by Oleg Bouimer, LMT, СMMP
Los Angeles, CA
Welcome back! In the second part of this article, let me expand on some practical ways of incorporating Chi into your professional work and, ultimately, into daily life (Part I is linked here Medical Massage Courses & Certification | Science of Massage Institute » PERSONAL OPINION. USING CHI FOR SPORTS MASSAGE). I will interchange the terms ‘Chi’ and ‘bioelectricity’ as they represent the same concept based on Eastern philosophy and Western science.
Let me start with the three key steps I use in my busy daily practice to substantially impact my clients’ Chi and their physical body while minimizing my own physical and mental fatigue from long work hours.
Step 1. Empty your mind
Emptying the mind does not mean disconnecting from reality while working on my clients and going into a different universe. On the contrary, I empty my mind to eliminate the clutter of irrelevant thoughts to sharpen my observational skills and open a clear communication channel with my clients. It is like turning off the background noise, which can distract my work. Thus, an ‘empty mind’ is not a detachment from a client on my massage table but rather a tool for establishing more effective physical and mental communication.
I use a special breathing pattern to obtain this state of a ‘focused’ empty mind. In other words, to get rid of any thoughts not connected to my client’s body and to place myself in the ‘here and now,’ I establish the baseline of a particular breathing pattern. Each of my exhalations is at least twice as long as my inhalation (1:2 ratio). After many years of experimenting with this concept, I have expanded it to a 1:4 and even a 1:8 ratio.
In my daily life, I use nasal breathing; however, when I work with my clients, I inhale through my nose and exhale through my mouth. By following this breathing pattern, the connection between my mind and body becomes stronger with each breath, inducing a near-meditative state where the mind becomes one with the body. Ultimately, I am reaching a point when my body becomes my breath.
While optimizing my energy, I get better aligned to work with my client’s bioelectrical field. Thus, my and my client’s bioelectrical fields become entangled, and the longer I work on a client, the more I use this energy-based healing component. My massage strokes are enhanced and can better stimulate circulation drainage, conduct nerve impulses and decrease muscle tone. Therefore, I spend more time in the exhalation phase while working on the clients.
Of course, mastering this requires quite a bit of practice. The following tools have helped me develop a correct breathing pattern.
- First, it is easier to start with a visual where every inhalation you take pushes you away from your client while every exhalation brings you to the client. This dynamic brings your closer to your client by entangling your Chi (a.k.a. bioelectricity) with your client’s.
- In addition to using a visual, it is easier to train yourself in a new breathing pattern by matching (in your mind) breathing with a simple song melody like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star.” Following this song’s pattern, you will do one quick inhalation followed by a long exhalation needed to cover all eight music notes of one verse. This cycle repeats as you continue with the song’s second verse. Essentially, we are establishing a 1:8 ratio, where ‘1’ is the time spent on one inhalation and ‘8’ is the time spent on one exhalation.
Start practicing this as a breathing exercise throughout your day so that it becomes more natural. Gradually start implementing the same breathing exercise during your massage session to establish it as a main breathing pattern for the entire session. It is helpful to use this pattern of breathing while I rest and when I am physically active. As a matter of fact, it has become an integral part of my fitness training.
This new breathing pattern can also improve your massage sessions. The majority of massage strokes are applied during the therapist’s exhalations. Once you are comfortable with the chosen breathing pattern (1:2; 1:4 or 1:8), you may go a step further by synchronizing your breath with the speed of your massage strokes. To do so without breaking the song’s melody, you can change the speed of massage strokes to 2, 4 or 8 strokes per each exhalation.
In other words, when a therapist establishes and masterminds a breathing pattern, they can alternate between three different massage stroke speeds. Doing so resets the client’s sensory cortex more efficiently. It also unloads the therapist’s body by shifting and playing with the impact of gravity.
To better entangle the Chi and bioelectrical field between client and therapist, the therapist can ask their client to prolong their exhalations and synchronize with the therapist for a much more powerful therapy session.
Mastering this first step will allow therapists to be fully present during the entire massage session. It is a powerful tool for preventing the wandering mind, which can consume our energy while interfering with proper Chi generation (i.e., bioelectricity) between the therapist’s and the client’s body. It also helps to entangle both Chi into one active bioelectrical field.
Finally, based on my lifelong professional experience, many clients can easily detect if their massage therapist is mentally present or absent during their session. Thus, you may enhance the healing outcome of massage by generating additional Chi during the session, or you may keep it ‘turned off.’ Experienced clients will immediately feel the difference.
Step 2. Connect to your own energy center
One main problem therapists can encounter professionally is rigidity at the massage table. This false-minded notion is learned in Massage Therapy schools and encourages fixed positioning abnormal to our bodies’ postures. These rigid positions fight with the force of gravity instead of using gravity as a structural component of each massage stroke. Aside from freeing the therapist’s mind, releasing their body becomes an equally important issue to have a lasting and productive professional career.
Now, as therapists become more comfortable with keeping their minds empty while establishing this new breathing pattern, the next step is to connect to their main energy center located at the Lower Dantian point about one inch below the navel – also our body’s center of gravity. Fig. 1 illustrates the location of Lower Dantian Point.
Focusing on Lower Dantian point will enhance their skeletal muscles’ performance and increase their physical strength and endurance. Additionally, therapists should mentally place the weight of their upper body onto this point to ‘unload’ their upper body. As a result, their skeletal muscles will carry much less tension. This mental technique of shifting their upper body weight to the Lower Dantian point (your center of gravity) will lead to a stronger connection with the ground.
The connection to the Lower Dantian point gives therapists another great advantage – the fluidity of massage strokes. Additionally, it enhances the treatment session by sharpening the sensory and palpatory abilities of the therapist’s hands.
The Unbendable Arm is a beneficial exercise used widely in martial arts and basic Aikido training to engage the Lower Dantian Point.
Begin by choosing a partner equal to you in strength. Take a half step forward and extend your right (or left) arm straight out, and let your partner attempt to bend your arm at the elbow. There are two expected outcomes:
1- If you clench your fist, tense your arm and use your skeletal muscles to resist, your partner can bend your arm or push you away.
2- If you open your hand, relax your arm and concentrate on the energy flowing from the Lower Dantian point, through your arm and out your fingertips extending thousands of miles ahead of you, then your opponent won’t be able to bend your arm or push you away.
Video 1 below illustrates The Unbendable Arm Test.
Therapists can use this exercise to test their natural or obtained ability to connect to the Lower Dantian point. Practicing this exercise will strengthen the connection to the Lower Dantian point and is a great way to evaluate progress.
This is a critical step in mastering the therapist’s work with Chi or bioelectricity. It allows the therapist to mentally and physically unload built-up pressure from long working hours.
While shifting the upper body weight to the Lower Dantian point unlocks our ‘natural belt’ (i.e., lower back and abdominal muscles), it also strengthens our connection to the ground and integrates gravity as a structural component of each stroke. In other words, the force of gravity becomes your assistant throughout your massage practice!
Step 3. Dynamic engagement of the Lower Dantian point.
The final component of an ideal massage session is channeling your inner bioelectricity or Chi into your hands and fingertips by dynamically engaging the Lower Dantian Point.
As indicated above, the correct breathing pattern indirectly entangles the therapist’s and client’s bioelectrical fields. The massage strokes (while delivering alternating mechanical compressions of the soft tissues) directly affect the client’s Chi by producing and modifying bioelectrical potentials in their body.
The next step is to learn how to channel the therapist’s bioenergy from the Lower Dantian Point to the hands and fingers. Two previously discussed steps form the foundation for successful Lower Dantian Point engagement.
First, always keep contact with the massage table since it allows the body to be relaxed and fluid around the table. The best analogy is dancing, which requires the entire body’s participation while maintaining perfect balance and fluidity. Be mindful of any unnecessary tension accumulating in your skeletal muscles as it negatively impacts the Chi (bioelectricity) flow through your and, eventually, your client’s body. Visualize your muscles working with ease since each muscle contraction is an electrical event and the accumulation of their summarized bioelectrical charge enhances the flow of Chi throughout your body, like water running through a hose.
Keep the connection to the Lower Dantian point constant! In other words, generating physical movement from the Lower Dantian point is insufficient. Once the connection is established, it must be maintained by keeping your attention at the Lower Dantien point at all times. Even mild compression force produced from your hands and fingers should originate from the Lower Dantian Point.
The ‘Rowing’ Exercise illustrated in the video below helps therapists dynamically engage their Lower Dantian Point.
- First, stand straight with a neutral vertical body alignment, an imaginary vertical line connecting the center of your forehead – the Upper Dantian point and your Lower Dantian point.
- Start in the first position– standing with your left foot 1/2 step forward, with both wrists flexed and both hands at about hip level. Then, while leaving your wrists flexed, open your fingers and thrust both arms forward. At the same time, shift your upper body forward while simultaneously bending your left knee slightly and extending your back leg. This brings you to the second position.
- From this position, make two fists as if grabbing the rowing oars of a boat and shifting your upper body back while pulling your fists back to the initial position at the hip level, bending your right knee slightly, and extending your left leg. This returns you to the first position.
This ‘rowing’ exercise moves the upper body back and forth and is excellent practice in engaging and maintaining connection to the Lower Dantian point. Clearly, this is not an arm exercise but an exercise to extend your Chi that can be repeated daily as part of a moving meditation. Just be cautious not to tense your legs as you practice rowing throughout the day.
These three steps are the foundation of my ability to work endless hours without ruining my body while helping my clients and enjoying my work for over 35 years. Even more so, I do not feel drained throughout the day and head home with the same energy level with which I started that morning.
In conclusion, I firmly believe that practicing these key steps in mobilizing your Chi will profoundly impact your professional career as a sports massage practitioner. I hope you will tap into your unique Chi and make it a part of EVERY aspect of your life!
About the Author
Oleg Bouimer, LMT, graduated from the State Institute of Physical Education in Ukraine in 1985. Currently, he has an extensive private practice in Los Angeles. Among his clients are celebrities, famous politicians, and sports stars. The NBA, NHL, and NFL widely recognize Oleg and the system of Russian Sports Massage. He teaches both nationwide and internationally. Oleg is the author of many articles in American and European professional journals.Oleg has studied extensively Chinese Kenpo Karate and Wing Chun Kung Fu. Nowadays, he continues refining his Chi through Tai Chi and Aikido. At the same time, Oleg has developed a new system of mind-body training called- Chi Boxing. It is going to be introduced to the general public later this year. He can be reached by e-mail: email@example.com
Category: Sport Massage
Tags: 2022 Issue #3