Can this ancient Chinese practice really help you rebalance your body? NH investigates…
You may have already heard of body brushing, the act of buffing and exfoliating your body’s dead skin cells to encourage your lymph node drainage and increase your circulation. But body combing goes one step further. “Meridian combing, also known as body combing, is an ancient Chinese medicine selfhealing treatment which has been widely practised in China for thousands of years to rebalance and heal the body, while supporting lymphatic drainage,” says TCM practitioner Maeve O’Sullivan, (escapadaretreat.com). “In Chinese medicine, the channels where energy (qi) flows are called meridians. These travel up the front of the body and down the back. The technique, which is an extension of Gua Sha, deeply massages the 12 major TCM meridian channels, working to unblock energy channels, release stagnation of qi and stimulate blood flow which can help move your lymphatic fluid (a clear fluid that can sometimes build up in the body).”
Energy is an important element in Chinese medicine and body combing is thought to help you re-balance it within the body. “In Chinese medicine, it’s believed that health issues originate from stagnated energy,” explains Maeve. “Stagnation can be caused both physically or emotionally by stress, fatigue, and/or upset. Body combing works to unblock this and improve your energy levels and blood circulation. The technique also works on a deeper level, drawing the blood to the surface of your skin and extracting the fluid and toxins – whereas normal cellulite massages pushes this inwards. Once we start to move the stagnation in the body, it can aid selfhealing. This can trigger benefits such as stress relief, ease muscle tension, and get rid of headaches, and can instigate a feeling of wellbeing in your body and mind.”
Massaging your body with a tool that looks like it should be used on your hair may seem a little odd at first, but if you use it correctly, you’ll soon see the benefits. “The result creates a rash-like redness or bruising, which means the technique is drawing fluid and toxins out of the body,” says Maeve. “This redness is temporary and will disappear in a day or so. Depending on how much stagnation and water retention you already have in the body, results will vary from person to person, but you can expect an increase in energy flow and lymphatic drainage, which in turn, will help smoothen your skin and improve your circulation in the limbs, which can cause a reduction in keratosis pilaris (chicken skin). As with all TCM treatments, body combing isn’t a quick-fix solution. It’s should become a ritual if you want to see long-lasting results.”
You’re best off body combing first thing in the morning, but it can also be done in the evening after a bath to help release the tension of the day – especially if you’ve been on your feet a lot. “It can take just five minutes once you have the technique perfected,” advises Maeve. “Always make sure that your skin is unbroken and always use a lubricant that’s either oil or waterbased, in the shower.” Lavender oil can enhance your body’s state of calm with its aromatherapy powers, but lemongrass can help to wake you up if you use it first thing in the morning after a shower.
1. Using a gentle but firm pressure, start by massaging the comb from your hairline down the back of your neck, and out to the side of each shoulder using long, deep strokes, always sweeping outwards to help release toxins. The meridians connect with your head and your scalp, so including this step will treat your whole body.
2. Follow the middle line of your spine downwards and stroke all the way down your back, sweeping out to each side.
3. Move onto your chest area, using a similar approach, combing from the middle of your breastbone outwards down through your stomach and hips.
4. Finish by press-stroking (small strokes with a lot of pressure) down from the inside to outsides of your arms, and down the meridian lines which run down the outside of your legs and back up the inside.
5. By the end, you’ll be covered in red striations which may look like a rash, but will soon disappear. This shows that heat stress and toxins are being released.
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