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Gua Sha

Gua Sha is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practice that uses a rounded stone or tool to ‘scrape’ over the the skin in areas of discomfort, tension over the back, neck, shoulders and limbs. Gua Sha can help to move Qi and blood stagnation, break up congestion, relax and release the sinew channels, ease pain, clear heat and improve circulation. 

Gua Sha: the practice Deeply rooted within folk medicine and the healing modalities of the Orient, the Chinese term “Gua” 刮 translates as “to scrape” and “Sha” 痧 translates as “sand” or “red, raised, millet sized rash”. This ‘scraping’ action is performed using a smooth-edged tool, over lubricated skin and can cause ‘bruising’ or petechiae (small red dots) to appear on the skin when the capillaries near the skin’s surface bleed, especially when firm pressure is applied.

Through a Chinese medicine perspective, this action is used to eliminate internal Heat and stagnation from the body, which can be an indication of disease or disharmony within the organ systems and channels, as well as inflammation of the muscular system.

The primary use for this practice is to promote circulation, supporting the smooth flow of Qi throughout the body which is the foundation of harmonious organ function, vitality and longevity. Used to stimulate lymphatic circulation and immune function, Gua Sha promotes detoxification and can help to release fevers, and reduce the severity of common conditions such as a cold or flu, headache, respiratory conditions and both chronic and acute pain.

Facial Gua Sha vs. Body Gua Sha

The direct roots of facial Gua Sha are unknown, as traditional Gua Sha does not differentiate between the body and the face. Traditionally, Gua Sha is performed on a person’s back, buttocks, arms, legs and neck with a firm pressure that results in a form of ‘bruising’ to appear on the skin, indicating disease, stagnation and Heat leaving the body. It can promote circulation and detoxification, hydrate the fascia, relieve tightness and loosen muscle tension and knots. Through a more traditional lens, Gua Sha can resolve Blood stagnation, release Heat, disseminate Fluid and tonify Blood, and is performed by a trained practitioner.

Facial Gua Sha implements similar methods used on the body to promote circulation, lymphatic drainage and cellular regeneration, improve skin elasticity and quality, whilst sculpting and toning the face, helping to reduce fine lines and wrinkles. Facial Gua Sha is a much more gentle practice, as there is less tissue in the face, less pressure is required to promote the circulation of lymphatic fluid, and rather than a ‘scraping’ action, think of it as more of a gentle massage, involving methodical strokes that promote regeneration and healing. Facial Gua Sha was supposedly ‘discovered’ when acupuncturists would work on pressure points in the face during a treatment, eventually noticing the rejuvenative benefits that arose when that pressure was applied. Both facial and body Gua Sha practices can focus on acupressure points around the body, the benefit of applying pressure to specific points on both the body and face can bring harmony to its associated organ, channel and systems within the body.

How to practice Gua Sha:

◆ Relax, take deep breaths, and move slowly with intention.
◆ Always lubricate the skin with an oil or serum, the Gua Sha tool should glide across the skin, which prevents unintentional pulling or tugging of the skin.
◆ To promote the ‘lifting’ action of Gua Sha, always work your way upwards when performing facial Gua Sha. When performing Gua Sha on the body, the same rules apply, however you are always moving towards the heart.
◆ Angle the tool anywhere between 15-45 degrees and the skin. This ensures a greater surface area of the skin is in contact with the stone which enhances the movement of lymph.
◆ When practising facial Gua Sha, apply medium pressure (it should not hurt) and ensure you use a light pressure around the eyes where the skin is more delicate. Focus on ‘pulling’ rather than pushing.
◆ Practice slow strokes, repeating up to 3-30 times over one area before moving to the next (generally 3-5 strokes is recommended for Gua Sha performed on the face).
◆ Aim to use your other hand to hold your skin in place, as you glide the tool in the opposite direction.
◆ Use firm pressure when performing body Gua Sha, it should feel like a deep tissue massage but if you are in pain or experiencing discomfort beyond what feels right for you, consult a trained practitioner for further guidance. If you wish to avoid any type of ‘bruising’, reduce the pressure that you use, and less repeated strokes in the same area.
◆ At the end of a stroke, especially along the hairline, you can apply a firmer pressure to stimulate acupressure points, massaging the Gua Sha into the skin to relieve tension
◆ Always drain excess fluid. Once you’ve completed a set of strokes and have swept over an area, make sure you move the excess Fluid towards a drainage point. These points, known as lymph nodes clusters, are located all over the body, including ears, jawline, neck, collarbone, armpits and the groin region.
◆ The practice of Gua Sha should be avoided when you are sunburnt, have an active breakout, open wounds, or an inflammatory skin condition. Be careful to avoid any moles or scars and Gua Sha around them.

- Superfeast
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