Face Massage has been a traditional part of massage in Japan for hundreds of years.
Japanese empresses would have regular face massage because beauty was not seen as being separate from health. If you were healthy, you looked beautiful, and vice versa. Like many traditions, this too seems to have been lost in its home country, as people look to the exotic. However, various styles of face massage are now gaining popularity worldwide as safer alternatives to Botox and similar procedures, and Tsuboki face massage is no exception.
Why the name Tsuboki? For those of you familiar with meridian theory, you will know that meridians are channels that run around the body. They are invisible, but can be detected by measuring electrical resistance. The energy that flows through these channels is called Ki in Japanese (Chi in Chinese). In Traditional Chinese Medicine - which is what acupressure is based on - if Ki is flowing smoothly around the meridians, then the person will stay in good health. If the energy is blocked or uneven, that can be the precursor to disease. There are points along the meridians, called Tsubos, where this energy can be most easily accessed and influenced, and pressing on a point anywhere on a meridian can influence the energy throughout the whole channel. Tsuboki, then Â? using Tsubos to affect the flow of Kialong the 8 meridians that run through the face. Since these channels run to or from the fingers and the toes, we can begin to see how massaging the face can have a whole body effect. Also, the meridians have not only physical connections, but also mental and emotional ones. It is a huge and fascinating subject, which we can only touch on briefly here.
Aside from the meridians, any kind of face massage is going to have a rejuvenating effect. Detailed manipulation by a therapists skilled fingers increases circulation, bringing nutrients to the tissues and taking waste products away. Facial muscles, which are in constant use, become more toned yet supple; the elasticity of the skin is improved; the client has a wonderfully healthy glow. Also, applying pressure to the Tsubos is particularly effective at improving the condition of the skin and underlying tissues in those areas.
I would like to point out two paradoxes I have noticed in Tsuboki Face Massage.
Paradox Number One: Accessible yet Intimate
There is something very nurturing about having your face massaged. Maybe this is because the face is an intimate, vulnerable part of our body, and we usually allow only people we know well to touch it. Imagine a complete stranger walking up to us and touching us on the cheek Â? we would probably feel quite invaded. And yet it is very accessible; it is there for the world to see at all times, we are not embarrassed about showing it. This gives us as therapists a wonderful opportunity to provide a profound massage experience even to those clients who may be shy about undressing. And as a therapist I feel very privileged to sit at the head of the couch and spend 45 minutes exploring the contours of this intimate part of the body
Paradox Number Two: Relaxing yet Energising
Those who have ever had a face massage will know that it is a struggle to stay awake! Clare Maxwell Hudson writes in her beautiful article about face massage, that "Â?if there is a conscious or unconscious resistance to relaxation during a body massage, applying sensitive touch to the face can overcome it in almost every instance" (1)
And yet, clients often feel energised in the hours following a Tsuboki face massage. My explanation for this is that most of the meridians that run through the face are the Yang, or more stimulating ones. This is why I can perform this massage at the workplace, and clients can return to their desks refreshed and alert.
There are 4 stages to Tsuboki face massage:
STAGE ONE: anma, or massage to the neck.
Most people hold tension in this area, and we want to relax the muscles and increase the flow of blood to the face, to make the face massage more effective.
STAGE TWO: anma to the face.
Face massage has the benefits listed above, plus it is preparation for stage 3, as the the more relaxed the face, the easier it is to access the Tsubos.
STAGE THREE: Tsubos and Meridians
Encourages the flow of Ki, balances the body and encourages self- healing on physical, mental and emotional levels. Also enhances the "natural facelift" effect
STAGE FOUR: Lymphatic drainage
To encourage the elimination of toxins
For the anma to the face, I use Camellia Oil (Camellia sasanqua Thunb.) The reasons for this are varied; it is traditionally used in Japan on the face and on the hair; it is hypo-allergenic; is light and pleasant to use, has good skin restructuring properties, and has no fragrance.
So, what kind of clients have Tsuboki Face Massage? A huge range, from women who have regular courses to maintain youthful looks, through others who liken it to a full body massage, to armed policemen, stressed executives or lonely widowers, all of whom have their own reasons for choosing this massage over any other.
There are a couple of specific contraindications: the meridian part of the massage is contraindicated in pregnancy, and if a client has had Botox in the past 3 weeks, face massage can negate the effect. After that time, proceed with caution. Hopefully you would catch clients before they have had such procedures, and I have had several clients receive complimentary comments from friends and even boyfriends after just a few treatments.
As a therapist you can offer it as a stand alone treatment Â? it needs nothing else! - or you can combine it with for example a back massage, head massage, or foot massage, or slip bits of it into therapies you already do.
So, a massage that makes people feel good from the inside and look good from the outside; that balances the whole body and mind; that is relaxing yet energising, that can be performed clothed, with the therapist sitting down Â? what more could you want from a treatment?!
To sum up then, Tsuboki Face Massage is
Ã? A massage that balances the body and the mind
Ã? A "natural facelift"
Ã? Deeply relaxing, yet
Ã? Ultimately energising
Ã? "Something different", which sets you apart from other therapists
Ã? A therapy which clients want again and again
References and Resources:
(1) "Facing It" - article by Clare Maxwell-Hudson in Positive Health Magazine, issue 95, Dec/Jan 1994. available online at the Positive Health website.
The Art of Japanese Facial Massage by James Shogo Mochizuki - sadly no longer in print
Staying Healthy with the Seasons by Elson M Haas Â? a very readable explanation of the theory behind Traditional Chinese Medicine
Shiatsu by Elaine Liechti Â? another accessible book with information about meridians
About the author:Anne Parry studied Modern Languages at the University of Cambridge before life took her to California, where she studied massage, qualifying in 1981. She now divides her time three ways: seeing private clients at her home-based clinic; providing an On-Site Massage service to local companies, and training. She has been a trainer for the No Hands Massage Company, for the Academy of On-site Massage, and now also develops her own courses which she delivers throughout the country. Tsuboki is a massage modality that she created to fill a need for a face massage that provided more than simple relaxation. She based it partly on acupressure, partly on traditional Japanese massage techniques, and partly on her many years of experience in the massage industry.
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