As a consumer of massage, you already know there are wonderful benefits to receiving therapeutic touch. And you’ve likely tried one or two variations of massage or bodywork as you’ve meandered along this path of complementary healthcare. But did you know there are at least 250 kinds of therapies that are part of this growing massage and bodywork tradition? From acupressure to Zero Balancing, there are a multitude of lush, leaf-filled branches on this bodywork tree, making it a perfect spot under which to throw a blanket and sit a while.
The “unknowns” of energy medicine are the aspects that make it seem unusual, unique, and — unquantifiable. The very things that make the work profound are also the things that have kept much of the medical establishment at arm’s length on this side of the world. Now, as science is slowly proving out what energy practitioners have always known about their work, traditional medicine is gingerly extending its hand. Will it be welcomed?
What are Asian Bodywork Therapies (ABT)? Are they indigenous, traditional forms of bodywork from Asia? Does a style of bodywork necessarily have to originate in some Asian country or culture in order to be considered an ABT? What is it that qualifies ABTs and draws them together under that umbrella? Are there bodywork therapies within Asia that are not considered forms of ABT? These are complicated, and revealing, questions.
Energy healing is often discussed as a new, somewhat unexplainable therapy. Truth is, energy work is an effective bodywork that is as ancient as healing itself.
Cradled in his arms, children who rarely find a moment’s peace find a sea of calm, Jeff Bisdee has offered the aquatic body therapy known as Watsu at The Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh since 1997. As the manager of recreational therapy there for the past 17 years, Bisdee was impressed the first time he saw Watsu. “It was an epiphany,” said Bisdee. “I was always interested in doing aquatic therapy with patients and when I saw this being done, I knew right then and there it was something I should be doing.”
As you lie on the table under crisp, fresh sheets, hushed music draws you into the moment. The smell of sage fills the air and you hear the gentle sound of massage oil being warmed in your therapist’s hands. The pains of age, the throbbing from your overstressed muscles, the sheer need to be touched — all cry out for therapeutic hands to start their work. Once the session gets underway, the problems of the world fade into an oblivious 60 minutes of relief and all you can comprehend right now is not wanting it to end.
Shiatsu may sound exotic, but it has a long tradition in Western massage. Indeed one of the first books that influenced the growth of the modern massage movement in 19th century Europe was the translation of an ancient Chinese massage text, The Cong Fu of Tao-Tse. Shiatsu evolved over thousands of years, influenced by massage in China.
The passing of an influential person, like Tokujiro Namikoshi, often demands a retrospective of the contributions they made to society and the positive changes they helped to implement. His death on September 25, 2000, at the age of 94, cast a formidable shadow on Japanese bodywork. Namikoshi was instrumental in the development and proliferation of Shiatsu, the Japanese technique of thumb and palm pressure on a pattern of certain points over the body to relieve pain, promote relaxation and stimulate blood and lymphatic flow.
Ping Lee’s training as an engineer comes in handy when he’s explaining the concept of energy. “Conceptualize the word air,” he says. “The Chinese have a lot of expressions with the word air. It sounds insignificant, so when you say something is air, what type of thing is it? Can you picture a steam locomotive, do you know how powerful that is? When we use the word steam we think of a cloud, but it is only a condensation of air — energy. What I teach in class, when we talk about energy, is seeing the word air as energy. You can feel a person’s presence, that’s energy.