Eastern Philosophy and Western Religion

Ask a Therapist

By David Lauterstein

Originally published in Body Sense magazine, Autumn/Winter 2004.

Q. I’m a Christian and a massage enthusiast. I’m intrigued by some Eastern-based therapies, but I feel they conflict with my religious beliefs. Can you help?

A. David Lauterstein, an international teacher of bodywork and co-founder of The Lauterstein-Conway Massage School in Austin, Texas, says, “It is useful to know that Eastern-based therapies are not based on religion. They are based on Eastern theories of anatomy and physiology, quite similarly to Western-based therapies. Eastern anatomical theories describe our body’s physical structures as well as how our energy moves these structures. The massage techniques have been developed in many cases over an even longer historical period than many Western therapies. So actually you are most often receiving quite tried-and-true methods when you experience Asian bodywork. Most popular and common are: shiatsu, Japanese in origin (often called acupressure massage); tui na, Chinese in origin; Thai massage; and ayurvedic massage, Indian in origin.

“As with all health therapies, try to assess the competence of the practitioner through a combination of “tests” before making an appointment: get a direct referral from someone you trust, ask to see their credentials, and interview them by phone or in person.

“A good therapist, no matter what religion(s) she may practice, is trained to address the individual’s needs. A good therapist will leave her beliefs and judgments at the door. She is a healthcare professionals whose goal is your health. As one shiatsu practitioner recently related, “I believe that through my work a Christian person will have an easier time being a good Christian.”

For more information, you may want to visit the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia website at www.aobta.org.