We all want to feel good, don’t we? That’s why we watch what we eat and exercise regularly…in the best of all possible worlds, at least.
The reality is that reality can be difficult and dark, even for the sunniest people – and we all know who they are. Physical pain and depression afflict millions of people around the world. If only there were some easy way to produce positive feelings that didn’t involve drugs. Turns out there is: acupressure.
Acupressure is an ancient healing technique that the Chinese have been using for thousands of years. Treatments foster mental and emotional relaxation, pain relief, and allow the body to heal inflammatory conditions.
Acupressure uses the same pressure points as acupuncture does – but without any needles or the need for a medical license to use them.
There are several types of Asian bodywork therapy (ABT), all based on the principles taught in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). For example, Shiatsu is a Japanese form of acupressure.
As described in TCM, networks of invisible acupoints have been mapped throughout the human body, not unlike the stations on a subway transit map. Each acupoint lies along an energy channel called a meridian and corresponds to a specific body part or function.
TCM teaches that our very life force – called ch’i or qi – courses along the body’s meridians. When something blocks the flow of ch’i, physical and emotional imbalances begin to build up. Unless released, these stagnant, negative energies can lead to extreme unwellness.
Releasing negative ch’i and freeing up blocked acupoints is what acupressure and acupuncture are all about. This is not woo-woo science: I myself have benefited from both forms of pain relief therapy and endorse both heartily.
All of the body’s organs lie along one of the 12 major meridians, creating an interlinked neurological signaling system that connects the entire body. All meridians begin at the fingertips, connect to your brain, and then connect to an organ associated with a certain meridian.
In all, there are over 350 distinct acupoints in the adult human body. Some are the same between males and females, but some are gender-specific due to biological differences, notably between their reproductive systems.
Acupressure practitioners need no high-tech gadgets and carry the tools of their trade with them everywhere they go: fingers and thumbs, palms, knuckles, the side of the hand, elbows, and even their feet. Special devices that apply pressure to acupoints on the body’s meridians are available commercially.
I sometimes use a smooth, polished quartz wand that comes to a rounded point to apply localized pressure to any point within reach.
Stretching and massage can also stimulate acupoints and are extremely therapeutic techniques.
It may take some trial-and-error to locate your acupoints, but it is well worth the effort. The pressure should be firm enough to feel slightly uncomfortable or even a little bit painful.
More muscular parts of the body can generally tolerate more pressure than sensitive tissues. Never continue pressing on a point that causes severe pain. Listen to your body and find a happy medium between too little and too much pressure.
Stimulating the following four acupoints will activate your body’s feel-good centers. Press down on these areas and see if your temper improves. Do you feel more chipper and less down in the dumps? More get up and go?
- Governing Vessel 20 (GV20) and YIntang (Third Eye Point)
Press directly on the crown of your head and between your eyebrows with your pointer and middle fingers at the same time. Keep applying pressure on these points for two to three minutes and experience the positive effects.
TCM says that pressing these two points simultaneously brings mental clarity and a sense of calm, elevating your mood.
Stimulating this combination of two acupoints can also help to drain your sinuses and release negative emotional and physical energies and feelings.
- Governing Vessel 17 (GV17)
This pressure point is located on the back of your head, above the midpoint of the back hairline, in the depression on the upper border of the external occipital protuberance. The acupoint is considered the doorway to the brain.
Apply pressure on these points for two to three minutes with any two fingers to slow your breathing, calm your heart, and ease your anxieties.
You can activate this key acupoint at work, in the privacy of your cubicle, in your car, or at home watching TV.
- Heart 7 (HT7)
Find this acupoint on your wrist where your arm meets your hand, on the side toward your little finger, in the middle of the ulna and the pisiform bones.
When stimulated with firm downward pressure for a minute or two, worry, anxiety, and stress you didn’t even know you had will fade away.
Test this for yourself and see if triggering this acupoint elevates your mood and lifts your spirits – even after a rough commute or a day full of screaming kids.
- Lung 1 (LU 1)
Find this point by crossing your arms upwards in an ‘X’ across your chest with your fingers resting naturally. Push firmly on the spot where your fingers are resting, on the outside edge of your rib cage, three finger-width below the clavicle.
Pressing these two acupoints (right and left sides) at the same time is called the “Letting Go” point. Your chest will expand so your lungs can breathe more deeply. Activate this pressure point a few times a day to give you a lift, improve your attitude, provide a focused, personal moment just to stop whatever you’re doing and simply breathe.
Stimulating Lung 1 will help release anxiety and negative feelings that you are experiencing. As negative emotions leave your mind and your body, your mood will lift.
Be sure to drink ample warm water after receiving an acupoint treatment to help your body flush released toxins.