Ancient Chinese Tui Na Massage

Learn massage healing techniques from Tui Na, the Ancient Chinese Massage practice focusing on the balance of qi within the energy currents of the body.

| July 2018

  • Tui Na massage applies pressure to the meridians and specific points on them called ‘qi-points’ or acupressure points.
    Photo by Getty/Minerva Studio
  • “The Tui Na Manual” by Maria Mercati guides readers through step-by-step Tui Na massage theraphy techniques for whole body health.
    Cover Courtesy Inner Traditions

The Tui Na Manual (Inner Traditions, 2018), by Maria Mercati is a guide dedicated to teaching the hands on healing of Ancient Chinese medical massage, Tui Na.  This healing method requires no special equipment and can be done simply at home or in the workplace as a means of achieving whole-body health through the rebalance of qi flow throughout the body.

Although Tui Na has been practised in China for more than 4,000 years, and is available today in many hospitals and clinics throughout that country, it is only now becoming known in the West. The name, Tui Na, comes from Chinese and conveys the vigorous nature of this hands-on healing system: ‘Tui’ means ‘push’ and ‘Na’ means ‘grasp’. The Chinese script on the opposite page means Tui Na. Tui Na as practised in China treats conditions that in the West would require an osteopath, chiropractor, physiotherapist or sports therapist. Unlike these techniques, it works not only on the muscles and joints but also at a deeper level, affecting the flow of vital life energy in the body. In Chinese theory, this life energy is called ‘qi’ (pronounced ‘chee’). Qi is the activating energy for all life processes. In the body, qi flows in clearly defined energy currents. These are called ‘meridians’ or ‘channels’ and they carry qi to all the organs and tissues of the body.  

Tui Na massage applies pressure to the meridians and specific points on them called ‘qi-points’ or acupressure points. Acupuncturists call them ‘acupoints’. Tui Na affects the flow of qi so that it moves freely, evenly and powerfully around the body. The distribution and intensity of qi within your body have profound effects on all aspects of your well-being – the emotional, intellectual and spiritual, as well as the physical. Chinese medicine views all disease as caused by weakness, imbalances and blockages in the flow of qi. When your qi-flow is balanced you feel full of energy, stress-free and able to cope with the pressures of daily life. You will be free from stiffness, aches and pains, and so full of vitality that you ‘sparkle’. Hopefully most of us have experienced this wonderful feeling of well-being at some point in our lives. The secret of Chinese medicine is how to maintain it.

Factors Affecting Qi-Flow

Many physical and emotional factors disturb the flow of qi in the body, and these can be divided into two broad categories: excesses or deficiencies. Excesses, common in the Western lifestyle, include stress, overwork and general overindulgence, while common deficiencies are poor diet, insufficient exercise and lack of sleep. Pressure to cope with deadlines, be successful and achieve status within a peer group can create an imbalance between the output necessary to reach your goals and the input that will restore mind and body. Such an imbalance can lead to overconsumption of sugar-rich foods and stimulants such as coffee or fizzy drinks to enhance the ‘output’. Alcohol, recreational drugs and even too much sex can be substitutes for relaxation.



In the Chinese view, extreme emotions negatively affect organ function and qi balance throughout the body. It’s healthy to experience emotion, but too much excitement can overstimulate the flow of qi, causing feelings of restlessness and insomnia, for example, while holding on to worry, feelings of anger and frustration can lead to depression.

All excesses and deficiencies are disruptive to the qi-balancing process. In contrast, good sleep, relaxation, regular exercise, good diet and happy relationships all promote and strengthen the smooth flow of qi. Although the ideal is to create balance and harmony in every aspect of our lives, this can be extremely difficult to maintain. Tui Na is a powerful way of helping to achieve that balance and harmony.



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