he changed some of these moves, he did it in a way as to not disturb the energy flow and original intent of the form enabling everyone to get the great health benefits of tai chi. After he invented the Yang Cheng fu form he said…
“to change the form any further, would be to ruin what Yang Lu Chan had taken so long to create”
The reason for this is that if too many changes are made to the original Yang Style Form then the energy flows are changed too. If you perform movements that go against the body’s natural energy flow, you will be doing your health a great damage, by causing blockages to your Qi. This is much more important when getting to the higher levels of tai chi, so if you intend on making tai chi a part of your life and progressing to the higher levels, take care to make sure you are practising one of the two original Yang Style forms.

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Feb 01 2010

What is Chinese Reflexology?

Chinese reflexology is the ancient art of healing by working pressure points on the feet, hands and ears, which correspond to different parts of the body. Chinese reflexology is a part of Traditional Chinese Medicine, which utilizes energy zones on the hands and feet to energize the body system and provide relief for a variety of illnesses. Chinese reflexology is commonly referred as foot massage by most of the Chinese people.

Chinese reflexology is based on the concept of energy channels, which is the central point. Chinese reflexology works on the principle that vital energy is channeled along various lines throughout the body, which are known as meridians or zones. In Chinese reflexology they are called zones. These zones transverse throughout the body and are curved or zig-zag pathways. The focus of Chinese reflexology is mainly on the zones of feet and on the reflex areas. These points are stimulated by specific pressure techniques.

It was discovered by some chinese people that Chi, or life energy, circulates in the body along the meridians or zones. There are 12 bi-lateral zones and each one of it is connected and related to a specific organ. Due to the connection and relation of these meridians or zones with a specific organ, they have a partner meridian organ that consists of a yin and yang. The body is regulated by yin organs, which are dense, blood filled types of tissue. Yang organs are the hollow organs that are involved in absorption and discharge from the body. There is a constant interaction between these two forces. But if the balance between the organs is interrupted, the flow of Chi throughout the body will be affected, resulting in illness.

Due to the illness, chi or vital energy pathways in the body are blocked thereby preventing the body from functioning normally. Chinese reflexology helps to unblock these pathways by eliminating the toxins from the body and improving circulation. This restores the balance between yin and yang forces, which in turn encourages healing and strengthens the body. Since each spot on the sole of foot corresponds to an internal organ, Chinese reflexology concentrates mainly on the foot. The theory of Chinese reflexology assumes that an ailment of an internal organ is associated with the nerve ending on the sole of the foot.

Chinese Reflexology involves applying firm pressure in sweeping movements on the various points of the feet with stimulating foot cream. Before the massage, the patient’s feet are kept warm by soaking them for about ten minutes in a footbath, which is a dark colored solution of hot water and Chinese herbs. The patient is also given warm fluids such as green tea throughout the massage session. This is done to improve circulation. The massage therapist then moisturizes the foot by using medicated cream. The medicated cream also helps to provide lubrication.

The therapist usually uses the knuckles on his hand since it provides a hard and smooth implement for the massage. As soon as the pressure is applied to the sole, if the patient doesn’t feel any strong pain then he is perfectly healthy as per the theory of Chinese reflexology. The massage therapists or reflexologists believe that the painful spots reflect illnesses of other parts of the body. So they rub and massage the painful spots to break down rough spots and accumulated crystals and increase circulation. The illnesses are cured when the sore spots of the sole are treated and removed by massage.

Based on the theory of Chinese reflexology, some shoe liners are made with pressure points to stimulate the soles of the feet in order to promote better health of the overall body. But the nature of these crystals has yet to be explained or demonstrated scientifically.

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Jun 16 2009

TCM, Cupping and Massage: Part I

Traditionally known as a Traditional Chinese Medicine technique, cupping can be mastered by massage therapists to complement their professional repertoire. Discover several cupping variations, as well as the theory behind this traditional practice.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

One of the therapies employed by practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), cupping is a powerful, manual technique for breaking up localized congestion. While it does require some additional training, cupping is within the scope of practice for most practicing massage therapists. Armed with expert guidance and a basic understanding of TCM theory, bodyworkers can deliver a deep, therapeutic cupping treatment while giving their hands a respite from the rigors of their profession.

What is Cupping?
Originally practiced to drain toxins from snakebites and skin lesions, cupping began by using hollowed out animal horns to suck poisons out of a recipient’s skin. As more was learned about human physiology, the therapeutic applications of cupping were applied to an increasing number of health conditions. Accompanying the progression of this therapy, the cups originally crafted from horns evolved to bamboo, then glass and sometimes plastic.

Records have proven that ancient cultures of China, Greece and Egypt regarded cupping as a medical practice as early as 28 A.D. Over the years, practitioners have relied on cupping’s strong suction to increase circulation for:

· Tightened or painful muscles
· Sprains or strains
· Pinched nerves
· Lung congestion
· Menstrual irregularities
· Inflamed breasts
· Lactation dysfunction
· Gastrointestinal disorders
· Cough
· Asthma

Cupping Variations
There are several cupping variations within a massage therapist’s scope of practice:

· Fire Twinkling Method – The practitioner clamps, then ignites a piece of alcohol-soaked cotton, places the flame into a glass cup, removes it quickly, and then inverts the cup onto the skin. Because the flame consumes the cup’s oxygen, a strong suction is created.

· Suction Pump Method – Usually composed of plastic, these cupping sets allow the practitioner to use a pump to remove oxygen from the cup, thus creating suction.

· Stationary Cupping – This is when a cup is applied to a specific, congested location and left there for up to 15 minutes.

· Running Cupping – This is when plenty of lubricant is applied to a broad area, a cup is adhered to the body, and then moved around without breaking the seal. Massage therapists can mimic several types of massage strokes by working with this technique.

Cupping Theory
Cupping is known for its ability to break up localized stagnation. Cupping is reputed to:

· Drain excess fluids and toxins
· Loosen adhesions
· Lift connective tissue
· Enhance circulation in stagnant musculature and fascia
· Stimulate the peripheral nervous system

In terms of TCM theory, the stagnation can be of just about any type: blood, toxins, qi or dampness. The suction created by cupping draws stagnant toxins, heat, energy or fluid out of where it has accumulated and brings it to the body’s surface. Once under the skin, the offending culprit can more easily be eliminated via the body’s waste removal systems.

Based on cupping’s most popular applications, the following conditions benefit from stagnation dispersal. For clarity, this is further broken down by stagnation type:

1. Blood Stagnation – Injuries, adhesions, menstrual irregularities

2. Stagnant Toxins – Gastrointestinal disorders, rigid muscles, breast inflammation

3. Qi Stagnation – Muscular pain, dysmenorrhea, pinched nerves

4. Fluid Stagnation – Lung congestion, asthma, lactation dysfunction

Once an adhesion or congestion is pulled away from its source, fresh blood, energy and fluids rush in to expedite healing. Besides sparing the practitioner’s hands from demanding physical labor, this dramatic increase in circulation makes cupping a valuable complement to bodywork. By learning about TCM stagnation theories and becoming practiced in the art of cupping, massage therapists have a unique and effective tool to bring their clients closer to their health goals.

For more information about cupping, look for the upcoming article, “Cupping for Massage Therapists: Part II.”

Recommended Study:
Shiatsu Anma Therapy

References:, History of Cupping, Retrieved October 1, 2008, Massage Cupping Bodywork Therapy, 2008., The Art of Massage Cupping, Anita J. Shannon, LBMT, Retrieved October 1, 2008, Massage Magazine Inc., 2008., Massage Cupping Therapy for Health Care Professionals, Anita J. Shannon, LMBT, Retrieved October 1, 2008, Massage Today, February 2004.

Liangyue, Deng, et al, Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 3rd printing, 1993: 346-347.

Posted by Editors on October 8, 2008 02:00 PM
© 2009 Institute for Integrative HealthCare Studies. This work is reproduced with the permission of the Institute. <>

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Jun 16 2009

TCM, Cupping and Massage: Part II

Discover 10 massage cupping tips, and review the clinical support for this ancient healing art. This is the second installment of this invaluable 3-part article.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

More massage therapists than ever are embracing additional complementary approaches for healing. Likely a result of the increasing popularity of massage therapy and, thus, the greater demand for highly trained practitioners, cupping has sparked interest in many massage therapy practices. While there isn’t an abundance of scientific evidence proving cupping’s effectiveness, its ability to promote circulation is well-known to practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). Bodyworkers wanting to learn more about the tradition of cupping can experiment with the massage cupping techniques described below.

For a basic understanding of what cupping is, its general variations and the theories supporting its use, read TCM Cupping and Massage: Part I.

Cupping Massage Techniques
Being familiar with several massage cupping techniques can help a bodyworker confidently include cupping in his/her range of services. Below are ten suggestions for effective massage cupping:

1. The level of suction for running cupping should be gentler than that used for stationary cupping.

2. Prior to applying cups for running cupping, administer plenty of oil to the area being cupped to facilitate smooth cup movement.

3. When moving the cups, the movement should be smooth without the practitioner applying downward pressure, because that would inhibit the suction effect.

4. The broad area of the back is one of the best surfaces for running cupping. The back can generally accommodate the larger cups.

5. Imitating a long stroke with the cups can help drain fluid accumulation.

6. Circular movements with a cup over a specific area can help release stubborn knots, adhesions and other types of rigid tissue.

7. Applying a diluted essential oil to the skin immediately following running cupping will facilitate its absorption into the tissue.

8. Long strokes along the ribs can improve ribcage expansion and benefit deep breathing.

9. Vigorous circling with the cups on the gluteus maximus can help ease certain types of sciatica.

10. Strong stationary cupping on the Lung Back Shu points can help relieve chest congestion, coughing and asthma.

Although the clinical support endorsing massage cupping is sparse, centuries of successful case studies have perpetuated its use. Since cupping falls under the umbrella of Traditional Chinese Medicine, most of the research on this modality has been conducted within a TCM setting.

The variation known as wet-cupping has dominated a majority of cupping’s research, and wet-cupping does not fall under a massage therapist’s scope of practice. Wet-cupping is when the skin is pricked with a lancet, then covered with a cup to draw out the stagnant blood. Bypassing the research on wet-cupping, a couple of clinical trials evaluated massage or stationary cupping in isolation:

1. Chronic Fatigue Syndrome – Chinese researchers observed the therapeutic effect of multiple, stationary cupping at the back-shu points on participants with chronic fatigue syndrome. By comparing their clinical symptoms before and after treatment with either cupping or acupuncture, the researchers found that cupping’s ability to reduce chronic fatigue symptoms far surpassed acupuncture’s effectiveness.

2. Senile Dementia – Researchers evaluated the effect of running cupping (massage cupping) on participants with senile dementia. Running cupping was performed over the spine (the Governing Vessel channel) and along the sides of the spine (the Urinary Bladder channel). The investigators determined that running cupping improved dementia’s symptoms as evidenced by increased measures of bodily strength, memories, feelings and movement.

While these two studies represent just a small percentage of a bodyworker’s clientele, the empirical evidence supporting massage cupping has preserved its practice for centuries.

Using cups to massage the body can be incorporated into most bodywork sessions. By learning about this modality and practicing different running cupping techniques, practitioners can add another layer of therapeutic effectiveness to their treatments.

For information about cupping’s cautions and contraindications, look for the upcoming article, TCM Cupping and Massage: Part III.

Recommended Study:
Aromatherapy Essentials
Shiatsu Anma Therapy

References:, The Art of Massage Cupping, Anita J. Shannon, LBMT, Retrieved October 1, 2008, Massage Magazine Inc., 2008., Massage Cupping Therapy for Health Care Professionals, Anita J. Shannon, LMBT, Retrieved October 1, 2008, Massage Today, February 2004., The efficacy of wet-cupping in the treatment of tension and migraine headache, Ahmadi A, et al, Retrieved October 1, 2008, American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 2008;36(1):37-44., Observation on therapeutic effect of multiple cupping at back-shu points on chronic fatigue syndrome, Chen GL, et al, Retrieved October 1, 2008, Zhongguo Zhen Jiu (Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion), June 2008., Treatment of Senile Dementia with Running Cupping Along Back Shu Points: 18 Cases, Translated by Jennifer Lynn Brown, Retrieved October 1, 2008, New Journal of Traditional Chinese Medicine, December 1996.

Posted by Editors on November 6, 2008 11:59 AM
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Jun 15 2009

TCM, Cupping and Massage: Part III

Before massage therapists add cupping to their menu of services, they must have a firm grasp of cupping’s cautions and contraindications. This is the final installment of this important 3-part article.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

Because cupping gives massage therapists a break from deep tissue work while delivering a powerful therapeutic benefit, it is an ideal supplement to a massage therapy practice. While cupping is a relatively simple practice, there is a lot to learn about this method before mastering it. In addition to the flawless application and manipulation of cups, knowing what conditions it helps most and why cupping works, practicing therapists must know about cupping’s cautions and contraindications.

For background information on cupping, read TCM, Cupping and Massage: Part I and TCM, Cupping and Massage: Part II.

The therapeutic benefits to massage cupping are far-reaching. However, practitioners who include cupping in their repertoire must log in a significant amount of practice before performing it on clients. In order to assure its effectiveness and maintain cupping’s safety, massage therapists must be extra careful to prevent burns, apply the right level of suction and be familiar with all of the associated contraindications.

Fire Cautions
Because it can provide a strong suction without causing tissue damage, the fire twinkling method is the traditionally preferred method of cupping by many practitioners. Nonetheless, when using the fire twinkling method, therapists must be attentive, quick and agile to prevent burning their clients. The following tips help prevent burns or fire hazards:

· Protect – Since the practitioners must place the flame into the cup in close proximity to their clients for quick adherence, the client’s skin, hair, clothing and anything flammable (hair product, oils, linens) must be protected from catching fire. Being alert is crucial to providing such protection.

· Plan – Logistical planning prior to cupping is essential to minimize any fire hazards. Once the flame is withdrawn from the cup, the cup is applied and the flame is blown-out, place the hot, alcohol-soaked cotton ball on a stable, non-flammable surface. Because the flame may not be 100 percent extinguished, practitioners must make sure it cannot re-ignite what it is resting on, or roll off onto something flammable. A wide porcelain bowl on a firm surface (not the massage table) is a good choice.

· Timing – Choosing the amount of time the flame is held inside the cup can be a fine line between too short and too long. If the lit cotton is in the cup for too short a time, it will not create sufficient negative pressure for suction. If the lit cotton is in the cup for too long, the lip of the cup will become very hot and could burn the client. Until mastery over cupping is achieved, practitioners should always err on the flame occupying the cup for a shorter period of time. If insufficient suction occurs, the process can always be repeated.

Suction Cautions and Contraindications
Whether you choose the fire twinkling or suction pump method to apply the cups, the therapist must avoid cupping’s contraindications and be careful with the degree of suction used.

· Bruising – While stationary cupping typically causes more bruising than massage cupping, either technique can leave large, unsightly bruises in the cups’ wake. (To review the difference between these cupping variations, read TCM, Cupping and Massage: Part I.) To prevent surprised and angry recipients, make sure to discuss this possibility with your client prior to using this modality.

· Degree of Suction – Getting strong enough suction is key to cupping’s effectiveness. Although, too strong of a suction could damage the tissue or even create a blister. Cupping’s intensity depends upon the following: the speed the cup is placed on the skin after the flame has been removed, the strength of the flame (certain alcohol burns hotter than others) and the size of the cup. Therefore, practicing the balance between these variables will help the therapist determine a safe cupping routine. Practitioners will find that it is very challenging to obtain suction over irregular angles, thin muscles or on areas with lots of body hair.

· Contraindications – Just like any modality that strongly invigorates the circulation, there are some situations where cupping should be avoided. Cupping should not be done on a client with a fever, convulsions or cramps, over allergic skin conditions, ulcerated sores or large blood vessels. In addition, cupping is contraindicated on the abdomen or lower back of pregnant women or on those with a bleeding disorder.

Cupping is a relatively simple application that, when done correctly, can relieve many types of congestion in the body. Despite its simplicity, there is a great deal to learn about cupping before it can be safely administered. By reducing fire hazards, preventing burns, practicing timing, informing your client about the potential for bruising, refining your degree of suction and memorizing cupping’s contraindications, therapists are better prepared to add this valuable technique to their massage practice.

References:, The Art of Massage Cupping, Anita J. Shannon, LBMT, Retrieved October 1, 2008, Massage Magazine Inc., 2008., Massage Cupping Therapy for Health Care Professionals, Anita J. Shannon, LMBT, Retrieved October 1, 2008, Massage Today, February 2004., Ancient Chinese technique of cupping offers pain relief without drugs or surgery, Alexis Black, Retrieved October 9, 2008, Natural News Network, August 2006.

Liangyue, Deng, et al, Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 3rd printing, 1993, 346-347.

Tierra, Lesley, L.Ac., The Herbs of Life, The Crossing Press, Freedom, CA, 1992, 148-149.

Posted by Editors on November 25, 2008 04:17 PM
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May 27 2009

Beat the Heat: 7 Tips for Cool Summer Sessions

Are your client sessions already starting to heat up to an uncomfortable level this summer? Here’s how to support the body’s cooling mechanisms without losing the assistance heat lends to therapeutic massage.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

As summer sends the mercury rising, intolerance to excessive heat grows. When it comes to massage administration, this intolerance poses a contradiction. The nature of bodywork is enhanced with warmth, as higher temperatures encourage tissue relaxation and fluid circulation. However, when a person is overheated, adding even more heat is anything but therapeutic.

At first thought, a cooling technique, such as ice massage, appears to be a logical technique to balance the fiery heat of summer. While valuable for reducing inflammation in acute sports injury work, ice massage will not increase local circulation or relax tense muscles. The solution to providing a balanced therapeutic massage this season is to find ways to support body cooling without sacrificing the aid of warmth in the healing process. Try incorporating some of the following suggestions, or use them to jumpstart your own ideas into your summer client sessions:

1. Cool moonstones – Consider learning how to do a cool moonstone facial. While hot stone massage is a popular choice in colder months, the heat translated by hot stones can be too warming for many individuals already heated by summer’s temperature. The Institute offers the continuing education course, Stone Massage, which includes cool moonstone facial instruction. In addition to the moonstone facial, cool stones can be held in the palm or placed behind the neck to comfortably reduce body temperature.

2. Aloe Vera – A massage medium containing aloe vera creates a cooling sensation, and is particularly effective on sunburned skin. When applied to the lower legs and feet, aloe vera can bring the body’s temperature down a few degrees without inhibiting circulation or relaxation.

3. Room Temperature – The temperature in your massage setting is always a crucial factor, particularly during summertime. Especially if a client is already perspiring and feeling warm, stepping into a hot, stuffy room will only perpetuate their experience of heat. A ceiling fan’s slow setting is an ideal choice to make certain there is air circulation in the treatment space. However, finding the right semblance of cool can be a fine line, as an air conditioner blowing directly on a client can initiate muscular tension and contraction from its chill.

4. Hydrosol Misting – Hydrosols are the pure, water-based solutions created when essential oils are steam distilled. Take advantage of the cooling properties of peppermint or wintergreen to cool and refresh your client. When spraying a hydrosol mist, be aware of and refrain from its use if there are any contraindications present. Additionally, avoid irritation with any essential oil derivative by preventing any eye or mucus membrane contact.

5. Cucumber eye pats – Often used in spa settings, a disc of fresh cucumber placed over the eyes can cool down a flushed face quickly. The cooling and moisturizing properties of cucumber are ideal for a supine client struggling with a hot perspiring body. Always seek permission before placing fresh veggies on your client’s face.

6. Water consumption – Staying hydrated in the heat is crucial, especially when combined with bodywork’s characteristic release of toxins. To reduce overheating, offer your client a bottle of water to sip during, as well as after, your session.

7. Cooling Acupressure – According to Oriental Medical Theory, working the following two locations can reduce internal body heat:

Large Intestine 11 – Located at the lateral end of the transverse cubital crease, midway between the radial side of the biceps brachii tendon and the lateral epicondyle of the humerus. This is a traditional point to reduce fever, revive from heatstroke and reduce all kinds of internal heat conditions.

Governing Vessel 14 – Located just below the spinous process of cervical vertebrae 7. The main point for reducing summer heat, all of the yang (heat containing) meridians intersect here, and is therefore an extremely accessible location to release interior body heat. When this intersection of yang energy is opened, it reduces the accumulation of body heat.

Being aware of your client’s body temperature translates into your awareness of their comfort. The differences in body constitutions will lead some individuals to extreme discomfort in the heat while others will feel their best. When a therapist pays attention to temperature variations and then institutes methods to balance those variations, the client’s experience will be that much more beneficial and therapeutic.

Recommended Study:

Stone Massage


McCampbell, Harvest, Light Summer Massage Lotion Recipe, Massage Magazine, January/February 2001., The Five Element Theory, Stefan Karlsson, Dipl. Ac., 2006., Summer, Fire, Spirit, Tofinotime Magazine, June 2004., Acupuncture Points Database, Yin Yang House, 2006.

Posted by Editors at 01:01 PM

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May 27 2009

3 Imbalance-Specific Bladder Point Combinations

Understanding Oriental Medical theory to appropriately choose the best acupressure points typically requires years of post-graduate education. Our experts have provided a quick and easy summary of three common health imbalances and recommended point combinations most supportive of their healing.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

Most bodyworkers now perform a substantial intake evaluation prior to conducting their respective sessions. The interview process has become a requirement for conscious care, arising out of the profession’s increased presence in the healthcare industry. Once a therapist has the informative details of their client’s health, it is easier to create a customized treatment plan from the many possible massage therapy applications.

Acupressure practitioners are familiar with the meridians of the body, accessing the energy within these meridians to influence health. Out of the 12 primary meridians, the Urinary Bladder (UB) meridian is unique. With the most number of accessible points along its path, the UB meridian begins just medial to the inner canthus of the eye, ascends up the forehead, around the cranium, runs all the way down the dorsal surface of the body and finally ends at the lateral edge of the little toe. When this meridian descends along each side of the spine, UB points provide access to toning every organ system in the body.

Although not diagnosticians, bodyworkers can use the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to offer particularly beneficial treatments to their clients. In TCM, an imbalance of health is characterized by a symptomatic pattern. Discover the most beneficial points to work on the UB meridian for the following three commonly encountered imbalances:

Heart Blood Insufficiency
The symptoms of this pattern are characterized by anxiety and insomnia. Additional symptoms may include memory and concentration problems, heart palpitations, pale complexion, dizzy spells, vertigo and blurry vision. This pattern can manifest after blood loss (examples include: giving birth, surgery, trauma or heavy menses), or can be a result of chronic disease.

Working with Urinary Bladder points 15, 17 and 20 can be useful in bringing about balance to heart blood insufficiency.

UB 15 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the fifth thoracic vertebrae, at the height of the paraspinal muscle. This is the Associated Point of the Heart, and is indicated for its calming properties and ability to strengthen heart insufficiency.

UB 17 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the seventh thoracic vertebrae, at the height of the paraspinal muscle. This is the Influential Point of Blood, and is useful to build and nourish the blood.

UB 20 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the eleventh thoracic vertebrae, at the height of the paraspinal muscle. This is the Associated Point of the Spleen, and is indicated because the spleen is the primary source of nourishment for making blood.

Liver Invading the Spleen
The symptoms of this pattern are characterized by abdominal distention and pain aggravated by emotional upset. Additional symptoms typically include alternating constipation and loose bowel movements, flank pain, decreased appetite, dysmennorhea, irritability, depression and fatigue. In TCM, unreleased emotions create stagnation in the liver, which in turn, disturbs the spleen’s digestive functions.

Working with Urinary Bladder points 18, 20 and 25 can be useful in bringing about balance to a liver invading the spleen.

UB 18 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the ninth thoracic vertebrae, at the height of the paraspinal muscle. This is the Associated Point of the Liver, and is used to relieve stagnation in the liver.

UB 20 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the eleventh thoracic vertebrae, at the height of the paraspinal muscle. This is the Associated Point of the Spleen, and is indicated to strengthen the spleen’s digestive functions.

UB 25 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the fourth lumbar vertebrae. This is the associated point of the Large Intestine, and can help regulate the intestines.

Lung and Kidney Yang Deficiency
The symptoms of this pattern are characterized by asthma and coughing with watery sputum. Additional symptoms typically include a sensation of cold throughout the body, lower limb edema, low back cold and pain, fatigue, desire for warm beverages and breathlessness. In TCM, when the kidneys are lacking their life-giving fire and lung energy is weak, the body fails to transform fluids and warm itself. This pattern is commonly seen in chronic disease and the elderly.

Working with Urinary Bladder points 13, 23 and 43 can be useful in bringing about balance to lung and kidney yang deficiency.

UB 13 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the third thoracic vertebrae. This is the Associated Point of the Lung, and is useful in strengthening the lung.

UB 23 is located approximately two finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the second lumbar vertebrae, on the quadratus lumborum muscle. This is the Associated Point of the Kidney, and tonifies kidney yang.

UB 43 is located approximately four finger widths lateral to the lower border of the spinous process of the fourth thoracic vertebra, on the spinal border of the scapula. This point is commonly used in chronic conditions where the lung and kidney need strengthening.

While arriving at the correct TCM diagnosis is complex, the key to this analytical process is looking at the pattern from an overarching perspective. There are at least five or six possible imbalances each for anxiety, stomach pain and asthma, so investigate further to see if a client’s additional symptoms fit the rest of the pattern as described. If the imbalance seems to fit the presented case, working with the UB points listed abovie will aim your client in the direction of healing and recovery.

Do not press on disintegrating discs or fractured or broken bones. If your client has a weak back, use caution with a stationary, light touch. If you have any questions or need medical advice, seek permission to discuss your client’s health with their physician.

Editor’s Note
For more information on acupressure, read the article, Ten Highly Effective Acupressure Points

Flaws, B., Finney, D., A Compendium of TCM Patterns and Treatments, Blue Poppy Press, 1996.

Lade, A., Acupuncture Points: Images and Functions, Eastland Press, 1989.

Liangyue, D., Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, Foreign Languages Press, Beijing, 1993.

Maciocia, G., The Foundations of Chinese Medicine, Churchill Livingstone, 1995.

Posted by Editors at 10:39 AM
© 2009 Institute for Integrative HealthCare Studies. This work is reproduced with the permission of the Institute.

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May 23 2009

Emotional Spring Cleaning

Published by under accupuncture,yin yang TCM

Just as the environment adjusts to each seasonal change, so does the human body. The shift into spring prompts our release of stored emotions in preparation for increased activity and productivity. Learn how bodyworkers can assist in spring’s healthful transformation of winter’s stored emotional tension.

by Nicole Cutler, L.Ac.

During the winter, we draw our energy inward to reflect, rejuvenate and rest. As the season shifts into spring, energy bursts forth, like bulbs lying dormant throughout the colder months. As daylight lengthens, contained energy begins to flow instead of being stored. Nature’s activity during early spring can be witnessed everywhere, from newly composed avian harmonies to animal mating rituals. Projects sitting on hold jump to life and bodies that have been curled up on the couch itch to move. Spring is representative of transformation and growth, bringing renewed optimism, hope and life.

According to Chinese culture, humans are microcosms of the environment, and are equally affected by the change in season. The cyclical character of energy flow creates a predominance of energy in a paired organ system during a specified time of year. According to Chinese medical theory, the energy in the liver and gallbladder systems are most active in the spring.

In addition to viewing humans as mirrors of nature, Chinese medical theory also emphasizes the interplay of physical, emotional and spiritual aspects governed by each bodily system. Encompassing much more than the western medical model’s understanding of organ structure and function, each body system also governs emotion, cognition and spirit.

The cognitive responsibility of the liver is planning while the gallbladder oversees decision-making. When the energy in these two organ systems mounts, as it naturally does each spring, there can be two possible outcomes:

1. The desired outcome is an active outpouring of creativity, productivity and release of negative patterns.
2. The undesired outcome is energetic stagnation, or resistance to allowing this energy to flow.

Restricted liver energy manifests itself as anger, frustration, depression and irritability. Disease occurs when this energy is not expressed or freed. When energy remains stuck, it coagulates, becoming thick and heavy, hampering optimal body functioning. The inability to express spring’s active energy can lead to all sorts of illnesses including migraines, PMS, heart disease and even cancer.

Because the energy in the liver and gallbladder systems increase during the spring, people often experience an increase in stress, anger and anxiety during this season. When an outlet for this energy is found, these emotions can be transformed into creativity, opportunity and change. Springtime is ideal to convert these difficult emotions by focusing on their movement and release. Nature provides us this time of year to spring clean our stored emotions. Feeling these intense emotions is a healthy first step, and indicates readiness for the second spring cleaning step: release.

Emotional release can be achieved in many different ways, and each person must find the method that works best for them. Some methods that may be useful include:

· Engaging in physical activity
· Receiving bodywork
· Verbalizing emotions to a friend or professional
· Journaling or writing about one’s feelings
· Crying and/or laughing
· Meditation and/or visualization
· Using creativity as an emotional outlet

Bodyworkers can assist in this process by understanding the need for and paying extra attention to modalities encouraging emotional release. In general, relaxing massage strokes help clients shed tension and drop resistance. Techniques to invigorate the Liver and Gallbladder meridians are especially useful in facilitating the desired free and easy flow of energy. A specific acupressure combination to address this is called The Four Gates. While The Four Gates is typically used to reduce pain, its overarching purpose benefits both physical and emotional pain by invigorating and moving stagnation. For more specific information on The Four Gates, please see the previous article, Differentiating Back Pain from Kidney Pain, under bodywork techniques for Kidney stones.

Regardless of the method used, finding the path to emotional release keeps the body, mind and spirit healthy. The natural instinct to spring clean our homes and environment answers our spiritual yearning to clear away the cobwebs (stagnation) left over from winter. When spring cleaning is applied to emotional health, our ability to plan and make decisions blossoms, and we experience renewed optimism, creativity, hope and transformation. From the Chinese perspective, the free flow of liver and gallbladder energy is the number one disease preventative, and best way to guarantee a healthy and happy year.

Posted by Editors at 04:19 PM

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