Tui Na (Chinese Massage) and Anxiety
A blog by Acupuncturist Steve Coster
Have you ever wondered why illness and disease seems so random? Why does one person get sick while someone else, who seemingly lives in exactly the same way, is able to live a long life with no health issues at all?
I believe that stress and anxiety are two of the common denominators when it comes to illness. Diet, environment and exercise are important of course, but the mind is hugely significant. And whereas in the West we are slowly realizing how much the way we think affects ones health, the Chinese were talking about it 2,000 years ago!
We need Stress!
Stress and anxiety are normal, and without these emotions Homosapiens as a species would be long-gone, extinct before it even got started.
Why is that? Because stress is an aspect of the ‘fight or flight’ instinct within us all. So if it is necessary for survival, why is it bad for us? Well, it becomes a problem when it is prolonged. We are not made to be constantly running from danger! We need some down time – sitting around the fire feeling safe, or picking berries knowing our backs are covered.
Stress and anxiety can be the root of many illnesses, not only mental illness but physical too. This is why the holistic approach inherent in Chinese Medicine is so powerful.
Anxiety: good or bad?
Well first we must ask what is the cause of your anxiety: constitutional, emotional or mood?
Constitutional: this is our natural mood. What are we prone to? What is our nature? To answer this we must look to the 5 Elements:
Wood – Anger
Fire – Joy
Earth – Intellect
Metal – Sorrow
Water – Fear
Some people are quick to anger, and others to sadness. This is our nature and something we are born with. But simply being aware of this can help us stop it in its tracks. It is normal and it helps to be mindful of who we are and what (or who) presses our buttons! e.g. taking a few moments to reflect before losing our tempers. Similarly, people who are of a Fire nature can be quick to excitement, and in some this can manifest as anxiety. Or those more of an Earth temperament may be more prone to over-thinking a situation or something that someone may have flippantly said to them.
On the other hand, repression of one’s nature can also lead to problems.
Some emotions we know the cause of; a job we hate or a stressful relationship. In either case, too much of any one emotion (say, frustration) will suppress one’s energy and over time affect our health.
However, our moods and emotions can also be affected by the environment – most frequently Wind, Cold or Damp….in the UK anyway! Wind equates to movement, either from the wind itself or maybe too much change too quickly. This might mean headaches or conditions where pain moves around the body.
Damp, on the other hand, is dull and heavy and can ‘dampen’ our moods, making one lethargic and brooding. In my practice I mostly come across Damp caused by diet, e.g. too much dairy or fatty foods, but it can also cause problems if one’s living conditions are damp, or by wearing damp clothing after the gym.
Mood can also be linked to emotional and constitutional factors, e.g. you might wake up angry for no apparent reason. If we wake up in a mood, we have a choice – to continue the day taking out our mood on everyone else, or we can simply let it go; acknowledge it as a passing ‘feeling’ and then continue your day in peace. But of course, sometimes it’s just not that easy, and we need a helping hand.
How can Tui Na (Chinese Massage) help anxiety?
By working on channels and points with soothing motions to nourish and calm the Qi, Tui na can help to move any stagnation and deficiency of energy/Qi. In this way Tui Na can affect the bodily processes, such as digestion and bowel movements, but also ultimately the Mind. It can be incredibly relaxing, but also energizing.
Tui na can also help clear the channels leading into the head, and thus helping one to think more clearly (and at the same time easing that stiff neck!). I may also use heat to move any Damp or Cold, relieving aches and pains and allowing energy to move more efficiently around the body, or a few fire cups to expel any Wind that is moving around the body.
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