Traditional Chinese medicine dates back to over 2,000 years ago and encompasses various therapy techniques including herbal remedies, acupuncture, and massage.
Traditional Chinese medicine revolves around the notion that qi, the body’s vital energy, flows through meridians, which are paths that connect major organs and bodily functions. Qi is affected by yin and yang, a Chinese concept also mentioned in our post about inflammation and colds in Chinese medicine. Yin and yang, loosely translated as “shady” and “sunny” respectively, are complementary forces that interact in all aspects of life. Qi manifests itself through yin and yang; in order to have optimal health, the amount of yin and yang in the body must be in harmony.
Another principle traditional Chinese medicine relies upon is the 五行 (wǔ xíng), or “five elements” theory. This theory breaks the universe down into five elements: metal (金 jīn), wood (木 mù), water (水 shuǐ),fire (火 huǒ), and earth (土 tǔ). These aspects of the five elements theory are used in applying therapy techniques, as each element of wu xing corresponds to a pair of organs in the body.
There is some controversy surrounding traditional Chinese medicine, due to the lack of rigorous scientific evidence proving whether or not the methods work. Nevertheless, traditional Chinese medicine is quite prevalent in Chinese-speaking countries today, and has also become a well-known form of alternative medicine all over the world due to its historical and cultural roots. Therapy techniques focus on regulating bodily functions through easing tension and improving circulation.
Here is an overview of a few different types of therapy techniques used in Chinese medicine:
1. ACUPUNCTURE, 针灸 (ZHĒN JIǓ)
Acupuncture involves inserting thin needles into the body at specific points for a period of time. The needles are placed on acupuncture points, which relate to qi and meridians that connect to certain body parts and functions. When qi becomes blocked or unbalanced, illness arises. By placing the needles at points associated with the origin of illness, the flow of qi can be restored. Acupuncture is commonly used for pain relief.
2. CUPPING, 拔罐 (BÁ GUÀN)
Bá guàn is a technique that uses small cups, often made of glass, to create suction on the skin. Suction can be created in a variety of ways. One method involves lighting up an alcohol-soaked cotton ball and placing it inside the cup. The cotton ball is then removed, and the heated cup is quickly placed on the skin. As the air inside the cup cools down, the skin is drawn up by the pressure. This creates light swelling and bruising on the skin when the cups are removed. While the bruises are prominent, they are not painful and the treatment is generally a relaxing experience. Like the needles in acupuncture, the cups are strategically placed at certain points to balance qi and stimulate blood flow. Cupping is often used to treat respiratory problems.
3. GUA SHA, 刮痧 (GUĀ SHĀ)
Did you know? In the 1970’s, several Chinese immigrant parents were wrongly accused of child abuse, due to red marks on their children’s skin caused by gua sha! This practice involves repeatedly scraping lubricated skin with a tool, which could be a ceramic spoon, coin, animal bone, or shaped piece of rock. The tool’s smooth edge is firmly stroked across the skin, starting in the spinal area and moving along meridians to produce light bruises. Like other techniques in traditional Chinese medicine, gua sha is believed to release toxins from the body and improve blood circulation. While the process can be painful, its purpose is to relieve blood stagnation and tension and relax muscles through increased blood flow. Gua sha is used as a remedy for problems including chronic pain or fever.
D4. TUI NA, 推拿 (TUĪ NÁ)
Tui na, which literally translates to “push and grasp”, is a form of therapeutic massage that focuses on treating specific problems rather than simply providing relaxation. Various hand techniques are used, including kneading, rolling, pressing, and rubbing. Tui na often involves acupressure, which is a technique that uses fingers, hands, or the elbow to apply pressure to a specific point on the body. Similar to the other therapy methods, tui na aims to regulate the flow of qi in the body by targeting points and meridians. These techniques are often used to treat musculoskeletal conditions.
In solo forms, tai chi is a way to understand one’s self. It’s a way to feel the internal flow of energy, as well as any internal tension. There is no opponent except whatever negative thoughts, heavy emotions, or internal demons arise.
Tai Chi Push Hands: External Forces. With push hands, one must deal with external forces in addition to whatever internal stress one carries. Rather than feeling simply the air, one has a direct experience of the force and energy from one’s practice partner. A Training for Martial Arts. Push hands is a version of sparring in tai chi. It is the bridge to move from a fluid solo form to tai chi for martial arts. Two persons maintain arm contact while trying to unbalance and to push each other.
But, push hands is not a sumo match and it’s not about sheer mass or muscle power. There’s typically no hitting, kicking, although there’re some push hands styles where throws and joint-locks are all part of the game.
Push Hands for All Practitioners. It’s also possible to practice push hands in a non-threatening and cooperative way. This form of push hands is useful for all tai chi students, even those without an interest in the martial aspects of tai chi.
Push Hands for Relaxation. The key is to use relaxation, intent, awareness, sensitivity, and knowledge of the internal energies to push and to uproot your partner. It tests your ability to root and to remain relaxed and balanced, despite whatever forces are coming in from the external environment.
When confronted with an opponent or even a practice partner, it’s easy for emotions such as fear or anger to arise. Pushing to win can also take you away from a relaxed state. Focus to maintain a steady breath and a relaxed stance with good alignments.
When you’re tense or not well aligned, it will be easy for your partner to take your balance. This forces you to quickly recognize and to relax areas of tension—or you will find yourself easily off-balanced by your partner.
Circles in Push Hands. Like all of tai chi, push hands involves circles. Here, the hands circle back and forth between the two practitioners. One half of the circle defends, and the second half attacks.
Yield and Defend. For defending, the emphasis is on rooting or grounding, and deflecting or yielding to an attack. There is no attempt to directly oppose the force from your partner.
Attack. Immediately after yielding, counter and attack by using your partner’s force against him or her. If your partner has overextended and is tilting forward, you’ll find that only an ounce of force will be needed to send them off-balance.