Gua sha is a very special technique and is far more complicated than many people realize. In this episode of the Gua sha show, Clive explains just how revolutionary an ecological approach can be in helping people to understand our connections not only within our bodies but with our external natural environment.
✨ 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
Hello and here I am again in episode 7 of the second season of the Gua sha Show podcast. And today we’re exploring how special, how profound, how transforming and essentially how revolutionary Gua sha really is. And I mean Gua sha when used anywhere - on the body and on the face, for beauty and for health.
Understanding the Profound Impact of Gua sha
So just to be clear. I’m taking about that scraping you might do on someone’s back which causes those red marks of sha to appear. And I’m talking about those gentle sweeping motions that you do on the face to improve your physical appearance. It isn’t what it’s made out to be. You aren’t just doing those dragging motions on the skin surface. You’re doing so much more.
You’ll never really get this though if you don’t go past all the hot air about Gua sha and Facial Gua sha. The half-truths or inventions or the pseudo-experts (and some of the supposed experts) perpetuating a false narrative which either isn’t really Chinese medicine when seen in terms of the Huangdi Neijing (the original text of Chinese medicine) or isn’t really Gua sha - a hybrid with another manual therapy.
The Misconceptions Surrounding Gua sha and Facial Gua sha
Let me start straight off by telling you that I pretty much cut myself off from whatever anyone else was doing with Gua sha for many years if not a decade. This was most of the time I had my clinic in North Africa. In fact, while I often look at research coming out of China and other countries, I still know very little about how exactly other people use Gua sha on the face and body. Occasionally people tell me or I come across something and then I realise just how different what I do really is.
The Unique Approach to Gua sha: Ecology in Motion™
Sure if you see me scraping the skin with a Gua sha tool, you might think that what I do must be the same as other people scraping the skin with a Gua sha tool. But I have something that others don’t - a whole unifying concept of what I’m doing, how I’m doing it and what happens after I’ve done it - based on a fundamental understanding of the natural world and thoroughly rooted in natural science. The binding ecological theories of the ancient Chinese lend a spectacularly elegant approach to Gua sha which is at times jaw-droppingly beautiful and at others dizzyingly profound. And I gave this approach a name. It’s Ecology in Motion™. And this is where I am, knee-deep in these ideas, when I do Gua sha. This affects everything from the fine technique to how you broadly approach an issue which needs treatment.
The Connection Between Gua sha and Nature
Just think about it for a moment. When you do what the ancient Chinese did and base your understanding on the natural world, on things we can see and test and measure, the imagined mystery of what you’re doing fades away. In this way it’s as real as a gentle breeze on your face. If you want to really understand the body, look at nature. We don’t stand apart from it. We are it. And it’s not some theoretical abstract. For understanding Gua sha we need to know how water flows down a mountain, we need to know how plants develop from a seed and we need to know how our environment affects us. It’s no exaggeration that if you want to understand the Chinese medicine principles behind Gua sha, go and look at nature.
The Journey of Learning and Teaching Gua sha
This might appear odd but I never took a single class in Gua sha in my life. Not one. I saw it in hospitals in China but no one taught me. No one gave me limits to say you can’t go there, or this is the way and no other. This meant that I had total freedom in my clinic and as I had a lot of people I treated daily, I was able to experiment with Gua sha. Would it be better if I did this? No? How about if I did that. Yes. As an acupuncturist, I’d learn something and then think I wonder if I can apply that same thing to Gua sha. And this went on and on and out of the clinic came my 5 books. Incidently I have a new one coming early next year called ‘Self-Healing with Chinese Medicine’ which shows how to treat a whole range of illnesses with Gua sha and also diet, foot soaks and stretches and many other really useful things. I also explain in some detail about Ecology in Motion and the whole idea of an ecological approach to healing. Anyway that will be published in the US in Feb next year and the rest of the world a few weeks after that. So look out for that.
One thing that I don’t do is that I don’t train EIM Facial Gua sha teachers. People ask me all the time if they can join my teacher training course. But I tell them I don’t have one. That’s not how it works. If it were that easy to be a teacher then what I would pass onto you would have less validity. In my world of EIM Gua sha, it should be hard to be a teacher. I didn’t start teaching until I’d been doing Gua sha for 18 years! And I still only understand a fraction of what I want to!
You will find me training teachers through the Gua sha project but that’s part of my global Gua sha vision where communities take ownership of knowledge for the betterment of their health and wellness. And they use specific knowledge to train others in their community who then in turn teach others. And for this, they pass on knowledge about Gua sha which as a treatment therapy it excels at - such as helping to ease febrile conditions, chest tightness and alleviating digestive discomfort. This wider application of Gua sha has an important role to play within the home and community setting.
I used to have little confidence in what I had developed and kept it to myself for a long time - the presumption being that surely everyone must be doing this, right? Right? But slowly it dawned on me that maybe they’re not. And as time went on, I realised that they’re definitely not. And then I started to hear things that I didn’t think were actually true and so I dragged myself out of hiding and started to talk and started to teach. And now you’ll find me turning up in random cities to teach classes. If I come anywhere near you, and you can, don’t hesitate to come and join me - it’s not something that will happen that often. And with Gua sha, if I can physically show you how to do it, it’s so much easier to help you learn.
So, I know that I’m coming from another direction from everyone else and I don’t want to be misunderstood here. My approach to Gua sha is not to put people down and be negative telling them that they’re wrong. This can be a past time for some professional therapists and it often appears not to be a healthy, thriving way to approach life. After all there are many things that people do which help other people.
Rather than focusing on any perceived fault of the actions of others, I’d like to shine a light the other way round to me and where I’m standing instead. Because that’s where I want you to be. I want you to not just be lying on your bed looking at the ceiling but to go past that up to the stars, in space, floating in the universe, understanding what this means for Gua sha. I want you to not just be in your garden or local park, but in the deepest forest marvelling at the mycelium roots underfoot and understanding what that means for Facial Gua sha. And yes. These are metaphors. I’m trying to tell you that the thing you have with Gua sha may be fine, but the thing I have can be life-changing. The thing I have makes me excited to work. The thing I have opens so many other doors not only within Gua sha but health and beauty and for many people helps understand the whole meaning of life!
The Revolutionary Nature of Ecology in Motion™
So you’ll hear me talk about the revolutionary nature of Ecology in Motion™ - the reason for this is that it has its foundations in nature-based medicine. Now, nature-based medicine is the realization of ancient Chinese medical and philosophical ideas which allow us to look at the body in a different way. It allows us to see patterns and motions which we can clearly see in the natural world and apply the same patterns and motions to how the body works - because everything in life is subject to these same patterns - and when you use this lens to look at your body or your face, something magical happens.
Just go outside and pick up a leaf that’s fallen from a plant or tree. Take a close look at the veining pattern and the shapes. It looks familiar, doesn’t it? You’ve seen it before in the shape of rivers. You’ve seen it in trees. You’ve seen it in close up images of an eye, you’ve seen it in blood vessel images. You’ve even seen it in lightening! And believe it or not, in that one little leaf that you’re holding in your hand, you have a complete explanation of the patterns of the body, universe and exactly how Gua sha and Facial Gua sha work. It’s something which is both extremely simple and infinitely complicated.
When you start to get these motion ideas from the natural world, things start to make sense. For the face, you can suddenly understand the deep connections which have led your face to look like it does. You can suddenly see what beauty is and how it can be elicited with Gua sha. For your body, you can realize the motions and patterns of plants to see how our muscle connections work and how affecting the fascia can make changes. You can see how the natural circulation patterns of trees and rivers can illuminate those of your body. And this is where all the magic is. This is where everything gets good. This is where the revolution is.
So next time you do Gua sha, spare a thought for what you’re really doing. Not just to the skin, the fascia, the muscles, the blood flow but the whole ecosystem of your body and the natural features within it.