I remember back 5 years ago when I was in massage school. Very intense study of anatomy, physiology, and pathology. Sometime toward the end a new class emerged, massage 4. This was a required class and we were the first to have to attend. It was prep for the National Certification Exam. As I sit down and TJ our instructor passed out the curriculum, we opened it up and several students raised their hands in outrage. What the hell is this! This doesn't make any sense at all. Meridians, Chakras, Ayurveda, what does that have to do with massage. Why in the hell are they requiring us to learn this stuff. You see everyone in the class was a Western medical major, not Eastern technique, so they did not understand the usefulness of the instruction. The hands on state exam was coming up and we were burdened with having to remember every action, orgin, insertion, pathology and contraindications, all with a proctor monitoring your every move. Nice time to through in this! This was not anything at all like our previous classes. The fear and outrage was understandable considering this is a whole new way of learning and moving from one mindset to another can be quite the shocker. You really have to think outside the box to wrap your mind around it.
Class would go something like this. Every day we would start the class with Makko Ho stretches, special exercises for each meridian. We would all be on tables and TJ would have us find a Qi point " no that is not quite right, you have to feel the energy" Feel the energy? This was not like finding the tibial tuberosity, the bone is right there, how do you feel the energy? Blockage of Qi flow, elements, meridians, a new understanding of organs. I loved the class from the start. For me it was a welcome vacation from the memorizing and logical approach to the western style (although I loved that as well). You really had to forget everything you thought you knew. I see now where the National board was going with requiring this study. There are many pathways to healing. There are unseen forces, there are ways of listening, feeling, observing that differ from just regurgitating memorized information when you hear a symptom or problem of a client. We spent 4 months touching on Chinese, Ayurveda, and cranial sacral therapy. Not enough time I know to really master any of these techniques. It does however give the practitioner a few tools they can use, open the mind to new observations, feel and observe energy flow, think of healing in a new way. I do recognize energy, and amazingly have observed as a client released an emotional problem to have the physical one disappear at the same moment. Blockage of Qi flow does not seem so strange to me now. Learning all the points and meridians was useful, I use acupressure any where any time, unlike a full session where the client disrobes. I can also apply what I learned to herbal medicine, for example there are certain points that are particularly valuable in stimulating and strengthening the immune system, great to incorporate into a overall wellness routine. The 5 elements interact with each other the same way they do in nature, and the elements have associated organs, seasons, tastes, feeling, & body regions. A clients symptoms could show an imbalance in an element which governs other organ systems. In Ayurveda, people have unique constitutions that may assist in assessing a client, these constitutions are also associated with wind, fire, water, the 6 tastes. Of course this is just a brief description.
With Western herbal medicine there is not an exact system, or perhaps there are many styles within the one Western style. I like this because I feel comfortable with incorporating other styles and using many tools. There is always more to learn. The more you know the more you realize you don't know. We can always explore and continue to learn. Opening up to the energy of plants and people is a start. Realizing that there is not always an easy answer. Really stopping to observe. Holding true to our intuition, imagination, and knowledge. Working with the plants to try to better understand their language as well as the language of our bodies, turning to our spirituality at times, and using our logical left brain when necessary.
oh and one more lesson I learned from massage that I also apply to herbal medicine. We do not strive to be perfect, and we are not all flawed. When a massage client comes in you try to achieve the right balance for that individual, every body is different, we are not robots all with the same posture, metabolism, body type, what is normal for Dave may not be normal for Jane. This is also true of herbal medicine. This is why I detest the cleansing programs that are selling for 100's of dollars, oh but every one is dirty, everyone needs it, before they can continue with any other herbal therapy, this is the answer to all your health problems. BS Let's focus on nourishing our bodies, living passionately (which may mean sugar or a drink every once in a while God forbid), and taking care of ourselves emotionally & spiritually.
A fun Ayurveda Taste Exercise
First smell the test object. Place a small amount in your mouth. Really focus, allow the taste to penetrate you. Focus on this taste for at least 5 minutes.
Sweet you may use sugar, very revealing!
Bitter Gentain, Dandelion, Endive etc
Sour Lemon, vit C etc
Salty Salt, Kelp etc
Pungent Ginger, Garlic, Elecampane etc
Astringent Black Tea, Blackberry Leaf, Oak Bark etc
What kind of visions does the taste stimulate?
What kind of sound do you associate with it?
What feeling or body sensation does it evoke?
How would you imagine it moving?
How would it manifest in your personal relationships?
What kind of work would fit this taste?
How do you imagine this flavor in your community?
How would this taste manifest in the spirit?
Are you attracted or repulsed to the taste?
Do you feel you need more or less of the taste?
Energetics the effect taste has on the body
Heating: pungent sour salty
Cooling: bitter astringent sweet
Tastes and Organs
excess sweet disturbs the spleen
excess pungent disturbs the lungs
excess bitter disturbs the heart
excess salty disturbs the kidneys
excess sour disturbs the liver
excess astringent disturbs the colon
resource: Pathways to healing Don Ollisin