Beijing, China: Anti-Aging Body Treatment
September 09, 2011
As Featured in The Ritz-Carlton Magazine
Traditional Chinese massage and Tui Na are purposefully all thumbs. All the better to attack, rather than gently untangle, your knots. If you like deep tissue massage, then this massage goes one better, almost qualifying as an extreme sport. In fact, it’s helpful to know how to say “back off” or ask for less pressure in Mandarin before you enter the spa treatment room. (That said, many luxury spas automatically give Westerners a softer version, a Tui Na lite.)
Tui Na massage offered in spas like the one at The Ritz-Carlton, Beijing shares roots with Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), acupuncture and tai chi. All subscribe to the several-thousand-year-old idea that illnesses and imbalances of the mind and body, from stress to muscular pains, are caused by stagnant energy, or qi. This massage is not for the faint of heart or the fragile. Practitioners use deep pressure, traction and a firm grip as they roll and rub the joints and knead your body to its (almost) breaking point. The literal translation of Tui Na is “push-pull.”
The massage may sound sadistic, but the method is meant to get energy moving along the body’s energy pathways, or meridians, and bring blood to the muscles. According to TCM, meridians line the body, and are the places where stagnation occurs. To that end, the practitioner may also use her fingers and thumbs to stimulate the acupressure points that dot the meridians, all to get your energy flowing smoothly. Noah Rubinstein, an acupuncturist in New York, puts it this way: “Flowing energy equals health; stagnant energy doesn’t do us much good. It’s like maple syrup.”
You might think that a massage style fixated on circulation needn’t be so extreme. But under the vice grip of a Chinese Tui Na therapist, painful knots dissolve. Some spa-goers compare Tui Na to physical therapy or Rolfing, and swear by the relief they’ve gotten, even on intractable muscle pains. Consider it tough love.