THE BOOK: This clear, step-by-step guide introduces Tui Na, a Chinese system of therapy that uses massage and manipulation to relieve pain, release tension and treat common ailments. Clear illustrations outline the meridian energy channels and qi (life energy) points, while step-by-step photographs demonstrate each technique. Ideal for improving sporting performance, alleviating executive stress or simply invigorating body and mind, Tui Na can be used on friends, family or colleagues, at home or at work, and is suitable for any age, young or old.
This clear, step-by-step guide introduces Tui Na, a Chinese system of therapy that uses massage and manipulation to relieve pain, release tension and treat common ailments.
Clear illustrations outline the meridian energy channels and qi (life energy) points, while step-by-step photographs demonstrate each technique. Ideal for improving sporting performance, alleviating executive stress or simply invigorating body and mind, Tui Na can be used on friends, family or colleagues, at home or at work, and is suitable for any age, young or old.
A Note From The Author
I discovered Tui Na during my own personal quest for a therapy to relieve crippling pain.
As a child I suffered from a degenerative disease that affected my hip. While living in Indonesia for four years, I discovered the healing powers of deep oriental massage, and trained as a massage therapist. As the years went by, standing and walking even for short distances caused me pain. In 1987, Western medicine could only offer me painkillers and a hip replacement operation.
But instead of going to hospital for surgery, I travelled to China to learn Tui Na. The skilful, patient doctors of traditional medicine gave me the treatment and tuition that I needed and opened a wonderful new chapter in my life.
At that time, few people in the West had heard of Tui Na, although acupuncture and herbal medicine were available. So extraordinary was Tui Na’s effect on me, it became my mission in life to bring it within the reach of everyone in the West. I studied, worked and travelled back to China time and again to learn Tui Na and acupuncture from Chinese doctors in hospitals and clinics in Shanghai, Weihai, Xi’an, Beijing and Jinan.
In response to a growing interest in Tui Na and acupuncture, I established the teaching side of the BODYHARMONICS® Centre, where we run regular training courses. Over the decades, I have trained hundreds of students in Tui Na and acupuncture (www.bodyharmonics.co.uk).
I have treated many people with disabling conditions where other forms of medicine could do little to help and have found that there is a real alternative to living on painkillers or having surgery. Tui Na has changed my life and the lives of many of my patients, and also my students and their patients. I hope that it can do the same for you.
Maria Mercati is an internationally renowned teacher and therapist in Tui Na, Thai massage, acupuncture and Indonesian massage. Having trained extensively throughout Asia, she founded BODYHARMONICS®, an integrated approach to therapy which blends Chinese, Thai and Indonesian treatment methods to promote health and harmony.
Tui Na massage applies pressure to the meridians and specific points on them called ‘qi-points’ or acupressure points. Acupuncturists call them ‘acupoints’. Tui Na affects the flow of qi so that it moves freely, evenly and powerfully around the body. The distribution and intensity of qi within your body have profound effects on all aspects of your well-being – the emotional, intellectual and spiritual, as well as the physical.
Chinese medicine views all disease as caused by weakness, imbalances and blockages in the flow of qi. When your qi-flow is balanced you feel full of energy, stress-free and able to cope with the pressures of daily life. You will be free from stiffness, aches and pains, and so full of vitality that you ‘sparkle’. Hopefully, most of us have experienced this wonderful feeling of well-being at some point in our lives. The secret of Chinese medicine is how to maintain it.
FACTORS AFFECTING QI-FLOW
Many physical and emotional factors disturb the flow of qi in the body, and these can be divided into two broad categories: excesses or deficiencies. Excesses, common in the Western lifestyle, include stress, overwork and general overindulgence, while common deficiencies are poor diet, insufficient exercise and lack of sleep. Pressure to cope with deadlines, be successful and achieve status within a peer group can create an imbalance between the output necessary to reach your goals and the input that will restore mind and body. Such an imbalance can lead to overconsumption of sugar-rich foods and stimulants such as coffee or fizzy drinks to enhance the ‘output’. Alcohol, recreational drugs and even too much sex can be substitutes for relaxation.
In the Chinese view, extreme emotions negatively affect organ function and qi balance throughout the body. It’s healthy to experience emotion, but too much excitement can overstimulate the flow of qi, causing feelings of restlessness and insomnia, for example, while holding on to worry, feelings of anger and frustration can lead to depression. These relationships are explained in chapter 2.
All excesses and deficiencies are disruptive to the qi-balancing process. In contrast, good sleep, relaxation, regular exercise, good diet and happy relationships all promote and strengthen the smooth flow of qi.
Although the ideal is to create balance and harmony in every aspect of our lives, this can be extremely difficult to maintain. Tui Na is a powerful way of helping to achieve that balance and harmony.
HEALING POWERS IN PRACTICE
Tui Na works holistically to promote qi-flow throughout the body. A practitioner will ask questions about a patient’s health and lifestyle, while observing their physical condition. This will reveal their qi, jing, shen, blood, body fluid and yin/yang status (see pages 16–17) so that appropriate meridians and qi-points can be the focus of the Tui Na treatment.
For musculoskeletal pain, the practitioner palpates the painful areas to identify the most affected meridians and the qi-points that must be used for the treatment. During the massage, feedback from the patient on what feels good, or painful, guides the practitioner to the qi- points and the amount of pressure to use.
TUI NA FOR EVERYONE
Throughout China, Tui Na is practised from cradle to old age. Babies and younger children do not have fully mature meridian systems, and additional points and techniques have been developed for them. It is a very safe therapy: if pressure is applied in the wrong place, for example, it may not achieve the desired results
but no harm will be done. Massage treatment may not be suitable, however, for people with certain serious health conditions (see page 62 for contraindications).
In this book, wherever a treatment described is contraindicated for certain conditions, it carries a caution note.
Tui Na’s unique techniques that focus on the meridians and specific qi-points make it particularly effective for treating muscle and joint pain resulting from sports injury, wear and tear, arthritis or any other cause. All massage therapies aid relaxation, but, in addition to relaxing the muscles, Tui Na also manipulates qi-flow in the meridians and their qi-points to balance the underlying energetics of the body to achieve healing and regeneration.
Tui Na has the power to boost energy where there is qi and blood deficiency, as well as to clear blockages that have caused qi and blood stagnation.
Tui Na is excellent for a variety of ailments and conditions, including stress-related disorders. It also boosts vitality and well-being, which in turn stimulates the immune system and improves general health.
This book shows you useful techniques to help relieve pain and the symptoms of many common ailments. However, it does not replace professional healthcare and you should always consult a qualified practitioner or doctor if symptoms persist.
A TUI NA TREATMENT
The massage is best given through cotton clothing to facilitate its effectiveness. Traditional Tui Na techniques do not require the use of oils. The room should be warm. During the massage, the receiver either sits on an upright chair or lies on a massage couch, depending on which part of the body is being treated. Chapter 5, page 82, explains preparing for treatment in more detail.
To be effective, many Tui Na techniques are vigorous and need to be applied with reasonable pressure. If there is a significant problem, they will initially feel slightly uncomfortable or even painful. This discomfort will ease as the massage progresses and more qi and blood are brought to the affected area to remove stagnation. After the treatment, the tissues and muscles should feel relaxed, invigorated and less painful.
Uniquely, Tui Na, with its focus on meridians and qi-points, stimulates the entire musculoskeletal system, while also supporting healthy function of all the internal organs. Since Tui Na rebalances qi-flow, the mind and the emotions will also be affected. In most cases, a Tui Na treatment will leave the recipient feeling rejuvenated and relaxed. The massage can sometimes release blocked emotions, with the effect that the receiver may feel ‘weepy’ or emotional after the treatment. If this should happen, the Chinese way is to acknowledge these emotions, and then to let them go.
This book explains the Chinese view of health and the causes of disease, and shows you how to give a holistic whole-body Tui Na treatment to a partner, as well as techniques for treating common ailments and conditions. Chapter 2 explains the theories of traditional Chinese medicine and how these differ from the Western medical approach.
In Chapter 3, the twelve meridians and their energetic relationships (and the two ‘extraordinary’ ones used in Tui Na) are illustrated and explained, with clear descriptions to enable you to find the qi-points – the points on the meridians where qi can be most easily manipulated.
Chapter 4 concentrates on the basic techniques used in Tui Na massage. It starts with soft tissue techniques: applying either static pressure or pressure with movement to the body tissues, in order to improve qi and blood flow to strengthen the body and remove stagnation. These soft tissue techniques include pulling, pushing, squeezing and kneading. The second part of chapter 4 deals with joint manipulation techniques, which are similar to those used in osteopathy and chiropractice but give the added benefit of regulating qi and blood flow. You will need to familiarize yourself with all the techniques so that you can apply them when they are used in the treatments in chapters 5 and 6.
The whole-body routine presented in chapter 5 provides step-by-step instructions for giving a Tui Na treatment to a partner. The routine starts with treatments on the neck and shoulders, and then works on the arms, back, legs and feet, ending with Tui Na on the trunk and head.
One of the strengths of Tui Na is its application to muscle and joint injury, as described in chapter 6. This chapter also presents treatments for some common ailments and conditions, and Tui Na that is particularly suitable for infants, adolescents and the elderly. There are some techniques and qi-points that you can use effectively on yourself. These are described in a self-massage routine, which, used daily, will increase your energy levels, boost your immune system and promote health and well-being.
This has been an Excerpt from The Tui Na Manual by Maria Mercati.
This clear, step-by-step guide introduces Tui Na, a Chinese system of therapy that uses massage and manipulation
to relieve pain, release tension and treat common ailments. Clear illustrations outline the meridian energy channels and qi (life energy) points, while step-by-step photographs demonstrate each technique. Ideal for improving sporting performance, alleviating executive stress or simply invigorating body and mind, Tui Na can be used on friends, family or colleagues, at home or at work, and is suitable for any age, young or old.
After 10 years of back pain, Richard Brennan discovered The Alexander Technique and was pain-free after 6 weeks.
Now an Alexander Technique expert, Richard Brennan teaches people to take control of their own posture. In this interview he talks about his latest book ‘The Alexander Technique Manual’
Richard Brennan explains what the Alexander Technique is, and shares the story of how Alexander first developed the technique.
The Alexander Technique is a way of moving, this includes everything from simply walking, to running in playing football and tennis.
Listen to stories about people with long term pain healed without surgery, get some great excerpts from the book. Special sections on playing sport, reducing stress and tension and pregnancy and back pain.
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Steve: Hello and welcome. My name is Steve Nobel and today I’m speaking with Richard Brennan on his book, the Alexander Technique Manual. Now, Richard has studied the Alexander Technique since 1983, and has been teaching full-time since 1989. He travels widely, giving talks and courses on the technique. He’s a director of training at the Alexander Technique Centre based in Galway, Ireland, and he’s a leading figure in helping people resolve back and neck problems. His belief is the root cause of most back pain lies in poor postural habits. He is the author of this book, the Alexander Technique, and we’re going to speak with him now. So welcome to you, Richard.
Not everyone’s heard of the Alexander Technique. Can you just give a description of what is it, and what’s it broadly for?
Richard: Yeah. It’s quite a profound technique, but very simply, throughout our lives, we develop postural habits, and we go about our activities with far too much tension in the body. It’s a technique where I make people aware of the tension and gives you a tool to let that tension go.
Steve: Brilliant. How did it all begin?
Richard: Well, Alexander was an actor, a reciter in the 1800s and he developed a voice problem. Onstage, he started to lose his voice, and he tried everything, medication, exercise, but nothing seemed to help. Then, he realised it was something he was doing himself, so he studied himself. He looked and recited in front and saw that he was pulling his head back with quite a lot of force, which was depressing the larynx, and affecting his voice.
When he was able to see it and change it, his voice became perfect again. He went back on to the stage and he started getting on with reciting again. Then, his fellow actors started saying, “Well, I’m getting the same problem as you,” so he started helping his fellow actors. Then, doctors got wind of it, and then, doctors started sending him patients that they didn’t know what to do with.
Steve: Amazing. In the book, there’s a section here that says ‘Taking Responsibility’. “Many people carry on for years enduring unnecessary pain, not realising that anything could be done for them. We need to face up to the fact that we have to take responsibility for our ailments, and not expect other people to have all the answers.” Of course, modern medicine, people go there for the pill and the bit of solution, don’t they? But this asking us to take more responsibility.
Richard: Yeah. I mean people don’t advocate responsibility on purpose. They just don’t realise that they’re doing something to themselves, which is causing the pain. I am a pretty good example of that because I had managed back problems and sciatica for about seven years, and it just got worse and worse and worse. My father is a doctor. He couldn’t do anything. All the surgeons couldn’t do anything. Then, I turned to alternative therapies, and they didn’t do anything, either.
Then, I realised it was the way that I was sitting. I was a driving instructor at the time and it’s the way I was sitting in the car, which was exacerbating the problem. I would go to someone like a chiropractor, they put me back into place, and then, I would go back into my old habits, and the back pain will be back within two days. It’s only when I realised what I was doing and was able to change the way I was sitting that the actual pain went for good.
Steve: Is posture a major problem for a lot of people, do you think?
Richard: Absolutely. Absolutely. The main reason is everyone goes to school. Everyone is bending over a desk between the age of five and the age of 18, so there’s a lot of postural habits that get … You go into a classroom, everybody is actually bending their back as they’re writing, and then, they just think that’s normal after … It’s actually 15,000 hours at school plus homework. That’s a lot of time in a basically bad posture.
Steve: And a lot of people, of course, me included, sit at a desk for long hours of the day over a computer or looking at a computer so, again, Alexander Technique is very useful for that. What kind of problems happen with this? Or was it kind of just manifested in many, many types of ways?
Richard: Well, the most common is back problem, 49% of the population in the UK and most of the Western world, 49%. That’s nearly one in every two people have some sort of back problems every year.
Richard: That’s huge. But it can cause breathing problems, like people get asthma, and people get other … And that is posture-related, too, but those are the knee problems, hip problems, ankle problems, and a whole range of shoulder, neck problems. It’s vast. Arthritis is another postural, you know, after years of misusing the body, arthritis sets in, which is basically wear and tear, so we’re wearing ourselves out before time.
Steve: So back pain, you mentioned, is universal. I have suffered with a lower disc problem. I had a MRI scan. They said it was a problem between the fourth and fifth vertebra. I’m not sure if it was cartilage or whatever. That kind of produced sciatica, which comes and goes, here and there, which is incredibly painful, as you’ve mentioned you have it. If you’ve got this kind of condition, is Alexander Technique something that once you’ve got it, you can actually alleviate?
Richard: Well, you know, when I had my back problem, there was no MRIs in those days. This was back in 1980s, ‘1, ’82. I had an x-ray, they injected radioactive fluids into the spine. They took x-rays and there was no disc left between L4, L5 and S1, so all the three bottom vertebras was completely worn. What they did was they said, “Look, what we need to do is remove what’s left of the disc, and then, fuse the last three vertebraes.” Says, “You’ll never be able to bend again, but at least you’ll be out of pain.”
I actually signed up for the operation. It was only after to talking my father, who is a GP, he said, “Whatever you do, don’t have the operation because I am seeing the people afterwards, and they’re usually worse,” so I cancelled the operation. Eventually, when I got around to doing the Alexander Technique, within six weeks, my back was absolutely fine …
Steve: Wow, that’s incredible.
Richard: … and I haven’t had a day of back ache since.
Steve: I mean that’s incredible, isn’t it? Do you think that this is something that really should be in every office, in every school room?
Richard: Yes, I do. I do. Because, you see, we’re spending a vast fortune on the National Health Service. A lot of it is posture-related. So if you caught it early, when the children were at school, you can have a much healthier population. That would save billions, absolutely billions.
Richard: And people ignore it. 49% of the population has back pain. What are we doing about them? We’re just producing more and more painkilling drugs.
Steve: Someone should have a word with the government. I’m not sure they’re particularly listening, this particular government.
Richard: Well, I’ve tried over here in Ireland, and the politicians are just … They’re too busy.
Steve: Right. Another massive area the book covers is stress. Now, I’m sure most of the listeners to this podcast are no strangers to stress. I’ve worked in the city for 10 years. It’s high-pressure environment, work, money, going home, the mind doesn’t stop thinking. For me, stress is also not just a physical thing, but it’s also a mental, an emotional thing. How can Alexander Technique impact all those levels?
Richard: Well, one of the major principles of the technique is the body, the mind, and the emotions, and the spirit are not separate, but they’re intuitively connected with one another, okay? When I stress myself, if I feel stressed, the muscles are also going to be stressed. If I release the muscle tension, you will feel less stress. It’s as simple as that. If someone would come to me, I would work with them for 10 minutes. They would come in in a stressed state, and then, they would leave after half an hour completely unstressed. So you work on the physical, but most people will feel the benefits emotionally and mentally as well. They go out feeling calmer.
Steve: And stress again, the NHS must deal with a lot of stuff around stress, surely.
Richard: Sure. A lot of mental issues are stress-related.
Steve: Coming back to posture, I’ve done yoga and Pilates and martial arts, and they all have their own view on posture. What does Alexander Technique say about it? Is anything radically different than yoga, Pilates, and martial arts?
Richard: You can apply the Alexander Technique to yoga, and you can apply the Alexander Technique to aikido or Qi gong or whatever. It’s something you actually apply to an activity, so it’s not an activity in itself. You can’t go and say, “Well, I’m going to go and do my Alexander Technique,” like, “I’m going to go and do my yoga.” It is an awareness technique and the philosophy behind the technique is we all started with perfect posture.
Go and look at any three-year-old, they are moving beautifully. They are standing straight. They’re not standing up straight. They’re not tensing their body. They just stand straight. That posture is already inside us. All we need to do is to let go of the muscular tension that’s actually pulling us down into ourselves, and then, the perfect natural posture just comes through.
What you do with the technique is you don’t do anything. You stop doing something. You stop doing your postural habits, and then, when you stop doing your postural habits, the right posture is there already. We have a whole series of postural reflexes, which are just dying to work if we let them.
Steve: Now, the book comes with a whole range of things. One of the things I was really interested in, which I was surprised at, was when it comes to walking. I would have thought that walking, naturally, we have a good posture. Is that not so?
Richard: No, not at all. Not at all. When children walk, they actually walk fairly straight. If you watch your child walking towards you, they’re very upright and they’re very straight. But if you go to a shopping market or shopping mall, and you watch people walking down the corridor, they’re actually walking kind of like a pendulum. They’re going from one side to the other side, just like if you’re walking when you get off a boat. What you’re doing there is actually walking, you’re pulling yourself down into a hip, and then, you lift a leg, and then, you pull down into the other hip, and you’re just wearing your hips out.
Steve: Another one that was very interesting, a lot of people drive. You’ve got to listen to this. Now, you say car seats cause back problems. What can we do about driving?
Richard: Well, I use a wedge. I put a wedge on the seat. You see, I was a driving instructor, so it was the seats in the car that gave me my back problem, because I was sitting 10 years pretty much all day in the car seat. Then, I realised that the car’s slope back, the seats slope way back, maybe as much as 15 degrees. So I just get a wedge and I put it on the seat and I make the chair flat. I don’t know how old you are, but if you went back to the 1950s, all the cars had kind of bench seats and they were much more L-shaped.
Richard: Now, our car seats, because of the shape of the car, they’re more V-shaped. So you need to get back to an L-shape kind of seat because that’s much better for your posture.
Steve: Now, I’m a writer and you say in the book, “It’s amazing how many people hold their pens when writing, and how it creates muscular tension.” What can we do about writing?
Richard: Well, Alexander has his own school. He actually formed his own school because he said, “We teach children lots of things, but we don’t teach them how to hold the pen.” The computer, you’re taught Java, you’re taught Microsoft, but you’re never taught how to sit at the computer, so you’re missing the basic thing. You’re actually looking at the way you do something.
Steve: A good friend of mine is an Alexander Technique teacher, and I used to work with him. Whenever I was sitting opposite of him, I always used to sit a bit more upright, or when I was having tea with him, I was always much more aware of my posture. The one thing he told me was about the neck, and I know in your book, you talk about the kind of freedom of the neck. Again, this is a big problem, isn’t it, around the neck that we create all kinds of tensions around the neck, don’t we?
Richard: Yeah. The head actually weighs about 12 pounds of weight. That’s six bags of sugar. That’s a huge amount of weight. Now, most people carry their head more forward than their body, so the neck is actually under quite a lot of strain, even when you’re sitting watching TV, even when you’re driving, or using computer.
Steve: What about swimming? Because when I heard about this, I was thinking, when I swim, my neck is kind of in a very strange position, especially doing breast stroke, and I couldn’t think of a way of how I could change that.
Richard: It’s more you pay attention and you just think of the neck becoming more relaxed. You just think of the neck muscles softening …
Richard: … and then, you’re not holding the head with so much tension. Now, obviously, if you’re swimming, you have to hold your head out of the water because if you relax your neck completely, your head falls in the water, and then, you can’t breathe. So, obviously, there’s common sense here, but maybe you can hold your head with not quite so much tension as before, so just thinking of the neck muscles softening can help that.
Richard: There is a guy called Steven Shaw and he specialises in using Alexander Technique for swimming.
Steve: Now, there’s a whole section in the book on sports. You mentioned swimming. Now, I was a great football fan and very into playing football and tennis. Now, I did have a knee injury from a very young age, right knee dislocated. I wish I would have had some advice like this when I was a young kid. I had endless problems with my right knee. What can be done about things like football?
Richard: Well, I’ll just give you a story of my son. He was a keen tennis player, and he ran a lot. Every time he played tennis, he’d sprained his ankle. He had some Alexander lessons from me, but also from somebody else as well. They worked out that actually it was the way he would run differently when he had his shoes on, so what he did he started playing tennis barefoot. Then, he went to the Royal College of Art in London and he designed the shoe called the VivoBarefoot Shoe. When he was wearing these, he never got any problems with his ankles. He realised it was the way he was reacting to his shoes that was causing the problem, so just becoming aware of that.
Also, when you have Alexander lessons, your whole body is just much freer anyway, so when you go and play tennis, or football, or horse-riding, you’re not so likely to be injuring yourself.
Steve: This principle applies to playing musical instruments. I didn’t realise that many musicians gave up their careers because of aches and pains and injuries generated by the way they stand, sit while playing.
Richard: Yeah, people like Madonna, people like Paul McCartney, quite a few famous musicians. But, just regularly, I live in Galway and the whole musical community, so I get a lot of people coming to me. Just holding the guitar with too much tension for too long can produce a pain in the shoulder, or a pain in the neck. So, again, just teaching them how to sit, stand or whatever and hold their instrument in the easiest sort of way, the pain just go away. The pain just go away. Pain is always a sign that something’s going wrong. If I can find out what is going wrong and change it, then I can eradicate the pain.
There’s an interesting story, actually, of George Bernard Shaw, the writer. At the age of 80, he was riddled with pain. He has pain in the neck, he has major back problems. His hips didn’t work properly, he had knee problems and ankle problems. So he booked a lesson with Alexander, not for any of this reason, but because he had a heart problem and the doctors given him a few weeks to live. So he goes along to Alexander and when he gets to the front door, he can’t even get up the three steps to ring the doorbell. He’s so frail. Everyone would think George Bernard Shaw is just about to die, and he’s on his last legs.
Anyway, he eventually gets into Alexander’s teaching room. Alexander takes one look at him and said, “Look, I can’t do anything for you unless you promise to come every day for three weeks.” After the three weeks, George Bernard Shaw writes a letter, says, “Dear Mr. Alexander, I just want to thank you because all my aches and pains have gone and the doctors can’t find the angina anymore. I’m walking five miles a day and swimming every morning, which I haven’t been able to do since I was 14.”
Richard Brennan: Yeah. “However, you have left me with one problem I didn’t have in the first place. Now, that I’m three inches taller, none of my clothes fit me anymore.” Then, he went on and lived for another 14 years. The only reason he died, he fell out of a tree while he was pruning it, so he’s up apple trees at the age of 94.
Steve: Incredible. I didn’t know.
Richard: Yeah, I know. I know.
Steve: Well, this is going to appeal to some people, I’m sure: Pregnancy and childbirth. Now, there are some great images in the book of a woman with a great bump in front of her. Of course, this puts a great strain on the human body, doesn’t it?
Richard: It does, it does. Yeah. Again, when someone did childbirth or in pregnancy, the more tension that they have in their body, the harder the pregnancy is going to be, the harder the birth is going to be. Someone who has a more relaxed body is just going to have an easier time there. Also, back problem is a really big problem with people who are pregnant. A lot of pregnant moms get back problem and the Alexander Technique can actually definitely help with that.
It just gives people an easier time. It doesn’t matter whether you’re pregnant or whatever you do. It just helps you to move through life with greater ease.
Richard: Pretty much. Anyone who wants to be more conscious of what they actually do. Anyone who wants to improve something. You might be a musician want to improve your playing, you might be a runner who want to have better performance, or you just might want to improve the way you sit at the computer. If anyone wants to improve something, or if they have any aches or pains and they don’t know why they’re getting them, this might throw some light on them.
Steve: Richard, thank you so much. Now, if anybody interested in Richard’s work, do check his website, alexander.ie and, yeah, Richard, thank you so much for your work. I’m sure it’s touching many people brilliantly.
Richard: Okay. Thanks, Steve.
Richard Brennan is the director of the Alexander Teacher Training College in Galway, Ireland. He lectures extensively throughout Europe and the US, and has been teaching the Alexander Technique for over 25 years.
This highly effective technique for releasing muscular tension throughout the body teaches new ways of sitting, standing and moving that put less stress on our muscles, bones and joints. This step-by-step illustrated guide shows you how to move with comfort and ease and relieve and prevent common aches and pains, simply by taking control of your posture. By adjusting the way you do things you can avoid putting your body under strain, and achieve
a more relaxed muscular system. Let go of tension, and discover a new sense of lightness and well-being in
your day-to-day life.
Steve Nobel sat down with Laurent Turlin to interview him about his book ‘Heal Yourself with Chinese Pressure points’
Laurent talks about your qi, and how your qi can become stagnant, and how acupressure helps relieve stagnant energy to nourish your organs.
Steve: So hello and welcome. My name’s Steve Nobel and today I’m speaking with Laurent Turlin on “Heal Yourself with Chinese Pressure Points: Treat common ailments and stay healthy using a 12 acupressure point system.” This book is a wonderful introduction for beginners. Explores 12 key acupressure points for treating common ailments and conditions according to the principles of Traditional Chinese Medicine. And this book explores how to use these 12 key points to treat a range of conditions, from headaches, sciatica, and fatigue, to insomnia, motion sickness, and even a sore throat. Now Laurent is a Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioner and qualified acupuncturist, where he practises in a clinic in Paris.
Steve: Hi. So can I ask you, many people are really familiar with acupuncture as a complementary form of treatment for conditions. I mean I’ve had it many times. But many are less familiar with acupressure. Can you just say something about acupressure?
Laurent: Acupressure is the very first thing everybody does from the beginning of humanity. For example, when you have a shock, you touch or press the zone where you have had the shock. This is acupressure, it’s healing to relieve the blood and the qi stagnation. So acupressure, now we can specialise with acupoints, but it can be done anywhere on the body when you have a pain, self-administered, like with intuition it’s just a natural reaction, you know.
Steve: Yeah. Can you say something about qi stagnation, and what is qi? Many people may know this, but just in case they don’t.
Laurent: qi is energy. What is qi? Everything is qi. It can be a dense energy, solid, energy in movement. And in the body we have 12 meridians, 12 channels, and the qi goes in each of the 12 meridians to nourish the organs. Qi equals life. So when you mesh some points with other points, you create the formula and you can have synergy to treat yourself, for example, for back pain or headaches.
Life is movement, so when there is a blockage, there is pain. Chinese medicine is about moving the stagnant qi. And the blood? The blood is the substance of the qi. Qi is young. It’s immaterial. And blood is material, it is you. So the qi needs blood to circulate, and the blood also needs qi to be able to circulate. So when you bruise yourself, the blood is stopped in that area. The pain breaks the flow of circulation.
Steve: So what kind of things cause qi stagnation? You mentioned bruising, is there anything else that causes stagnation?
Laurent: Yeah, emotion. Frustration and anger creates qi stagnation. Especially around the liver. Now tomorrow is the Chinese New Year of the Dog. This is the New Year Chinese is celebrating spring. Every season we nourish special elements and special movements. And in the Spring, the Chinese nourish the liver. And the liver is very important. It’s one of the most important organs in Chinese traditional medicine. The liver is the organ which creates the impulse, the qi, and the blood, and it regulates all the glands. It is the endocrine system, the endocrine glands. The liver nourishes the tendons and the fibres in your body, to your eyes and your brain. So the liver is very important because it is the ‘boss’ of the circulation– the flow and circulation and also your stresses. And we can say the liver digests your emotions.
Laurent: When you feel an emotion, if you receive bad news, something happens and you get frustrated and get angry, your liver is trying to digest these emotions, you can have qi stagnation around the liver. It can also lead to qi stagnation resulting in a heavy feeling on your chest, and feeling of having something in your throat, in sadness, and also for men, genital organ pains. For woman, PMS. And even migraines.
So, Chi stagnation can come from your internal emotions, can come from external shock. It can come also with the season. For example, you can have a qi stagnation if you are outside, you don’t have enough clothes, and of course you get super cold. If you have any deficiencies in your internal terrain, the cold can go, for example, into your lumbar. You can have a qi stagnation in your lumbar because the cold and the humidity go in the channels and go inside your skin and create all sorts of stagnations.
And you can have qi stagnation by having bad posture. Bad posture or torticollis. Torticollis is when you have a pain or something in your neck and you are in your car, you open the window and you drive, for example, for three hours – that’s a lot of wind. And this wind goes into your neck and the qi can stagnate.
Steve: Now I know you’ve got this 12 main points, and I know there are a lot of points on the body, but there are just 12 you’re going into. Why these 12?
Laurent: Why these 12? Because I studied Chinese medicine in China, and I have read a lot of Chinese medical texts. These 12 points are from the optics Chinese medical books. Zhen Jiu is the flow of acupuncture and moxibustion. And Zhen Jiu is a very fine mix of medication. There are four principal points in acupuncture and in moxibustion. And the idea for this book it that everybody can use it. They don’t need to know what is diagnostic, what is yin, what is yang, what is deficiency, what is plenitude, and what is the cold or heat. So this is book is for everybody. These 12 points are chosen because they target and treat the main areas.
So the idea is to give 12 key points. It’s for people that know nothing, but just want to do something before they go to see the doctor, before going to see the acupuncturist, or to call the emergency services. The purpose is not to say, “Here are 12 points – now you can do everything.” No. It’s a guide so you can help yourself.
Steve: It could treat a lot of things, can’t it.
Laurent: Yes absolutely, for twenty years now I have been doing acupuncture. The emergency point between the top lip and the nose has a lot of applications. It is a great, wonderful point to help someone that has passed out. And its also wonderful for the Lumbar (lower back) pain. You know if you have a such a great pain that you can’t stand up. It’s really hard for you to move and you just, even can’t walk. And you practice acupressure, and then acupuncture with needles, and you can ask to the patient to move, after this treatment, the person can stand again. Not to run, to do the New York marathon but he can walk. For example, if has to take the train for his job, he can do this.
Of course acupressure doesn’t use needles and its not manipulation, but really it’s energy. The Japanese do Dao-ing, Chinese do Qi Gong in the morning or so. That’s one treatment. These practices nourish life.
Steve: Nourish life.
Laurent: Nourish life. When we touch or treat our selves we just make our energy balanced. In our occidental world, to touch someone it to steal something they’re in need of. And in Oriental countries and in Africa, where they touch themselves, especially in India, they treat they touch they massage, it’s very normal. But still, us in occident (western cultures), there is always a connotation when we touch ourselves. We need to touch, we need to have contact, I say this in my lectures in Paris, press yourself, touch your family, your loves, your children, your friends, and with the acupoints something happens. It helps you to open your mind and maybe, your heart.
Steve: Beautiful book, Laurent and full of lovely illustrations. And it goes through all the 12 points and lots of different issues such as asthma, or ringing in the ears, or back pain, or sinusitis, or pains, just generalised pains in the body. So it’s a very good book. If you’re interested in this kind of form of complementary medicine, I encourage you to buy this book.
And, Laurent, thank you for taking the time to chat with me.
This perfect introduction for beginners presents the 12 key acupressure points for treating common ailments and conditions, according to the principles of Chinese medicine.
After a simple overview of the meridian system of energy channels in the body, plus easy-to-follow instructions on different massage techniques, you are then introduced to each of the 12 points in turn, and how to use them to treat a wide range of conditions, from headaches, sciatica and fatigue to insomnia, motion sickness and even a sore throat! Clear illustrations and diagrams are included throughout, along with tips on other useful complementary treatments.
Lina Bou talks about the importance of using local and seasonal ingredients for a well-balanced gut. Lina combines her knowledge as a Nutritional Therapist, her creative flair and her love for cooking to create delicious, nutritious meals.
Discover nutritional therapist Lina Bou’s recipe for healthy living, with this inspirational cookbook for the modern lifestyle.
Cooking isn’t just about eating the right foods – it’s about being inventive, having fun and enjoying a healthy relationship with what you eat. Whether you’re looking for tasty brunch ideas, delicious dinners, energizing snacks or mouthwatering sweet treats, Lina shows you how to make simple, nutritious vegetarian meals (suitable for all!) easy enough for anyone to rustle up with the minimum of fuss. There are also suggestions for vegan alternatives, plus recipes free from gluten, dairy and sugar – the most common intolerances. All recipes feature a health-benefit key, indicating at a glance whether they help improve your immunity, boost your energy, balance your hormones, and more. And there’s advice on sensible detoxing, too.
Watch the mouth-watering video, and listen to Lina chat to Steve!
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Good breathing involves a coordination of our whole being. Alexander Technique expert Richard Brennan talks us through how Alexander solved his vocal problems by looking at what he was doing with his breathing. Richard explains how being hunched over your computer impairs your breathing. Let the beautiful illustrations wash over you; read some excerpts; try some breathing along with the audio and learn some exercises to improve your breathing for health happiness and well-being.
‘How To Breathe’ by Richard Richard Brennan
Breath is essential for life, but did you know that the way you breathe can be detrimental to your well-being? Poor posture, stress, muscular tension … all can make the ‘effortless’ act of breathing hard work without us realising. And breathing isn’t just a physical activity; it influences our mental, emotional and spiritual well-being, too.
HOW TO BREATHE shows you how to relearn your natural rhythm of breathing to bene cially alter the way you think, feel and act. Packed with breathing techniques to use at home, and featuring groundbreaking methods developed by the founder of the Alexander Technique, it will help you rediscover how to breathe naturally to improve every aspect of your life. By applying consciousness to the action of breathing, you can become aware of harmful habits – and alleviate common breathing problems in the process.
We breathe more than 20,000 times a day – so why not make sure you do it as efficiently and effectively as possible? This is a book you can’t afford to be without.
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Steve : Hello and welcome. My name is Steve Nobel, and today I’m speaking with Richard Brennan on his book How to Breathe, Improving your Breathing for Health, Happiness, and Wellbeing. Richard has studied Alexander technique since 1983 and has been teaching the technique full-time since 1989. He travels extensively through Europe and the US teaching the technique. And he’s a director of training in the center for the technique in Galway, Ireland, and he’s a leading figure in helping people resolve back and neck problems. Now this book will help you relearn your natural rhythm of breathing that will change the way you think, feel, and act forever. And his website is alexander.ie, if you want to check out his work. So welcome to you, Richard.
Richard : Oh, hi Steve, how are you today?
Steve : Oh, good. Yes, it’s a sunny day and we don’t always have that in London, I guess.
Richard : Yeah.
Steve : Let me ask you about Alexander technique. How did it all begin?
Richard : Well, Alexander was an actor and reciter, and he was getting a very good reputation, so he was reciting in bigger and bigger venues. And then he started to notice his breathing was audible, which is something that actors do not like. So he was rasping or breathing in air. And then, after that, he began to get a voice problem. He started to lose his voice on stage, and this was going to affect his whole career, so he was very worried about it.
And he went to various people to try and get help. He went to someone who gave him neck exercises, that didn’t work. Somebody else gave him medication, that didn’t work. And then eventually he went to a doctor who examined his vocal cords. Now, we’re talking about 1890. So the way you examine someone’s vocal cords in those days was pretty much dangle a small mirror down someone’s throat. But the doctor found out that his cords were red and inflamed. And he told Alexander, “Oh, you’ve just been over straining your voice. I’m sure, if you just rest your voice for a couple of weeks, it’ll all be fine.” So that’s exactly what Alexander did and he was so determined, he hardly spoke to anyone for 2 weeks.
He went back on stage and he was delighted because his voice was crystal clear. But, after half an hour, the voice began to get bad again and, at the end of the performance, he could hardly speak. So he went back to the doctor and the doctor said, “Well, it did improve a little bit and maybe you need to rest your voice for longer.” But Alexander said, “Look, if my voice was okay in the beginning of the performance and it wasn’t okay at the end of the performance, surely it was something I was doing while performing.” Okay, if my back is okay before I used to go and do the gardening but it’s not okay when I come in from doing the gardening, it must be something I’m doing while I’m doing the gardening. That whole principle can apply to actually anything. It’s a cause and effect. So he wanted to know what was causing the voice. And, if he could find out what was causing the voice, stop doing it, his voice would be fine.
So he asked the doctor, “So, what am I doing?” And the doctor said, “I have no idea.” So Alexander said, “Well, I’ll go and find out for myself.” So he studied for about 5 or 6 years. He studied posture, the way he was standing. He observed himself in the mirror and he noticed that when he took a breath, he opened his mouth and breathed in through his mouth. So he sucked some air in, which basically dried out the vocal cords and then, on top of that, he pulled his head back and depressed the larynx. And it was this habit that was causing the voice and the breathing problem. So then he experimented and he tried positioning his head in all different ways, and every time he did it the problem would get worse. And then eventually he came to a point where, if he thought of his head as not going back but thinking of his head going forwards, the problem went away again.
Steve : Mmm.
Richard : So then he devised a whole system whereby you just think your way out of problems. You think of your back getting longer. You think of your neck getting longer. And then he helped his fellow actors. And then doctors got wind of it and then they used to send him people with back problems, neck problems, shoulder problems. So he got very used to helping people with a whole … a wide range of people. And a lot of it was just muscular tension was the root cause of most problems.
Steve : Let me ask you generally about Alexander technique, cause nowadays in the modern world it seems to be applied to people with back pain, stress, posture issues, sports performance, musicians, it’s kind of a vast range of people it helps, isn’t it?
Richard : Yeah, it is, yeah. Because in all those things, let’s say a musician would be holding their instrument too tightly, they’ve been having too much tension in their shoulder. Maybe a runner would be having maybe injuries with their knees because there’s too much tension around their knees. So we have 651 muscles in the body and any of them can be tense causing problems in the ankle joint, or in the neck, or shoulder, or pretty much anything. And also, muscular tension … muscles control breathing as well. So, if I’m tense around the rib cage, my rib cage can’t move in and out. So, yeah, it is. It can help a great deal of people in all sorts of ways.
Steve : Now, when the publisher said to me, “We want you to interview Richard on his book How to Breathe,” I kind of looked at the publisher and they looked at me, and I thought, “Really?” And when I read in your introduction, you said, “When I told my eldest daughter I was writing a book about breathing, she replied, ‘That will be interesting. Page one, breathe in. Page two, breathe out. Page three, breathe in again. Page four, breathe out again.'” I mean, initially, I looked at it and thought, “Well, there’s not much in it.” But of course, it’s a very deep area, isn’t it?
Richard : It is, it is. I mean, we all breathe thousands of times a day. And most people are not aware of the way they breathe. So in the same way we can have punctual habits, we can also have breathing habits as well. We have set ways of breathing, which are maybe not very healthy and they can be detrimental. But because they feel normal to us, we don’t even know they’re there.
Steve : What kind of poor breathing habits are you talking about, Richard?
Richard : Breathing in too quickly.
Steve : Yeah.
Richard : Breathing in through the mouth, which dries out the vocal cords. There’s hairs in our nose, which acts as a filter. When I started doing the technique, I was amazed that many people might breathe up to 30 or 40 times a minute. So they’re very fast breathing and very shallow breathing. So they don’t get rid of the C02 in the same way as the body is designed to. So then toxins build up and, yeah, you can get ill from it.
Steve : Right. Now, the book says good breathing involves a coordination of our whole being. So can we just go into Alexander technique, the posture and the breath. How do they work together?
Richard : So, if somebody came in with a breathing problem, let’s say something like asthma, I would probably … we have a teaching table. I would lay them on the teaching table and check out to see where they’re holding tension and ask them to let it go. Just even doing that, their breathing will change. Their breathing will be much more beneficial afterwards. But also, you can actually have little breathing exercises you can actually do. And most disciplines like yoga, or whatever, would have a whole set of breathing exercises. But most of them involve breathing in, breathe in through the nose, breathe into the lungs. Whereas, Alexander technique, the whole thing is breathing out of the lungs. What Alexander realised was, if I breathe out, I create a vacuum in the lungs, and the next breath it’s all taken by reflex. So the emphasis is on the out breath. So even if somebody, you know when you blow up these children’s bubbles?
Steve : Yeah.
Richard : You know, if you just blow the air out and you just extend the out breath and then you wait you’ll feel that you actually breathe in better. And anyone can do that listening to this audio.
Steve : Right. Is this in the book? You talk about natural breathing. Is this the natural breath focusing on the exhalation rather than inhalation?
Richard : Yeah, yeah. If you look at a small child when they’re asleep, it’s almost looks like the whole body is breathing. It’s not just their lungs, their whole body is actually expanding and contracting. And breathing is a reflex. So to trigger the reflex all you have to do is breathe out. So people are usually … the main habit is to start taking a breath before the out breath is finished.
Steve : That sounds simple, but is it simple?
Richard : It is simple, but you have to go against your habit. So when people first do it, it feels strange to them.
Steve : Yeah.
Richard : In the same way as, if I drove your car and you drove mine, your car would feel strange to me. The indicator would be in the wrong place and the pedals would be slightly different. But after an hour or so, I would get used to it and you would get used to mine. It’s the same way … Alexander used to say, “Good posture feels strange to begin with,” if you’re not used to having it.
Steve : Yeah.
Richard : So people go, “Well, I feel really good and I feel I’m really breathing well, but I don’t feel like me anymore. I feel like somebody else.”
Steve : Yeah, do we compress our rib cage? You know, if we’re like crouching over the computer or kids at school, is there a kind of compressing of our breath as well?
Richard : Oh, yeah. Absolutely. If you look at most children at school, they’re bending over their desk and they’re not able to breathe. If you slump down and you pull yourself down, the minute you try and take a deep breath you can’t do it. So posture and breathing are very, very inter-rated. So when you’re improving breathing, you’re also improving people’s posture.
Steve : Right.
Richard : And when you’re improving people’s posture, you’re also improving their breathing. So they go hand-in-hand, it’s all the same stuff.
Steve : I know when I did … cause sports, I did long distance running and also short distance running. But particularly in the long distance running, I noticed I had to get a certain … I practised all kinds of breathing rhythms and I noticed that my breathing was so connected to my performance.
Richard : Yeah.
Steve : Can Alexander help in something like long distance running?
Richard : Yeah, absolutely, absolutely. We just had a guy called Malcolm Bark over here in Ireland who did a week’s running course with us and it was really interesting, cause I actually learned something too. He said, “If you get out of breath while you’re running, you’re trying to hard.”
Steve : Right.
Richard : And for me that was amazing because, when I run, I always get out of breath. And then he just showed us how to run in a certain rhythm, especially long term, marathon running, where you just stay with this rhythm of your breath and you don’t get out of breath at all. And you can run for a long, long, long time.
Steve : You must see singers, I guess, cause singers are something where the breath and the voice is so interconnected. Is, again, Alexander technique something that can really help a singer, or performers who do lots of speaking on stage?
Richard : Oh, yeah. Absolutely, absolutely. Yeah, there’s a lot of singers. Madonna is one. Paul McCartney is another. And there’s a whole range of singers and musicians that come to the Alexander Technique. It’s very big. It’s very big in the music world. Yeah.
Steve : Why?
Richard : Most colleges, performance, like drama colleges or music colleges, Royal College of Music for instance in London.
Steve : Yeah.
Richard : They all have resident Alexander teachers because there is so many problems around … I think there’s a statistic that 70% of people playing in orchestras play in pain.
Steve : All right. That’s not good is it?
Richard : No. Seventy percent, that’s a lot, that’s a lot, yeah.
Steve : Wow. Have you ever had to deal with opera singers? Now, I know the opera singers really have to have these bellow like lungs, don’t they?
Richard : Yeah, I’m actually working with an opera singer in London at the moment. And I’m going to teach her class, that’s in October. So I’m looking forward to that. Yeah, again, there’s this whole concept of I have to try really hard and, therefore, I over try, I strain. And Alexander had a philosophy, if you want to give your best, give 80%. So when you’re playing, just give 80%. If you give 80%, that’s pretty good but it doesn’t push you over to this thing of Alexander – most people are too goal oriented. They try too hard. And, in the trying too hard, they get nervous, they get stage fright, they get tension problems, and then they can’t play their musical instrument properly.
Steve : I get from what you’re saying that really Alexander technique is not really so much learning something new but really unlearning something. Is that true?
Richard : Exactly. Exactly. It’s an unlearning, because we all as children had perfect posture and our breathing was absolutely fine. And our movements, I mean, if you look at a child playing in the sand, they’re squatting with so much ease, their balance, they’re breathing well. Their movements are amazing. And, if you go to people outside the modern world, let’s say aborigines or the Berber people, they have the same movements as children. They feel very upright. The native American Indians, for instance, they’re very upright. They’re not bent over. They don’t have neck problems and back problems. And in India, hardly anyone gets a back operation or a hip operation, unless they’re in a car accident. Not from posture. But in our society, all these aches and pains suddenly come on for no reason.
Steve : So Richard, one thing about the book I noticed is, lots of brilliant exercises from improving air circulation, releasing tension. Can you give a simple exercise for our listeners that would help them perhaps with their breath and perhaps with their voice?
Richard : Yeah. Well, it’s not mine. This is Alexander’s. He didn’t really believe in exercises because he felt that most people exercise their habits. But in breathing he made an exception, because he felt it was an exercise of inhibition. And the exercise is basically, you just maybe lie on a bed and you just notice your breathing. And it comes in and out. And then, after a few breaths you whisper an ah sound. When I say ah, I mean ah, as in father. And when you make that ah go as long as you can without straining. And then you close your mouth and you let the air come back in through the nose. And you just repeat that about 6 or 7 times and afterwards you just really feel that your lungs are working much, much better. Yeah, just very, very simple, very simple. It’s not complicated. It takes one minute to learn it.
Steve : Yeah, most of the practises are very simple like that.
Richard : Yeah. They are, they are.
Steve : Well, it looks a wonderful book. I love the cover. It’s got a beautiful blue/green cover with a kind of huge spiral on it. How to Breathe, Improving Your Breath for Health, Happiness, and Wellbeing. So, Richard, again, thank you so much for speaking with me today.
Richard : Okay, you’re very welcome, Steve. Thank you.