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Discovering Natural Gua sha Tools: A Journey in Barcelona's Forests with Clive Witham

Variety of traditional and modern Gua Sha tools - Clive Witham in Barcelona's forest searching for natural Gua Sha tools

Hello. My name is Clive Witham and I'm here in the forest in Barcelona because I'm looking for a Gua sha tool. And what I want to do is look for a tool which is around me in the natural world and I'm going to show you a simple technique that you can use with a tool to help prevent and protect your health.

Gua sha has a long history as a folk medicine in East Asia and all kinds of tools were used from bian stone and buffalo horn to coins and branches. Here I go into the forest, find a tool and show you how to prevent ill health and increase your immunity with some simple steps in using Gua sha.

The History of Gua sha Tools

So they actually used all kinds of tools throughout the history of Gua sha and some of these were documented and they used all kinds of things that you might see in nature. Now, it's very common to come across tools which are made of buffalo horn or some kind of stone, bian stone or quartz, a porcelain plate, bowl, spoon and there's also ABS plastic but in olden days, they didn't have these, so they used to use copper coins. They would use willow branches and they would use hemp, and the lubrication that they would use would be water or sesame oil.

The Search for a Natural Gua sha Tool

So what I'm going to do now I'm going to go and have a look and find a suitable tool amongst the mountains around me in Barcelona and I'm then going to, once I've found the tool, I'm going to then show you a technique that you can use with the tool. So first of all let's have a look for the tool.

Choosing the Right Tool for Gua sha

So I've finished my search around this whole area here but what I've got is a bunch of tools that you can use to do Gua sha. Now what does a Gua sha tool look like? Well, hang on. I've got some here. So here's a water buffalo tool, so you can see the size of that and how thin it is. So this is probably the most common tool you're going to find anywhere because it's the one most based on the folk tradition of Gua sha in China. Here's a jade tool and as you can see this is an S shape so this one is again very, very popular and jade, throughout the history of Chinese philosophy, has always been prized and so normally these are fairly expensive to get jade but as I always say about any jade tool - if i were to drop it, I'm okay to drop it here because this is in the forest but if i drop it in my clinic, it smashes and so it's not as durable as I'd like when I buy something. So I'm going to put that one down there and here's another one. Here's a triangular shaped tool which is very common for the neck for the face. This one is ABS plastic which is, or resin, which is extremely strong. I can drop it anywhere. But these are the kind of sizes of the tool. So I was having a look around for various tools, so remember in antiquity all I would need is a strong branch and I can use that to do Gua sha. Remember, willow branches and cherry branches were very common to be used to scrape certainly in the Ming dynasty. So what have I got here? Let's have a look. I've picked up a whole bunch of tools. The thing I need to look for is is it sharp or is it smooth? So what I'm looking for is the smoothness of the tool so some of these are slightly too jagged to use on on myself, so I narrowed it down to this tool here. So this is some kind of stone or quartz and this is absolutely fine to do Gua sha. So, one of the things I always tell people is that when you're doing Gua sha, it isn't the tool which is the key, it's what you do with the tool.

Demonstrating the Gua sha Technique

So here we have my random tool that I picked up in the forest, so let me now show you how you might use this tool to prevent catching any illness and improve your immunity. So how do you do it? You get your tool. You've got to make sure your tool has a smooth edge to it. and that smooth edge is the one you're going to use.

The Gua sha Technique for the Arm

Now, you're going down on the inside of the arm and so you're just scraping down. Now, you want to divide the inside of your arm into three parts - the outer part, the middle part and the inner part, and scrape down those areas towards your hand. Now, what are the distances of the strokes? If I hold my hand like this, the distance between your middle finger and your wrist and the distance between, where your little finger is to your thumb, so about halfway between those two distances that's about the distance of each stroke and so you put enough pressure to feel it through the clothes, and then keep going on that line but not on the outside on the inside keep going down that line towards where your clothes finish and then do it on a line towards the outer part, and then do it on a line towards the inner part.

Importance of Lubrication in Gua sha

Now, when you hit a place with no clothes you generally got to have some kind of lubrication. Remember, in antiquity they used sesame oil and water. But you can use things in your kitchen. You can use any kind of oil - olive oil is perfect - although there's a whole bunch of different oils you can use. You can use vaseline and you can use vapor rub. And essential oils with other oils like a massage oil, anything like that, it's just got to be a barrier between the friction of a tool and your skin. Now, as you're doing this this is where we break those rules and you can actually use it without any lubrication. This is because you're using the tool so you're in control of the pressure and you know exactly how it feels and you know when it's going to hurt and when it's not going to hurt and so if I'm going to use it on myself I often don't bother with lubrication because I know if I'm going to do any damage *cough* as long as you do it carefully and use the smooth side. And right now, this is feeling actually really nice. I'm not using any lubrication, however, remember, if you're going to use use this these techniques on someone else, you've got to use lubrication. You can do up to the tips of the fingers. Each individual finger.

Applying Gua sha on the Outside of the Arms

Now, once you've done on this side, then you can come to the outside of the arms, so remember, these are going up towards your shoulder, and again you can start at each individual finger and just scrape down the finger. Each of them to the little finger and then again you can divide it into three areas - one of the areas is towards the thumb side, the other one's towards the little finger side, and there's one in the middle. And be careful on the skin but as soon as you hit clothing, you can then scrape and then put some pressure on to really dig into the tissue.

Understanding 'Sha' in Gua sha

Now, it's possible that through the clothes you might cause red marks to come up onto the skin, which is called 'sha' in in Gua sha. And that'll be okay but it's something that could happen, so be aware of that. It means something when you have 'sha' on the skin and, basically, it's something that was there in the tissue and then has been released. Come up in the middle and then come up the back. You can, of course, continue into this whole area here. It depends on your clothes, basically. I mean, if you've got some something like this which is covering the whole area of your shoulders, you can just carry on. But quite often, I'm gonna show you in another video, but quite often, with the shoulders, we kind of go down because it's often part of coming down the back of the head and the neck and down the back, and the movement there is normally going down. So you're gonna repeat exactly the same on the other arm here, and then let's have a look at the legs.

The Gua sha Technique for the Legs

Okay and the next part is doing exactly the same thing with your legs. Now, if you remember, I talked about the inside and the outside for your arms, and so it's exactly the same for the legs but it's the other way around. So, the outside is going to go down towards your feet, the inside is going to go up from the feet towards the groin. So let's come down on the outside of this leg, so again, you're going to treat both legs. So, come down, remember in the middle on one side and on the other side but keeping at the front of the thigh here. *dust* Watch out for the bone which is the tibia, which is down here. And basically, you're doing on the outside of the tibia. So if you feel that bone in your lower leg, come to the outside of the bone. And then come down. Make sure you get the side as well and then do exactly the same thing, but come down the side. And also the back of your leg. Come right the way down the middle of the back of your leg, all the way down, to your knee, back of your knee and then right the way down the calf muscles at the back. All of these are going down. Now when you come to the inside of your legs, you're going to go up. So, you can separate the inside into three parts. One of them is close to the front, one of them in the middle of the side, and one of slightly to the posterior to the side, but make sure you stay on the inside. So just that, on your arms and your legs, can do wonders for what's going on in your body, purely because the arms and the legs, they have got the most potent areas in the body. I've been doing acupuncture for 20 years and I know that these points, basically, anywhere from your elbow to your tip of your finger and your knee to the tip of your toes, that area can really make huge changes inside the body.

The Benefits of Gua sha

So what we're doing now is nothing complicated. It's just the effect of Gua sha. Now what's the effect of Gua sha?

The Role of Circulation in Gua sha

Now, basically it's to improve circulation. There's lots of people come up with all kinds of strange explanations about Gua sha but really there's nothing amazingly earth-shatteringly magical about it apart from the fact the world is magical but that's a whole other thing.

Preventing Tension and Improving General Circulation

What you need to do basically is improve the circulation in the tissue below the surface of the skin and if that circulation is improved the blood, which remember the blood is just like all of the trees all around me, and it's flowing like the branches of the tree through the tissues. When it gets blocked, then the blood can't pass through, the tissue tightens and you're gonna get some kind of symptom. You might get pain or you might get some, something will happen inside your body, so the idea of what you're doing is that you're preventing this buildup of tension, especially in the areas related to these channels or rivers and blood vessels in the body, and improving the general circulation. That's a great thing!

The Daily Benefits of Gua sha

So, if you do this every single day, you'll notice a huge difference. Now, I'm going to do other areas of the body. I'm going to do your head. I'm going to do your body and I'm going to try and do my back as well, but just the arms and the legs alone do wonders!

If you're ready to explore the potential of Ecology in Motion™ Gua sha, both personally and professionally, join me on this transformative journey of health and healing at the Komorebi Institute


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