The ancient technique of gua sha offers symptom relief – and better skin, too
Far from being a negative experience, menopause is seen in Chinese philosophy as a deep energy shift: a time to heal, balance and transform. It’s a new beginning – from hereon in, we can focus on life’s lessons and enjoy at a more leisurely pace all that the world has to offer. So can we use the Chinese way of thinking to help alleviate the not-so-desirable symptoms of menopause, leaving us free to concentrate on this new stage of life – one that brings with it both wisdom and freedom?
How does Chinese medicine see menopause?
Let’s start with a bit of background. Chinese medicine views menopause symptoms as a severe imbalance of our internal yin/yang circuit. What does this mean? To put it simply, our bodies are a combination of yin (feminine) and yang (masculine) energy. Modern living forces our bodies to be very yang in nature. Too much yang energy creates heat in the female body and that’s why menopause symptoms are largely heat-related.
Our menstrual flow is a means by which the body can clear this excess heat. This is one of the reasons many women suffer period pain and heavy bleeding. Menopause approaches and our periods cease, yet we are still living a fast-paced life – and so the heat, or inflammation, continues to be created.
Given that the menstrual cycle is no longer an option for ridding ourselves of this inflammation, it often moves to the skin – our largest excretory organ and a great conduit for clearing the heat, which is why we sweat. And we sweat at night because this is the yin time of day. Hot flushes, thinning hair and vaginal dryness are all signs of too much dry heat.
In addition, as we approach menopause, the body starts to reduce production of certain hormones to conserve energy and prepare us for old age. In Chinese medicine, oestrogen is yin and progesterone is yang. So once your oestrogen levels fall, the yin-yang balance is skewed, which – you’ve guessed it – also creates heat.
How can Chinese medicine help?
The three most important steps you can take to help reduce menopause symptoms are to nourish your yin energy, clear the heat and rebalance your body. Chinese medicine has some clever ways to achieve this. One of our favourites? Gua sha massage. Studies have shown gua sha to be highly effective in treating the symptoms of menopause.
What is gua sha?
Gua sha is a therapeutic healing technique that has been widely practised in China for thousands of years. In studies, it has been shown to increase micro-circulation by 400%, clear inflammation and increase immunity. Gua sha can be used to balance and improve your overall health and address beauty issues. Many of the benefits it offers are relevant to menopause. Gua sha can:
- Clear heat
- Switch your nervous system back into rest mode
- Strengthen immunity
- Support the organs
- Resolve pain
- Release muscle tension
- Induce sleep
- Relax the body
What is body gua sha?
Gua sha is extremely easy. For body gua sha, lubricate your skin with oil, then use a metal gua sha tool to press-stroke your neck, chest and back. Press-stroking your skin shouldn’t be painful. If in doubt, start very gently and work up to the pressure of scratching an itchy insect bite. We would suggest eight strokes per area as a guide, which is enough to bring up a red flush. If in doubt, stop.
The red flush is called petechiae and looks like bruising. It’s temporary and fades quickly (between half an hour and a few days, depending on your skin). It’s a good sign, because it shows you have boosted circulation to the area. We associate redness with bruising and pain in the West, but in this instance it is, in fact, healing and satisfying.
Specifically for menopause, there is an acupressure point called xing jian, which can help with mood swings. You can find it on the top of your foot, in the web between the first and second toes. Use the point of a gua sha tool to rub gently for three minutes, then press down for five seconds. At the end, use your thumb to rub gently for one minute to relieve any pain.
What is facial gua sha?
Body gua sha is not only great for your health, the benefits are also reflected in your physical appearance. Shiny hair and glowing skin are signs that your body is in balance. You can achieve radiant skin at any age with facial gua sha, too – it can help to restore the kind of healthy glow that comes from a good night’s sleep or an invigorating walk in the fresh air.
The boost to your microcirculation with facial gua sha floods the skin with fresh nutrients, and over time increases levels of collagen and elastin. Done regularly, it smooths and plumps. Gua sha is also great for reducing morning puffiness and congestion, as it gently encourages the movement of lymphatic fluid. It releases tension in facial muscles and soothes sore eyes and skin.
Great skin is a reflection of your interior health. And that is beautiful, whatever your age and however many wrinkles you have. So, give gua sha a try.
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