© By: Ernesto Ortiz
I have been teaching my own modality of Hot Stone massage for 10 years. This popular type of massage is offered in different kind of spas as well as by many self employed therapists. But what I am feeling is that we are turning from the age of stone to the gentler, more flexible medium of bamboo. So we can say we are turning from the age of stone to the age of bamboo.
In this era of advance technology, we live our lives surrounded by computers, cell phones, and fast foods. People have been carried away from the primal experience. We are in need of something simpler and more authentic. Just look around and see what has been taking place. Eastern philosophies have arrived in the West. Yoga studios and meditation classes abound in every city. With that, there is a new awareness of mindfulness. People are learning that the fast pace we keep only produces stress, and we are looking for ways to eliminate it. Worldwide we are seeking for organic diets, natural medicine, essential oils, and more teas and less caffeine.
With that awareness comes responsibility. When thinking about the world of massage therapy, what came to me is the use of the more gentile medium of bamboo.
Bamboo is one of the must multifaceted plants in our planet. It has earned its reputation from its noble and soft appearance as well as its perseverance under harsh conditions. In the Orient, bamboo symbolizes strength, fertility, youth, prosperity and peace.
I have had the great opportunity to travel around the world. In China, Indonesia, Thailand and Japan I have seen incredible structures made with bamboo. Festivals and rituals have, in many cases, used bamboo as the must essential element in the creation of sacred spaces. Many families grow a bamboo forest around their temples as a secure barrier against evil spirits. People know that bamboo sings with the wind bringing an atmosphere of peace and serenity.
Bamboo is certainly one of the most versatile plants. It has spiritual, mythological and many practical applications. We can eat it (bamboo shoots). We can build aqueducts, furniture, homes, mats and floors. We can create musical instruments, tools and utensils. Flutes, marimbas, baskets, needles, fishing nets and hooks are just a few examples. We can also use its fiber for the production of paper and textiles. Bamboo has been used for thousand of years as an herbal remedy in Chinese Medicine. In Hawaii and South Pacific islands, a traditional knife for cutting the umbilical cord of a newborn was fashioned of bamboo since they believe that metal can cause harm to the new born.
Bamboo has a unique energy all of its own, one that has a special magnetism; this plant emerges from the earth and grows straight and tall, as if it wants to reach the heavens. From this plant and energy, we make our bamboo tools.
When I was in Bali about two years ago, I was walking one early morning in Monkey Forest in the town of Ubud. Monkey Forest is a park, a temple and the habitat for hundreds of monkeys that roam free and wild. It was around 6:30 am and was no one there, just me and lots of monkeys. I noticed one of them rubbing a piece of bamboo against a stone. He was filing the rough edges and then… He started massaging his body with the stalk of bamboo!!!
My eyes opened so wide. But that is not all; another monkey came over, asking the one with the bamboo stick to work on him. He turned his back to him and bugged and bugged until the monkey with the stick started massaging him.
I said to myself, there is nothing more primal and natural that this! That vision stayed within me. And that was the original idea for the creation of the new style of massage. Tian Di Bamboo Massage, is a modality that I have been successfully practicing and instructing for more than a year.
Tian Di Bamboo Massage
Tian Di in Chinese means heaven and earth; this gives the meaning and primary objective to this therapy. A human being is part of the universe and a universe unto itself. Our intention is to help our clients to maintain harmony between their bodies, earthly component and their heavenly aspects, their minds and souls. To attain our gold we utilize the transformational power of heaven sustained by the nourishing and comforting strength of earth.
To develop this therapy, I have taken many concepts and basic principles from TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine). As I was working on expanding this technique, I realized that it would be incomplete, if just bamboo is used for the session. What bamboo will bring to the surface needs to be removed from the body. This is why other techniques were added.
Tian Di bamboo Massage as a completed therapy is divided in three major segments: Massage with bamboo, Cupping, and Gua Sha techniques. With the bamboo massage we also work at three levels of experience. They are the potential for impacting and changing our client’s responses. Those levels will overlap throughout the treatment and can be described as the Physical, Mental-Emotional, and Spiritual.
- Massage with Bamboo:
I call the bamboo sticks Cho sticks. Cho is bamboo in Chinese. We view the Cho sticks as conducts to all levels of experience. They are the first instruments we use in the Tian Di session.A set of Cho sticks is arranged by numerous sizes and cuts of bamboo, varying in lengths and diameters. We have 6”, 10” and 16” sticks, cut in specific ways for tapotement, digging and gliding.Bamboo is essential and unique because its walls are covered with silica. This creates an outer cover of tiny quartz like crystal matrixes that are activated when they encounter the right conditions of mechanical stress.
The two main properties of quartz are Piezo and Pyro electricity. This is what produces an energetic charge, so unique that science and industry, as well as the metaphysical world, have been interested and using it for many years. Piezoelectricity is activated with pressure, and Pyroelectricity with heat. As we work, we apply pressure to the body with the bamboo stick and the friction that is created will activate the molecular structure in the silica… and bang!! We have a powerful tool that is charged and will create dramatic and permanent changes.
For your clients, it is a new way of feeling. As they get worked on with the Cho sticks the energy that is contained within the walls of the bamboo is transferred to them, creating a series of unique and new sensations. Most people describe these as: tingling all over, feeling connected to the earth, feeling like the bamboo is bending and conforming to the body. It is amazing how hot the bamboo gets as you where working on me. I feel alive and energized. These are just a few of the many comments that you will her from your clients.
There are many benefits for the practitioner as well. Using the Cho sticks minimizes stressing and straining the hands and fingers, while still allowing for deeply penetrating maneuvers. At the same time, as we hold the Cho sticks, that energy is transmitted to us as well, which will help us to maintain strong and healthy hands and wrists. This is particularly important for all therapists, since those parts are the most susceptible to injury in our profession.
Once you start working with the tools and learning how to feel through the bamboo, they become an extension of your hands and fingers. But the bamboo is also a channel for us, taking our massage to a more meaningful level, giving our work a new depth and dimension.
The levels of work
- The Physical
When we apply the piezoelectric principles to the body, the electrical and thermal energy activates peripheral circulation. Enhanced circulation will remove stagnant toxins and move blood throughout the body, heart and lungs, improving internal respiration. Oxygenated blood will return nutrition and healing aid to the cells and tissues of the affected areas. This enables your work to be deeper, to relax and realign muscle fibers without causing micro tears.Working with the Cho sticks is like creating a Ying-Yang, cause and effect. It is giving your client’s body space for healing.
Emotionally, this therapy provides a total sense of relaxation. While the client’s body is feeling the warmth and the flexibility of the bamboo, an earth dance will take place around the table with the musical sound of the Cho sticks.Stagnant emotions will surface once the client feels relaxed, nourished, and has reached a point of trust. The love that we, as therapists, bring to the session will encourage them to freely release and process all their “negative stuff.”With a clear mind and resolved emotions there will be balance and connection. The client will experience a healthy relation between the heaven above and the earth below.
- The Spiritual
Tian Di Bamboo massage will reach whatever level of spirituality you’re at. If you don’t connect with the Cho sticks on a spiritual level, if you don’t bring that body/mind/spirit awareness to your session, two people are loosing, you and your client. While on the table, it is not unusual for clients to express their experience in profound terms. “You just changed my life,” “I had resolution about…. that I have been dealing or working on,” “I saw and dialoged with my mother/father and found a space of love and resolution,“ “I had a past life experience that is bringing me vitality and hope…”Even for those that are not able to connect as deep or as high, there will be an experience. They will be able to feel and understand that something profound has taken place.It is not unusual that the effects of Tian Di therapy continue for days after the session. It is as if you have opened a portal and allowed the newness of the experience to enter and linger there.
Cupping and Gua Sha
These techniques work more at a physical level. They come as an aid to finish the work done with the Cho sticks. They suction and sweep away what has surfaced from the treatment.
Cupping involves placing suction cups on the skin with a vacuum-like device to deeply work on acupressure points along the channels and meridians. The original cups were made of bamboo but today there are cups made of glass and plastic as well. The technique is very effective to relieve stagnation. Stagnation refers to congestion or accumulation of fluids, lymph, Qi or blood due to lack of movement of any kind.
Cupping is the opposite of massage. In massage therapy, for the must part, we do compressions. We do skin rolling, we lift some, but it is superficial. With cupping, however, we suction and lift. As we glide slowly with the cups, the suction is able to penetrate far deeper than with any other tool we may have.
Cupping therapy can aid numerous conditions, ranging from chronic pain, stiff muscles or joints, fatigue, emotional and psychological states, and even problems with organs. Cupping has been found to penetrate the tissue four inches into the body, stimulating blood flow, helping tissues release toxins, and supporting the lymphatic system.
- Gua Sha
This technique dates back over 2,000 years. It uses round-edged instruments made of horn, stone, bone or pieces of jade, to work along the surface of the skin to promote vitality and flow. In Tian Di Bamboo Massage, we use jade and horn as Gua Sha tools. In Chinese, Gua (gwa) means to scrape or extract and Sha (shaw), means sand or toxins.
So we literally scrape or sand off toxins from the body as they surface from the bamboo and cupping treatment. This ancient method is used to promote Qi or bioelectric vital life energy, blood circulation and removal of toxic heat, stagnant blood and lymph fluid from the body.
Any patient that suffers from stiff joints, chronic pain, poor circulation, stiff muscles, lymphatic congestion, fatigue, and more will benefit from this treatment.
These three techniques together, Bamboo massage, Cupping and Gua Sha, make a complete and powerful Tian Di session. The beauty of it is that you as the therapist can choose to use one, two, or all three methods during the session depending on the needs of the client. As the world expands in knowledge, we expand and we learn more. We receive inspiration and guidance to use tools made out of natural resources. We slowly move back to basics and we impart the benefits of nature to our friends, clients, family and the world.