Asian Bodywork Questions and Answers

If you’re considering an Asian Bodywork session, I hope
you’ll find your questions answered here.

What is Asian Bodywork?

Asian Bodywork uses the wisdom and philosophy of Chinese Medicine to reduce stress, promote health, and maintain well-being. The benefits are similar to those of Acupuncture, but without the use of needles. (See How does Asian Bodywork differ from Acupuncture?)

The stresses of life lead to imbalances in the body’s energy system. The body is always in the process of returning to a state of balance. If the stresses persist and the body is unable to restore balance, physical symptoms develop, such as muscle tension, fatigue, headaches, digestive irregularities, and menstrual problems.

Asian Bodywork uses gentle hand and finger pressure
along the body’s energy channels to restore and balance energy flow. When the flow of energy is balanced, nascent symptoms are prevented and existing symptoms are alleviated. Physical health and emotional well-being are restored and maintained.

Asian Bodywork is one of the four branches of Chinese Medicine (the other branches are Acupuncture, Herbology, and Qigong). Not only China, but all Asian countries — notably Japan, Thailand, Korea, and Viet Nam — have made significant contributions to the development of Asian Bodywork theory and practice. The styles most commonly practiced today are Acupressure Therapy, Shiatsu, Tui Na Massage, Jin Shin Jyutsu, Chi Nei Tsang, Thai Massage, and Anma (or Amma).

As with all Chinese Medicine practices, Asian Bodywork is holistic. It emphasizes promoting health, identifying underlying causes, and considering the whole person – body, mind, and spirit.

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What conditions benefit from Asian Bodywork?

Asian Bodywork stimulates and facilitates the natural healing capabilities of the body. Regular sessions can provide symptomatic relief and, in some cases, can produce dramatic change.

The human body can heal itself of almost anything
when the physical and emotional conditions of one’s life are conducive to healing. The effectiveness of sessions is enhanced by a willingness to change lifestyle habits that may be affecting the body adversely.

Conditions that are traditionally known to benefit
from Asian Bodywork include:

  • Stress, fatigue, lack of energy
  • Headaches, migraines
  • Digestive ailments (indigestion, constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome)
  • Back pain, sciatica
  • Whiplash, neck and shoulder tension
  • Muscle cramps and spasms
  • Hay fever, allergies, sinus problems
  • Menstrual pain and irregularities, PMS, postpartum depression, menopause
  • Asthmatic symptoms, breathing difficulties
  • Arthritis, stiff or painful joints, reduced mobility
  • High blood pressure, poor circulation
  • Insomnia
  • Fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Emotional trauma
  • Depression, anxiety, irritability, grief, lack of appetite


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What are the benefits of Asian Bodywork?

Clients typically report that Asian Bodywork is helpful with the following:

  • Relieves stress and reduces pain
  • Increases energy levels and reduces fatigue
  • Relaxes the mind and body
  • Balances the emotions
  • Increases one’s overall feeling of well-being in mind, body, and spirit
  • Improves mental acuity
  • Reduces tension and discomfort in the head, neck, and shoulders
  • Increases blood circulation
  • Aids in removing toxic wastes from the cells

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Who benefits from Asian Bodywork?

Asian Bodywork is suitable for people of all ages, including children and seniors. It is not just for those who have specific complaints. It is an excellent means of keeping yourself in an optimal health condition – physically and mentally – and strengthening your resistance to illness.

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What are the different forms of Asian Bodywork?

There are many styles of Asian bodywork. I’ll mention just a few here.

Tui Na Acupressure Massage has all the benefits of traditional western massage, plus the ability to assess and relieve specific health conditions. It uses a variety of strokes – brushing, grasping, rolling, kneading, pushing, tapping — on acupoints, energy channels, and muscle groups. It also uses gentle shaking, stretching, and mobilization of the joints. A Tui Na session is relaxing, invigorating, integrating, and therapeutic.

Acupressure Therapy addresses specific imbalances in the body’s energy system. Jin Shin Jyutsu uses both hands to apply gentle pressure to a specific combination of acupoints along selected energy channels. Points are held until a pulsation of energy is felt, which usually takes from one to five minutes. The relaxed pace and meditative state of an Acupressure Therapy session contribute to bringing energy into balance.

Shiatsu uses gentle, rhythmic compression along energy channels, as well as stretching and joint mobilization. The pressure and stretching of Shiatsu improve the circulation of blood and lymph, bringing nutrients to the body’s cells and removing wastes and toxins. The rhythmic compression eases muscle tension and shifts the nervous system into that highly relaxed state of yogic sleep where self-healing occurs.

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Which type of Asian Bodywork is right for me?

Anyone can benefit from all three forms of Asian Bodywork that I’ve described. It’s common to combine more than one sytle into a session. One form may be more appropriate at a given time. The decision is made based on your personal needs and preferences. Clients with a more Yin constitution (people who like to work with their heads, prefer the indoors, are more introverted) often prefer Acupressure Therapy. Clients with a more Yang constitution (people who are more active and physically oriented, like to work with their hands, enjoy the outdoors, love to be with people, are more extroverted) often prefer Tui Na and Shiatsu.

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How does Asian Bodywork differ from Acupuncture?

Asian Bodywork uses the same theories, assessment tools, and point locations as Acupuncture. Acupuncture uses needles to balance the body’s energy, whereas Asian Bodywork uses the sensitivity of human touch. Both redistribute energy (chi, qi, prana) that has become blocked, stagnant, or deficient.

With Asian Bodywork, the practitioner’s hands are in contact with the client’s body throughout the session. Changes along an energy channel can be monitored during a session, and the treatment can be adjusted to ensure the greatest benefit.

Asian Bodywork is designed to balance the entire energy system. Even the specific point work of Acupressure Therapy often begins with hands on work that not only massages the body, but allows an assessment of current energy imbalances.

The massage and rhythmic compression of Asian Bodywork
produce a deeper level of relaxation than a typical Acupuncture session.
This in turn reduces stress and strengthens the body’s natural healing

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What happens in a session?

Tui Na Massage and Acupressure Therapy are performed on a table. Shiatsu is traditionally performed on a thick mat on the floor.

All work is done fully clothed. It’s best to wear loose,
comfortable clothing that allows you to move your arms and legs (see How should I prepare for a session?).

Sessions usually begin with an assessment of your current condition. There may be an initial sessions that includes gathering information on your health and lifestyle history. This may take longer than subsequent sessions (see How long is a session?)

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Are there people who shouldn’t receive Asian Bodywork?

Asian Bodywork is not advisable:

  • When you are coming down with a cold or the flu, since energy work at this time could intensify symptoms
  • If you have an acute illness or fever
  • If you have a serious illness, you should consult your doctor before receiving Asian Bodywork
  • If you have an infectious disease
  • If you have blood clots, phlebitis, thrombosis, or internal bleeding
  • If you have open wounds, bruises, swollen or inflamed skin, lumps, or varicose veins, these areas must be avoided during a session
  • If you have recently had major surgery
  • If you are currently receiving chemotherapy (Asian Bodywork between chemotherapy sessions can be quite helpful, but please consult your physician)
  • If you are in the first trimester of pregnancy (consult your doctor about Acupressure if you are pregnant)
  • If you suffer from psychological instability, such as psychosis, schizophrenia, or borderline personality disorder


Asian Bodywork helps relieve menstrual discomfort, and there is no need to avoid bodywork during menstrual periods.

Although Asian Bodywork is not advisable during the first three months of pregnancy, it is very helpful once the pregnancy is firmly established. It relaxes the body, increases and balances energy, and relieves the side effects of pregnancy, such as back pain and edema.

If you are pregnant, currently under a doctor’s care, or have been diagnosed with a medical condition, you will need to discuss your situation before starting sessions. The treatment may need to be modified or may even be contraindicated.

Although Asian Bodywork is very effective when combined with other forms of therapy, it should not be used as a replacement for necessary treatment by allopathic medicine.

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How will I feel after a session?

During a session, you may feel bodily sensations, including tingling and heat, as the body becomes more balanced. By the end of a session, you should feel peaceful and invigorated – deeply relaxed, but more intensely alive, grounded, centered, and re-embodied.

Most people experience a lessening of their symptoms and discomforts – less pain, more flexibility, a lighter mood, or a clear mind. Symptoms lessen in part because the relaxed,wellconnected body has an innate capacity for the readjustments that bring about self-healing.

It is not uncommon to experience emotional feelings
(tears, laughter, stillness) during or after a session, since emotions arise when energy imbalances are readjusted. You may feel more connected — more at one with yourself and your environment.

The response to a session is unique for each individual. Conditions caused by muscular tension are usually the first to improve. More chronic conditions take longer to change. Some people have no immediate sense of feeling differently after a session, but begin to notice physical and emotional changes in subsequent days. Many people report feeling more energized or in an exhilarated state of mind for several days following a session, as well as experiencing an improvement in the quality of sleep.

Occasionally clients experience a “healing reaction.” This can take the form of flu-like symptoms, localized muscle stiffness, or a brief intensification of the presenting symptoms before they improve. Such a reaction is an indication of energy readjustment and should last no more than one to three days.

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How long is a session?

Tui Na sessions, combined with acupressure, are typically 60 to 90 minutes long.

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How often should I receive sessions and how many will I need?

If you are receiving Asian Bodywork for relief from specific conditions, the work will be most effective if you initially have weekly sessions, since the effects of the work are cumulative. You should feel an improvement in symptoms after one session, but additional sessions may be needed to address the underlying condition, produce a significant change, and prevent reoccurrence.

Many people have considerable tension and stress stored in the body. This condition must be alleviated before healing can occur on a deeper and more permanent level. Acute problems can usually be addressed in two to five weekly sessions. Chronic conditions may require five to ten weekly sessions.

For health maintenance and symptom prevention, a session every three to four weeks is advisable. The times of seasonal change (around the solstices and equinoxes) are especially good for maintaining health.

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How should I prepare for an Asian Bodywork session?

Wear or bring loose, light, comfortable clothing, preferably made of a material that is at least 50% natural fiber. This allows the skin to breathe freely and energy to flow unimpeded throughout the body. Try to avoid skirts, jeans, stiff materials, and belts or restricted waistbands. The clothing should allow you to move your arms and legs. Sweatshirts, long sleeved shirts, tracksuits, or loose trousers are ideal. If you can, bring a pair of clean cotton socks.

Be prepared to remove jewelry, including watches, and glasses.

Do not eat heavily in the two hours prior to the session. After a large meal, the body’s energy is focused on digestion rather than on healing the body. Eating a large meal immediately after a session is not advised for the same reason.

After a session, drink plenty of water, avoid alcohol, and, if possible, do not engage in activities that are strenuous or stressful.

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Are there things I can do on my own to improve my condition?

Definitely. If you would like to play an active role in improving your health, part of your session can include:

  • Learning specific self-help acupoints and combinations of points
  • Learning exercises that stretch and stimulate energy channels
  • Advice on balancing your diet according to your needs, based on Five Element theory
  • Advice on lifestyle changes (sleep, stress, exercise) that create an environment for improved health


See the Resource page on Chinese Medicine & Lifestyle for recommendations of books and websites.

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Where can I get more information?

You can find more information on this site, including links to information on other sites.

In the Asian Therapies section you’ll find specific articles on

There’s an additional article on Tui Na in the Asian Therapies section, called Tui Na: Rebalancing Your Energy.

On the Asian Therapies Resources pages you’ll find annotated recommendations of books and websites on

and on specific forms of Asian Bodywork:

plus resources on:

NOTE that I am not seeing new clients at this time.

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