Eastern Massage Techniques

Eastern Massage Approaches By Rachel Fairweather

This month in Massage World’s CPD section we will explore the exciting world of Eastern massage techniques with not one but 2 articles! Using principles of balancing energy through the meridians, Amma Fusion and Table Thai are 2 dynamic massage techniques that can be easily integrated with your existing body work for an effective and unusual treatment. The techniques are a lot of fun and clients love the deep but gentle pressure, balancing point work and exhilarating passive stretches of these approaches

Meridian Magic!- Using meridians and acupressure points in Massage

Why Use Meridians and Acupressure Points in Massage?

Anna, one of my regular clients, staggered into my clinic looking tired and drained. Her new job involved a gruelling commute and long hours, leaving her with a sinus infection she couldn’t shift. An hour later, after a thorough treatment working her Lung meridian and relevant acupressure points on her face, she was bright eyed, decongested and relieved. “ I never cease to be amazed at what massage can do” she said- a great advert for me and for massage in general.

John, a Jing trained massage therapist, does on site massage for a local company. Because of his knowledge of meridians and acupressure points he is able to provide not just chair massage, but bodywork on a massage table over clothes. His clients love being able to actually lie down and this enables John to do serious therapeutic work in the 20 minute treatments. Amma Fusion Meridian techniques as taught by Jing involve no oil and can be performed over clothes. This makes them perfect for on site situations or for clients who are uncomfortable removing their clothing.

Vivian suffers from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. She finds life a struggle and previous Swedish massage treatments have left her even more tired and drained. In contrast, treatments utilising Amma Fusion meridian techniques give her more energy and leave her feeling energetically balanced and able to cope with life. Again my knowledge of acupressure has enabled me to gain a regular client where I may have lost one.

The above examples give you a few ideas of how Amma Fusion (meridian and acupressure massage) as taught by Jing is not just good for you but good for your clients and, above all, good for your business. As a bodyworker with 20 years experience in the industry, I know how hard it can be to build up a thriving practice. To do this successfully you need a toolbox of techniques and approaches that can help clients in many diverse situations. Amma Fusion has several benefits for you and your clients that can help you build the practice you desire:

o Amma is often successful in treating conditions that do not traditionally respond to Swedish or other standard massage techniques. These include digestive complaints, colds, headaches, sleep disturbances, chronic fatigue, neck or back pain that does not respond to a muscular based approach.
o Amma can be performed over light clothing which is preferable for some clients.
o Learning to use your own body energy enables you to give a more effective massage with less work, saving your body and your career.
o Adding Amma fusion to your toolbox of techniques enables you to attract more clients and adds an extra dimension to treatment of existing clientele.

So what are meridians and acupressure points?

Put quite simply, meridians are like the energy “super highways” of the body. The core principle of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is that health and illness are directly related to the flow of qi (energy) in the body. If qi (pronounced “chee”) becomes imbalanced in some way (ie: by becoming deficient, excessive or stagnant) dis-ease may result. From a TCM point of view, energy flows in channels known as “meridians”; traditionally there are 72 channels with 12 major ones used in acupuncture and bodywork. Amma Fusion techniques focus on balancing energy in the body by working these channels through palming/thumbing techniques and a series of dynamic stretches.

Amma Fusion also uses knowledge of recognisable points along the meridians where the energy can be easily accessed and balanced. These are known as acu-points or more commonly, acupressure points (“tsubos” in Shiatsu)

Try this! Sensing Energy

Meridians are like magical underground energy rivers in the body. It can take time and patience to be able to feel them but if you try and tune into the meridians on every client you put your hands on you will soon start to get a sense of the presence of qi in the body.

Sit quietly with your feet on the ground and tune into the sensation of your breath. Follow your breath for several cycles as you feel your mind and body start to become still. Have your hands palm up in your lap. Imagine you are breathing energy up from the ground into your feet then into your belly. On the out breath imagine you are shooting this breath up the spine and out of the arms and hands. When you have got used to this sensation you may feel that your hands have started to get warmer or more tingly.

Bring your hands out in front of you as if you are holding a small tennis ball at the level of your belly and see if you notice any sensations between your hands. Practice moving your hands different distances apart so the size of your “energy ball” changes from a tennis ball to a football to a beach ball. You may find with time that you feel a warmth or an attraction or a repulsion between your hands. This is what energy feels like.

Now see if you can feel energy in the body. Place the palm of one hand over the wrist (soft side) of your other hand and tune in. You may start to feel underground “rivers” of energy- these are the meridians. If you feel this, follow a channel along up the arm and see where it goes. Congratulations! You are entering the marvellous magical world of meridian massage!

What is Amma Fusion?

Amma fusion massage uses an exciting blend of the most effective Eastern massage techniques and draws from disciplines such as acupressure, table shiatsu and tuina.

Utilizing the model of meridians, Amma is similar to acupuncture but uses the firm gentle pressure of hands. Amma can be used to treat conditions such as migraines, neck and back pain, sinus problems, digestive complaints, chronic fatigue, and in preventive health care. Systemic conditions may also be eased with this subtle and powerful technique.

Amma is based on concepts of traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM); TCM is based firmly in philosophy and ones relationship to the universe. Amma focuses on the movement of qi; strokes take energy form the centre of the body out to the extremities. This in combination with pressure on certain acupressure points unblocks stagnant qi and increases health and vitality.

Amma can be used as a stand alone technique or blended with other bodywork styles including myofascial release, stretching, other energy work and trigger point therapy.

Principles used in Amma Fusion

There are certain principles used in Amma Fusion that are common to all good bodywork. These include:

o Importance of grounding: To practise Amma well you must understand what it means to be in touch with the ground, to be working from your ‘hara’ or centre of your body rather than your head.

o Principles of pressure: Good therapists always use their body weight to apply pressure rather than muscular strength. This allows the qi of the giver and receiver to interact. Remember – “lean don’t press.”

o Listening to your client: Allow your hands and whole being to tune into your partner. Connect with the heart and listen with your hands.

o Body Mechanics: Using the principles of tai chi move from your belly; let your legs and hips do the work. Focus your hara on where you are working. Learn the dance of massage, moving with fluidity and grace.

Acupressure Party Tricks!

Here are a few acupressure “party tricks” you can try out with your clients or family. These are effective points that can be used as “shotgun” techniques to achieve a certain effect. Great for convincing potential clients about the power of acupressure and bodywork!

Point for headaches, face and toothache pain

A great point for any type of pain in the head or face is Colon 4 . To find this point work into the webbing between your thumb and first finger until you find a sore spot. Hold the point until the pain starts to ease.

Co 4 is also known as “The great eliminator” so is also a great point for constipation!

Points for sinus problems or nasal congestion

Try these points the next time you have a stuffy nose.
o Colon 20: Find the part of your nose that flares out and with your little finger find a hollow in the bone right next to the nostril. Hold the other side of the head with your other head and wait until the congestion eases.

o Bladder 2: This point is at the medial end of the eyebrow. Press up into the bone above the eye into a small depression.

Point for emotional balancing and release

o CV 17: This point is found on the breast bone at the level of the 4th intercostal space. It is great to finish a session by holding this point and with one hand and the other on the forehead.

Table Thai Massage– A Dynamic Fusion of East and West

Why Table Thai?

“Table “ and “Thai” – the 2 words don’t really seem to go together; Thai massage, like many Eastern techniques such as Shiatsu, is traditionally carried out on the floor on a futon enabling the massage therapist to optimally use their body weight to apply wonderful palming compression strokes and deep stretches. This contrasts with techniques such as Swedish massage, sports massage or remedial massage, which again for reasons of body mechanics, tend to work better with the use of a massage table. This often leads to a rather arbitrary division where massage therapists tend to practise one or the other of these massage styles without integration, even if they have training in both. there are occasions where pure technique is appropriate for but we can lose out on the potential benefits to our clients of combining different styles. This is one of the hallmarks of the “Jing” approach – a form of integrated bodywork where the practitioner is able to draw from a wide “toolbox” of techniques. We encourage combining styles in a creative way to give the client the best possible treatment for them. This is how you build a practice; this is how you retain clients week in week in out, year after year, and most of all this is how you stop yourself getting bored with your work. You can constantly reinvent the passion that drew you to bodywork in the first place.

Traditional Thai Massage vs Swedish Massage

The casual observer of Thai massage may be surprised to learn that it is in fact an energy based technique. Traditional Thai massage is based on a very different “map “ of the body than Swedish based massage styles, taking as its starting point a view of the body that is based on energy lines known as “sen”. It is important to note that, although there are similarities, these lines are different than the Chinese meridian lines used in shiatsu, acupuncture , tuina and amma. The aim of a Thai massage session is to balance energies throughout the body by working these lines through palming/thumbing techniques and a series of powerful stretches that resemble a kind of assisted yoga.

In contrast the “map” employed by Swedish based massage styles is based on more familiar notions of soft tissue; our goal is to affect the muscles, fascia, tendons and ligaments. Swedish based strokes such as effleurage work to assist the circulation, the blood and the lymph flow, and are traditionally carried out in a direction towards the heart – exactly the opposite way to many Eastern based styles.

“The map is not the territory”- integration of East and West

If you truly understand the essence of the different styles, East and West can easily be integrated to create a truly powerful bodywork that is unique in its own right. Although Swedish and Eastern styles are looking at the body in a very different and seemingly mutually exclusive way, they are only maps” of the body. As the great quote goes “ the map is not the territory’, here, the body itself is the “territory “. Once we develop our bodywork and knowledge skills we can understand our way around it with less need for “maps”. It’s a bit like trying to find your way around London, there are many different “maps of the city for different modes of transport, for example the A-Z which shows you how you can get around by foot or car; the bus map, or the map for the tube. If you don’t know the city its much easier to use only one “map” to navigate your way around. But when you know the territory itself, you can start to integrate different maps. You can get to where you want in the most enjoyable and efficient way; hopping from the bus to the tube; or deciding to get out and walk between tube and bus. Its no different with the body. This is the essence of true bodywork mastery. If you are well versed in different bodywork styles and understand their “essence” you can use whichever style will help that client most at that particular time and in most cases, blend styles appropriately.

In relation to Table Thai this is exactly what we have developed at Jing. For the eclectic bodyworker. the wonderful techniques of Thai massage can be adapted quite easily into a Western system – the compression, and thumbing can be used to work muscles rather than energy lines and the fantastic yoga type stretches can used to increase flexibility and re-vitalise the body. More than anything, Table Thai is really a great excuse to have FUN with the body and we all need to have fun to prevent our practice getting stale.

Table Thai techniques

One of the most basic Table Thai techniques is palming. Palming is a very versatile technique that can be used in many places on the body such as the back, buttocks or legs.

Palming is used to warm up the body and open the energy channels. When palming, relax your hands and fingers, use the palm and heel of the hand and “fall” into your client’s body with your body weight. The amount of pressure that is needed will differ from person to person, body part to body part and with the same person at different times. At Jing we put a lot of emphasis on developing what we call “listening touch” – that is the ability to sense phenomena about the body, from the touch alone. The first step in developing your listening touch is the ability to sense how far the body will let you in, both physically and emotionally, without tensing up or registering pain. In Thai massage this is used to feel the energy and where it is blocked in the body.

Imagine sinking down into your clients body, millimetre by millimetre, through layers of the skin, fascia , muscles and energy until you feel a barrier. If you wait patiently at this barrier you may feel the client let you in even further. This is the essence of working deeply without causing your client pain or expending too much of your own energy in the process –“work deeper not harder”. Remember that until you have developed your listening touch to a high level you should always check in verbally with your client about the pressure you are using.

Variations on palming
There are 2 ways that you can use palming techniques while working on the table. One is to stand by the side of the table; the other is to actually climb on the table itself! The latter can seem scary at first but is actually a good way of working deeper with clients who require a lot of pressure.

Palming from side of table: Client prone: Stand face on to the side of the table and place your hands on the opposite erector spinae making sure you are on the soft tissue and not on the spine. Lean in with your “listening touch” and sink down with both hands. Slowly “walk”down the muscles with your hands – you can take this stroke all the way into the buttocks and all the way down the hamstrings if you choose. Then move to the other side of the table and work the other side of the body in the same way.

Palming while kneeling on side of table: Please note that although this technique is safe if done properly you should always follow any general health and safety precautions that may be operating at your place of work. Also always use your common sense as there may be some situations where clients may find this inappropriate. To palm from the side of the table simply kneel on the edge and in a “table top” body position, lean into the erector spinae with your listening touch as before. Keep your arms straight but not locked and slowly walk your hands down the back. If appropriate you can also straddle your clients body in a “lunge” position and do double palming down both erector spinae at once.

Want to learn more?

If you are interested in the integration of Eastern and Western techniques come along to our 4 day Amma Fusion course ( 2 x 2 day modules) or one day Table Thai course . These exciting classes will enable you to incorporate the wonderful dynamics of Eastern acupressure, meridian work and stretches into your existing massage work. East meets West – you know it’s the best!

About Jing
The Jing Institute of Advanced Massage Training is an organisation dedicated to excellence in all aspects of postgraduate massage training. Based in Brighton, we offer courses around the country. Our courses include longer qualifications in advanced massage including our revolutionary BTEC Level 6 (degree level) in Advanced Clinical and Sports massage and 1-2 day CPD courses in Hot Stone Fusion, trigger point, myofascial release, stretching, pregnancy, on site, living anatomy and many others. You can also check out the approaches discussed in this article in our DVD in advanced clinical massage techniques, downloadable from the website. Please call or check our website for further information and course dates.


Tel: 01273 628942

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