I had held out long enough – over two years, in fact. I had never tried a proper session of traditional Chinese medicine bodywork. Recently, I allowed myself to be talked into it by my Chinese friend, M. I usually enjoy a good soothing, oil-infused massage. But sometimes, even if the objective is self-care and relaxation, I can be too lazy to actually go and get the treatment. I also hate the greasy feeling that I come home with, so I don’t indulge in an oil massage very often.
However, hearing M talk about the detoxifying wonders of her regular tuina treatment made me curious. Goodness knows I have neglected my body’s little whispers and creaks for far too long. My interest was piqued by a practice that was not touted solely for relaxation, but for the purpose of rebalancing the body’s qi or energy.
I knew to expect a variety of movements designed to compress the body along specific energy channels. The words kneading, friction, pulling, and rocking stuck with me. I read a while back that tuina could leave you feeling sore, especially if there were a lot of blockages to work on. The soreness was supposed to be a good sign, as it meant the knots were being softened and your body was flushing the toxins out.
This was, after all, a therapeutic procedure. With a history of over 1,000 years and over a billion people who swear by it, it couldn’t be all bad. As long as I could hide the inevitable black-and-blues, I wasn’t too worried about a few bruises or a little pain.
The treatment M chose was technically called a detox facial, as its main focus was applying pressure to parts of the face that corresponded to different internal organs. The objective was to stimulate circulation in all these organs and improve overall blood flow in the body. That sounded nice and pain-free (at least in principle).
The facial – oddly enough – started with a back massage, a prelude to opening up the passages and releasing the flow of energy throughout the body. The kneading, pulling, and rocking came, as well as pinching, deep pressing, and painful to-ing and fro-ing. When this very thorough and extremely uncomfortable massage was finally done, we were asked to lie on our backs and the work on the face began.
M very kindly explained every stroke and pressure point being stimulated as we received the facial. This point between the eyebrows is to help you sleep well at night, the points on either side of the nose open up nasal passages and help you breathe better, these pressure points are now stimulating the liver, and so on. She was every bit the organizer and cultural coach even as she was getting the treatment herself.
I submitted to the therapist and reminded myself that pain was good. I had to repeat it like a mantra, and I was glad for the company of M and another friend as we laughed our inhibitions and my near-torture away. Among the three of us, I was the one who needed the massage the most (read: I was most in pain from all the blocked qi). To activate my life-giving energy, I had to endure the most discomfort. But it hurt like crazy to try and get to the root of all that blocked energy. I was assured that the more regularly I came, the less painful it would be.
My 9-year-old saw the long red marks on my back from where pressure was applied and gasped: “Was Wolverine here?!” Yes, it looked that bad. I couldn’t lie on my back properly the first night after the treatment and some parts of my body are still sensitive to the touch. But I did wake up the next day with a spring in my step and an abundance of energy I don’t normally feel fresh out of bed.
So, will I go back? Yes. I want to see how long it will take before the pain becomes a thing of the past. Part of me is skeptical and wonders if I will even get to that point before we leave China. However, part of me is just grateful to feel less sluggish than usual. I’m even noticing that the bruises are fading already. Pass me the painkiller; I have to prepare myself for round two.
To try tuina or another form of Chinese massage in Shunyi, head over to the massage clinic along Yuyang Lu. It is simply labeled “Massage” in red letters on a wooden arch. Coming from River Garden, go towards Yosemite and you will see the cluster of shops on the left side across from Yosemite A. Through the driveway behind Tasty’s is the massage clinic that has been in Shunyi, formerly in Gahood Villas, for over 15 years. They offer a variety of massage treatments as well as complementary therapies like acupuncture and herbal medicine.
Daily 10am-11pm. Yuyang Lu, Shunyi District (8046 5712) 顺义区榆阳路
Photo courtesy Learn Massage (Flickr)
Dana is the beijingkids Shunyi Correspondent. Originally from the Philippines, she moved to Beijing in 2011 (via Europe) with her husband, two sons and Rusty the dog. She enjoys writing, photography, theater, visual arts, and trying new food. In her free time, she can be found exploring the city and driving along the mountain roads of Huairou, Miyun and Pinggu.