Qi in Tuina (Chinese Therapeutic Massage)
By John Voigt
Shanghai University of Traditional Chinese Medicine affiliated Yueyang Hospital Integrative Massage Department is known as the cradle of China's modern massage. (source)
Definitions of Tuina
Tuina (also spelled "Tui na") literally means "push" and "grab." It is a style of Chinese massage that in addition to working on the muscles and other soft tissues, and joints of the body, also improves and harmonizes the flow of qi. Massage is one of the basic tenets of Chinese Traditional Medicine (TCM).
Definitions of Qi
Qi is often defined as "energy" but that can be misleading. It may be more efficacious when qi is observed within the context of where it is used and how it functions. Within Tuina, qi may be thought of as functioning as a bio-electric interface between conscious awareness and the physical body. As such, qi is the energetic cause of life, similar in the way electricity is the energetic cause of both the light of a light bulb, or the workings of the hardware and software of a computer.
More practically, the sensations of qi are commonly thought of as being the qi itself; in other words the way the life energy is perceived by any of the five senses is called "qi." In Tuina when a therapist's hands grow hot this heat often is referred to as "qi." A sick person may feel cold and clammy and emanate a visually perceptible sickly qi energy. Or there may be a foul smell in the air from the client's released turbid qi. Conversely after a massage a person may seem to visually sparkle with healthy life energy.
Qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
Qi takes many different forms in TCM, but it is usually thought of as manifesting in the body in interrelated yin and yang patterns. Good health results from the balanced harmonious circulation of this qi within the body, mind, and especially in the energetic pathways called meridians, and in the organs to which these pathways connect.
When qi circulation is impeded by stagnations, excesses or blockages, the possible results are a loss of mental and or physical well-being, illness, or death from what is called "bad qi" (in Chinese known as "xie qi") meaning turbid, pathogenic, evil, or demonic qi. (see "Turbid Qi")
The Release of "Bad" Qi in Tuina
Many of the manipulations of tuina besides gathering in good qi (called "tonifying") can by opening obstructions and stagnations rid the client of bad qi. Here are just a few examples:
• Pushing relieves stagnation, clears obstructions, and disperses ("sedates") conditions of excess.
• Squeezing can work like pushing, but also is used to open and gather in good qi into acupressure points.
• Pressing and releasing can disperse bad qi.
• Slapping, as well as joint manipulations, loosen stagnant qi and increases qi flow.
After finishing a treatment it is generally helpful to brush away any remaining bad qi; brush down and/or outward to the sides like sweeping dust and dirty filth off a statute. Brushing also aids in drawing in fresh healthy qi.
Tuina often uses acupressure-like techniques to release blockages in the acupoints and correct the flow of qi in the meridians.
Power Qi (Jin) in Tuina
Tuina as practiced by certain advanced masters uses a concentrated focus of the mind along with breathing techniques to bring about an increase of qi into their body, especially into the lower belly (the dantian), and from there up the back into the shoulders and down into the arms, hands, and fingers. The qi flows sensuously into the tendons and muscles and joins with the strength inherently there to create relaxation and an increased awareness of an inner muscular power called "Jin" or "Jing." By using Jin and not simply brute physical strength the therapist can send an increased amount of healing, relaxing and pleasurable energy into the body of the client.
The Qi Gong Tui Na master has developed an ability to push his Qi into his hands and control the emission of Qi from his body. When they touch your body, you will feel a warm, dry hand that produces a relaxing effect. In cases of serious disorder, the Qi Gong Tui Na master will emit their Qi into specific energy centers of your body to augment your body's healing ability. Some of the soft tissue techniques, such as shaking and grasping, can be very vigorous to break up stagnation in tissues and strongly move the Qi in the body. Acupressure techniques can be used to stimulate acupuncture points on the body to adjust the flow of Qi in specific meridians or to release a specific point that is blocked. [Interactive acupuncture model] Qi harmonizing techniques can properly balance the more subtle flow of energy in your body and relax your mind and body. While some techniques may be uncomfortable at times, the results will leave you feeling energized and feeling stronger. In conjunction with an array of manipulation techniques, Qi Gong Tui Na can be very effective for all forms of physical injury and many internal disorders. The diagnosis and healing abilities of a developed master can detect and correct many diseases with their manual and energetic techniques. www.altmd.com
Advice to the Therapist on increasing and using your Qi
• Lead a healthy life style. Do standard practices such as qigong, taijiquan, and meditation.
• Practitioners might visualize drawing into themselves, and storing for use in the lower abdomen (dantian), healthy healing qi from trees and or lush vegetation in their immediate environment. For those comfortable with the use of certain esoteric Daoist meditation techniques, external qi may be gathered in and absorbed from the Earth, Sun, Moon and Stars, especially Polaris, the Pole Star, and from the Big Dipper.
• Chinese Exercise Balls (Baoding Balls) will build hand and finger strength, and possibly qi-power (jin), and qi transmitting abilities.
• Finally it is suggested that the qi healer always show professional compassion and empathy. She or he should be sensitive to their own qi as well as the client's qi. And as the massage takes place—although always existing as two separate entities—the two qi's should resonant as one.
Editor's Comments: The information in this entry may assist a therapist and a client in gaining more from a tuina qi-energy based massage. However, it is not offered as a way to teach Tuina or to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent an illness. If you want to be a practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine go to school for it. If you are sick seek out medical professional help, either western or Chinese, or preferably both.
The terms "Tuina," Qigong Massage," "Asian Massage," etc. have become loosely defined both in the west and in China. Some sort of massage is probably meant, but beware: occasionally such terms are used to describe places of prostitution. One way to know the difference is to pay close attention to the way the establishment is advertised: young Asian women skimpily dressed, seductive in appearance, and offering something called "Erotic," "Happy Endings" or "Sensual," could be selling an illegal sexual activity that could put them and their customers in jail.
^"Tui" also translates as pushing, and stretching. The "Na" as grabbing, squeezing,
grasping, lifting, pulling, and pinching. However "Tuina" in modern practice usually only means "Chinese Massage" that possibly may use—in addition to the above manipulations—(in straight and circular movements), pressing, rubbing, brushing, stroking, slapping, lifting, rotating, and wringing, each done with either a hard, medium or soft touch in straight and circular movements. Tuina is often called "Qi Gong Tui Na" which highlights its aspect of working with qi.
^ Soft tissue includes muscles, nerves and blood vessels; as well as tendons, ligaments, fascia, skin, fibrous tissues and fat. The fascia is the very important connective tissue that enfolds and enmeshes every structure and organ within the body, and may be the basic physical conduit for non-physical meridian qi within the body. (see www.acupuncture.com) After a tuina session with an master therapist, the fascia of the author feels fully inflated with qi, something like a tire fully inflated with air. ("air" is another definition for qi.)
^ Tuina enlivens and invigorates the synovial [lubricating fluid producing] membranes within the joints.
^ see Marty Eisen, "Qi in Traditional Chinese Medicine."
^ see "Yin Yang Application in the Treatment of Chinese Medicine."
^ This circulation of qi is integral to, and reciprocally resonating with the flow of blood in the circulatory system, the bio-electric impulses within the nervous system including the brain and spine. Also with the movement of fluids in the lymphatic system.
^ Jin (also translated as Jing) is a term from taijiquan meaning an internal combination of qi and muscular strength which through practice can manifest externally as enormous power. For more about jin/jing see Tai Chi Chuan Martial Power: Advanced Yang Style, by Dr. Yang, Jwing-Ming. YMAA, 2015.
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Tuina (or Tui na or tuina), "Chinese Massage." Pronounced twee (high pitch), nah (rising pitch). Both Chinese simplified and traditional script is 推拿; in pinyin: tuī ná.
Jin (or jing, or chin), "Strength"; and from taijiquan "an inner energetic-muscular power." Simplified 劲 / Traditional 勁; pinyin: jìn or jìng.
Xie Qi, turbid, pathogenic, or bad qi. Pronounced shay (rising pitch) chee (falling pitch). Simplified 邪气 / Traditional邪氣; in pinyin: xié qì.