Tui Na — A Modern Take on an Ancient Practice

Kim Inglis 25 November 2009 0 comment

For those of us who live in Asia, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) is a known quantity. Many of us fit in a regular reflexology session during our busy weeks, and some choose to consult a herbalist for minor — or even major — medical problems. In many families, traditional home recipes — rubbing with hard-boiled eggs to treat fever, cnidium root and duck eggs for migraine, a variety of teas for cooling or heating — are used routinely.

In the West, it’s a different matter. People often grapple with TCM concepts, they don’t “get” the idea of chi or energy flow through meridians, channels and collaterals, they find the non-cardiovascular exercises such as qi gong and tai chi repetitive or boring. One lady simply told me she can’t stand the smell or taste of many Chinese herb mixes.

Believe me, I get that! Luckily, in recent years we’ve seen a few spas and even sinseh shops beginning to combine age-old Chinese therapies with some Western comforts and techniques. Take tui na massage, for example. Traditionally used to alleviate pain in muscles and tendons, establish a more harmonious flow of chi and realign musculoskeletal imbalances, it is usually performed in cramped rooms with no oil. Nowadays, there is a big following for this full-on technique, as massage aficionados eschew the namby-pamby, light pressure formula for something with a bit more oomph.

It may not always be painless; in fact, tui na can be pretty intense. But the technique always garners results especially if you book regular sessions.

Qi Mantra (, a small group of professionals aligned with the Spa Esprit group, operates a few outlets in Singapore. Theirs is a modern take on traditional Chinese acupressure methods: concentrating only on neck, shoulders and back, therapists utilise acupressure techniques to stimulate the body’s blood circulation to the best of its capabilities and to aid with lymphatic drainage. Oil is used sparingly, but it is used, and the surrounds are private and quiet. I’ve been going regularly once a week for a year or so; and, even though my back still seems full of knots (all those hours writing copy like this!), it is definitely less painful, stiff and tense. As with all Asian modalities, there is no quick fix. It’s a gentle route to health maintenance and a kickstart to the body to help it heal itself.

Tui Na An Mo 3

Another company that offers a modern spin on old Eastern techniques is the Spa Village brand of Malaysian company YTL ( Situated in all YTL hotels and resorts, Spa Village spas offer some innovative Chinese-inspired rituals formulated by TCM doctor and herbalist Lee Jok-Keng. Some spa menus are more Chinese oriented than others, but many treatments incorporate a tui na massage as a finale. The focus here is on the unblocking of channels in order to allow chi to travel freely through the meridians and ease the digestive system. Pushing with palms (tui) and pinching with thumbs (na) are the two main techniques — both help to release excess wind and cold from within the body and leave clients rejuvenated and energized after.

I shouldn’t finish this entry without mention of CHI spas, the ground-breaking brand of Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts. Taking its inspiration from the Himalayan region, all CHI treatments embody traditional Asian healing philosophies and are based upon the principles of restoring balance and harmony to both mind and body. On the tui na front, try the CHI Balance therapy utilizing shiatsu for yang stimulation and relaxing body work to calm yin. You’ll be amazed how simple pressure point massage works when the therapist gets the points correct! For more information and details of a CHI Spa near you, take a look at

Kim  Inglis

Kim Inglis

A spa and ski fanatic, as well as a traveller, mother and full-time writer, Kim is a bit of a design aficionado as well. Taking the risk of sounding shallow, she thinks that sometimes how a thing looks, rather than what it is or does for you, really can be its raison d’etre. After all, who wants to live in a shabby home, look like death warmed up or utilise products that are clunky and grey, rather than sleek and colourful? Spas, spa treatments and spa products can help the outside shine; Kim’ll bring you lots of info on these, and hopefully your inner you will match that outer façade too. Check out Kim Inglis web site

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