Osteopathy and Healer Heal Thyself

by | Apr 12, 2012 | Travels, Qigong Tui Na | 47 comments

It has been a while since the last post here because I was traveling. I recently presented to the American Osteopathy Annual Conference held in Kentucky.

I was invited to give a lecture and workshop on ‘Physician Heal and Maintain Thyself’ where I spoke about my experience working as a  Qigong Tui Na practitioner in Chinese medical clinics. I also spoke about the techniques that Chinese doctors use to regenerate themselves while working with patients.

For those of you who may not know, Wikipedia says Osteopathy “emphasizes the interrelationship between structure and function of the body and recognizes the body’s ability to heal itself; it is the role of the osteopathic practitioner to facilitate that process…The osteopathic medical philosophy is defined as the concept of health care that embraces the concept of the unity of the living organism’s structure (anatomy) and function (physiology).”

Osteopaths look at the body as a whole system with each part effecting the other. Osteopaths are board certified medical doctors and can also specialize although many go into family practice.

In my opinion Osteopathy is on the cutting edge in the medical field in terms of body-centered therapies.

My  lecture at the American Osteopathy Annual Conference focused on what physicians can do to protect and maintain their own bodies as they treat patients. It is common for many healers to become tired and drained by their work, NOT just from long hours worked but also from emotional, mental and other types of negative energy carried by patients. In China, doctors are specifically taught to mitigate this by learning a variety of self-regeneration methods to protect and maintain their own body. This is often done by practicing qigong and other similar types of exercises.

Qigong Tui Na Parallels

Qigong Tui Na is a branch of Traditional Chinese Medicine that focuses on the energetic movements in the body and how small adjustments can effect the whole body. This is different from just ordinary Tui Na which primarily focuses on just ‘physical’ techniques rather than energetics.

Qigong Tui Na doctors learn over two-hundred hand techniques and work by moving flows of energy in the body. The typical training for a Qigong Tui Na doctor is to first learn to feel and move chi through their own body first. Then they learn to become proficient at directing this chi in others for healing.

You learn to track chi flows to discover what is out of balance.  This is not a short course of study. It typically takes about seven to ten years, about the same time it takes to become a Western medical doctor. To progress through the system you have to demonstrate all the techniques first on yourself and then on others. It is very practical.

Those who become Osteopaths in the West often go through a course of study that includes osteopathic manipulative treatment (OMT), in which they use their hands to diagnose and treat illness. Osteopaths are also known to look at more holistic treatments and to focus on preventative medicine. Osteopathy is not as well known probably because less than 10% of physicians choose this path.

What I found interesting at this conference was that some of the techniques and research being done within the Osteopathic field are very similar to that found within Qigong Tui Na. The primary difference is that within Osteopathy, there is more of a focus on anatomy and physical structures, whereas in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Qigong Tua Na they focus on tracking the flow of energy through meridian lines and other energy channels deep within the body. Also the Osteopathic field is doing (and has more funding) for scientific research and clinical trials to validate the studies being performed.

Healer Protect Thyself

Switching back to Qigong Tui Na, within this Chinese tradition there are many techniques to ensure that the Doctor is protected while they treat the patient. When I went through my Qigong Tui Na training in Chinese clinics we were taught specific methods for:

  • Maintaining compassion and preventing burnout
  • Discharging negative energy absorbed from patients
  • Regenerating the body and energetic system weakness from the stress of treating patients

When you work with dozens of patients a day this is very important. It is especially relevant when a Doctor is placing their hands on the patient because there is a possibility of a patient transferring the problem or even part of the energy of the illness. Within Traditional Chinese Medicine this phenomena is quite well known. Over time a negative transfer of energy adds up. Collectively this can be destructive. Often this is one reason when you meet older Doctors or energy healers they seem to have lost the joy and satisfaction from working with patients which is a real shame.

When I learned Qigong Tui Na in China during the first 2-3 years of training a large emphasis was placed on learning practices to distinguish what was ‘our energy’ vs. what was ‘the clients’. If while working on a sick person you can recognize when a negative transfer is occurring, with a little bit of training it is easy to take steps to mitigate and protect from this unhealthy transfer.

Energetic Protection Concepts

There are various concepts within Qigong Tui Na that are useful for anyone who works with others on a regular basis. Although I learned them while studying qigong tui na, they are equally useful for all kinds of teachers, massage therapists, councilors, and those within the medical professions. Here are three concepts from qigong tui na that are useful to consider if you work in these areas:

The first concept is to always balance your inflow and outflow of energy. If you put out too much energy then you get drained. Whenever you are putting out energy it is wise to spend time to make sure you get that energy back. It is important to learn what your normal energy level is and to sense when this is becoming depleted. A common mistake is to run oneself down during the day and only after the day is complete to address the issue. It is much easier and wiser to know when you being depleted. Then you can take steps to counter this throughout the day. In China, this often meant doing five or ten minutes of a qigong exercise set to move the energy through or out of your system and to rebalance the body.

The second concept for those in the healing professions is learn to do to yourself what you are doing to your clients. If you are working with the energetic system of a client then it is important to apply those same techniques on yourself. If you can not do that then the second best option is to have a team of healers that support you as you work or at the least after you work. In this way you will keep your system strong.

Qigong Tui Na is unique because all of the techniques that you learn to apply to others you can also apply to yourself internally. You increase your sensitivity to what is happening within your own body as you work. This is very rare in the world of healing. I have seen many healers get depleted by working with others and this self-healing facet of Qigong Tui Na is quite extraordinary.

The third concept that is to recognize that any weakening of your own energy system influences your ability and willingness over time to continue working with joy and satisfaction. If you want to do what you love and continue doing it, then it is critical that you take care of yourself as you take care of others.

Many enter the healing profession because want to help others. Most healers are naturally giving people. It is important this same compassion turns inward and preventive measures are taken to recharge the healer’s energy system on a regular basis for longevity and wellness.

Along with some of my students I have been mapping potential ways to teach more of the Qigong Tui Na in the future. It would be wonderful to train a group of healers that had the desire to learn and put in the work to make it happen. If you are interested in attending and supporting this work please let me know by emailing or leaving comments.

To learn Qigong Tui Na requires the highest level of commitment. At a base level those who want to do so will need to know the core qigong sets that I teach. Many of the Qigong Tui Na methods draw on the 16 neigong, the internal energy components or building blocks.

Reflections from Kentucky

On the lighter side while in Kentucky I also had some fun. I decided to see if I could find the fried chicken that for which the Southern United States is so famous. The first place I tried didn’t have the best fried chicken (that honor still goes to the cooks at my childhood boarding school – who were from the South) nor did the second place. However the second place turned out to be pretty good. If you want good friend chicken the South is definitely the place to do it.

I was also looking for a great sweet potato pie but came up empty and my quest for really good cornbread did not reach a successful conclusion.

I did happen upon an interesting surprise. As I walked around the hotel one day I came by an interesting place called PBJs ((peanut butter and jelly sandwich).They JUST serve peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in all varieties.

It was run by a nice fellow who, although the place was closed, opened his doors and handed us a menu. Lots of interesting combinations on this menu including:

  • Peanut butter and sizzling bacon (said to be the favorite)
  • Peanut butter and bologna (if that does not turn your stomach not sure what will)
  • Peanut butter and jelly wrapped in a sushi roll (which I think most likely would make some Japanese just plain give up)

After I got back from Kentucky I saw on a TV show, ‘Fringe’, one of the stars was having a PBJ with bacon, so it must be a little more well known than I thought. Here are the contents of the menu:



I think for our next retreat we will see if we can get some PBJs catered.

In my next post I will be sharing more about Tai Chi Push Hands so stay tuned.

Be well,


  1. Kevin Hartwell

    Hi Bruce,
    It is one of my goals to eventually learn 16 neigong through the core chi gung sets you have developed. Do you intend on making all the sets available in book, DVD etc. format as you have done with Energy Gates for example? Or is this even an option you have considered?
    Thanks for sharing,

    • Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis

      Hi Kevin, We are working on getting all the core materials produced for each set. It has been a 20 year process so far. Look for some more products on Energy Gates in the coming year and in the Fall I have a book on Taoist Sexual Meditation being released through North Atlantic/Random House. Bruce

  2. Ronan

    Hi Bruce, Really good to hear you presented at the AOA. I’m a UK based osteopath who enjoyed attending your talk at the BSO in 2010. This is a very important topic for our profession to get to grips with. I would be interested in attending Qigong Tui Na training from you.

  3. simon murray

    Hi Bruce,

    great post, thanks. I am currently halfway through a course called “Certificate in Advanced Qigong Studies”. While not quite as exhaustive as the studies you describe, it is providing us with a grounding in Tui Na, beginner & intermediate Qigong training, Qigong healing, acupressure and a lot of theory and philosophy, as well has ways to bring it all together. Just thought you might like to know that there are people working in this field in Australia 🙂 I put my master’s website address in the field above, in case you were interested.

    Kind regards,

  4. Morgan

    I love the candor of your blog posts. The feeling to just write so serious about Tai chi or any topic seems to be what many “experts” would do. If you were to have exclud the PBJ story would have not made my day. I have been in so many cities with some time to kill and a stomach that wants something good. Thanks for great books, information and great stories. M

    • Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis

      Thanks for the comments Morgan. Bruce

  5. Ken koles

    Great article Thanks. I too am interested in continued study in qigong tui na. Would that start with videos,or classes. Blessings OOOMMM

  6. Jennifer Gardiner

    I would like to hear up dates on chi gong tui na work shops as they occur. I have a long way to go before I could achieve that. But I am happily in the midst of the Ba Gua Mastery program…it’s been a year + and there is still so much to learn, however , don’t want to rush through (as if it were possible!)
    What is easier is to ask my southern mother for her fried chicken recipe. I guess that means also recipes for devilled eggs, pimento cheese, and biscuits to go with it?
    Thanks for sharing what you have been taught and learned.

  7. Edward Fowler

    Hi Bruce, To add an exclamation point to Kevin’s comment, I have been focused on learning the Neigong system also and would love to have more material to learn. I currently have used both the Energy Gates and Dragon & Tiger books,Longevity Breathing DVD, Taoist Meditation Circle and have gone through Bill Ryan’s Dragon & Tiger online course. I do not drive and have no good teachers in my area. I have participated in a couple of online projects which have all been very interesting and informative, specifically, Al Simon’s Chifusion, Marcus Santer’s Shaolin Qigong, and of course the D&T. Thank you for all that you have done to bring to us some authentic Energy Arts. It has been exciting being a recipient of some of your knowledge. Ed

  8. Geoff Lister

    Bruce–Offering a one to two week summer workshop for healers to learn the above topics at least on a rudimentary level sounds like a big draw and a great service. I remember being treated in the early 70’s by an elderly Osteopath who was amazing. Unfortunately now many aspiring MD-wanabees go to osteopathic school if they can’t get into a regular medical school, not because they want to do osteopathic manipulation.

  9. Phil McKee

    Thanks Bruce
    I am about to join an osteopathic training course already in progress. A Dr Steven Sanet comes to Petaluma CA quarterly for (pricey) weekend sessions. After 8 weekends a Canadian certificate can be earned (though Ken Lossing tells me it isn’t worth much.) If anyone has any knowledge of this course, do tell. Qigong Tui Na is my love but my frustration is a lack of ongoing training. I constantly experiment on myself and my clients but the progress is slow. I am always happy to take whatever courses you can be persuaded to offer.

  10. liz

    Dear Bruce
    I was a little shocked at your inclusion of the PBJ at end to a most interesting update on your time in Kentucky. I admire your devotion & your advanced knowledge on healing via qiqong But dont you also believe that food is a great healer as well. Ok i should lighten up ! but promoting unhealthy food doesn’t fit in with healing ethos . However Im glad you enjoyed it..
    Liz (UK)

    • James Fraser

      Hi Liz, don’t neglect what a PBJ can do for the soul…I’m very careful about what I eat, but every once and a while….there is nothing like a PBJ with blackberry jam…reminds me of my mom, and the days we spent picking the blackberries for her homemade jam….which unfortunately I have not been able to enjoy for too many years…!

    • Dee Joyce

      Liz, I grew up on pb & J… sometimes twice a day. It was the staple of the American diet for so many of us years ago. Suppose it was better than coke and chips.

  11. Keith Thomas

    Hi Bruce,

    I was recently able to attend your most excellent Bend the Bow workshop in San Raphael Ca. I would welcome the chance to begin study of Tui-Na Qi Gong. We are on the threshold of East meets West. Your offering these intensives is extremely timely and the best practices of Osteopathy and Tui-Na Qi Gong merging is a compelling idea. Thanks so much.
    Keith Thomas /Berkeley CA

  12. Matthew Bryant

    Hello Bruce,
    The qi gong tui na course you held in 2008 taught me a lot. I would be interested in taking more courses.
    Matthew Bryant

  13. Ana

    Hi Bruce,

    I attended the Qigong Tui Na course in 2008, and would be interested in any additional training you provide. In the meantime, I will focus on learning and practicing the core qigong sets you teach.


  14. Carla

    Hi, great post. TCM and Osteopathy are very complimentary in my experience. Where do I find more info regarding info you have written / published previously?



  15. Van Knight

    Hi Bruce,

    Very useful post, thanks again for all your work and I would also be into QiGong Tui na training with you. Very much so. Looking to make the Dragon and Tiger in June for a first certification to get the ball rolling on teaching your system…
    AND… if you have or have not been before, If you want southern food at it’s finest, Mrs. Wilkes in Savannah GA ONLY serves lunch family style and they just keep the best of the best flowing onto the table while you enjoy the company of others… a true southern experience that reminds me of my North Carolina grandmother’s cooking, while growing up in Miami… The Fried Chicken RULES !!! 🙂
    Much Love Bruce, thank you for all…

  16. Tim

    As for the bridge between Osteopathy and Qigong Tui Na, one interesting diagnostic technique I’ve encountered and been able to utilize clinically is that of Osteopathic Channel Listening. Also, for those who are interested in Osteopathy, the guy in the picture up there is its creator, A.T. Still, whose full autobiography is available online here http://www.mcmillinmedia.com/eamt/files/still3/st3cont.html.

    • Tai Chi Master Bruce Frantzis

      Thanks for the link Tim.

  17. Carolin Feyerabend

    Hi Bruce,
    I’m very happy that you have been to the Osteopathy Conference. I’ m learning Tai Chi and Qigong and I’m doing an education in osteopathy. Doing both helps me for both sides. 🙂 It’s a wonderful combination and I’m very interessted to find out more about the connections between both systems.

    I ‘m very interessted in doing a Qiging Tui Na course, hopefully in Europe

    Thanks Carolin

  18. Theresa Hong ,D.O.

    Are there any classes in SF since I do not drive

  19. alexander

    yes more tui na seminars, also books and videos on the subject could help thousands of health practioners and potentially millions of patients. A taoist yoga dvd/book would be a great idea considering the thousands of yoga studios that could carry. Thanks you so much for all your work.

  20. Susannah

    Hello Bruce,
    I am just about to graduate as an osteopath from the BSO (where I enjoyed your talk a lot in 2010). For my final dissertation I did a study interviewing osteopaths who practice tai chi and qigong to find out more about how it affects their osteopathic practice. It is clear the benefits and potential applications are enormous. I personally believe osteopaths have so much to gain and I would be absolutely thrilled to attend Qi Gong Tui Na training with you.
    Kindest, Susannah

    • Carolin Feyerabend

      Hi Susannah,
      I’m studying osteopathy in Germany in the 3th year. My idea for my final dissertation is although to make something about the connection between Tai Chi/ Qigong and Osteopathy. So I’m very interested in your dissertation and the experience of other osteopath. Is it possible to get a copy of it? Where do you live?

      Good luck

      • Susannah

        Hello Caroline,
        if you send me an email to S.Rickman@bso.ac.uk I will be more than happy to forward the paper to you.
        Best wishes, Susannah

  21. Hoël Guillery

    Greetings mr Frantzis, once more a good blend of what would be qualified as serious and casual stuff. Something astonishing in our time is the number of borders, limits, definitions and divisions that prevent the experience and knowledge coming from one field or one source from spreading to others. Modern science, especially on the side of complexity studies, has started to cross the borders between the different sciences, but we are still a long way from being able to glean what the carpenter or the shoe-maker has to offer to science. The border between the life of the mind, of the heart, of the body, of societies and of natural and social environment still seems impervious for most political, social, medical and educative institutions.
    Your personal experience and the tradition you perpetuate are invaluable assets for people and societies alike and, still, no university or institution seems to be supporting the efforts you and your people do to preserve and pass on this wealth. No long term program of nei gong studies seems to be under your supervision and, apart from the excellent material released through energy arts, the only access to this much needed part of human legacy is through seminars too costly for many in these times of economic turmoil.
    Being for now the president of the main association of permaculture in France I see on an everyday basis the application of principles you teach in fields as diverse as agriculture, ecoconstruction or the building of sustainable local communities. Traditions of fire, control and domination, in all arts are easily found, some very interesting , but traditions of water, balance and moderation, are rare. That be the reason why I would propose to make better use of you as a resource (humor) and to have weekly or even daily audio recordings, not necessarily as specific as those made for your other programs, building up a picture of a whole educative system the way you would make it using as a background your diverse experiences. People could subscribe on a yearly basis and use the usual payment system but the material would be unrehearsed and wouldn’t need as much work as your other programs.
    Anyhow it’s becoming too long a message… I bid you a fair spring and thank you

  22. James Murray

    Im greatly interested in learning the Qigung Tui Na path. I was already been looking at acupuncture, but frankly i feel that path tends to lack a lot of the roots energetics as it tends to be taught in the west. I have felt energy in my body for some time and finally figured out that it was chi a several years ago. I have done healing in the past more from an intuitive space, i really believe Qigung Tui Na is what i have been looking for as a practical healing modality. I will be at Dragon and Tiger Qigung in June…


  23. michael christiansen

    Hi Bruce,
    Wherever, whenever, however much and long, sign me up for any extended chi kung tui na training.
    yours sincerely,

  24. Mikela

    Hi Bruce,
    I took you Tui Na class in Brighton some years ago and am very interested in learning more about it – it would be great if you could also teach some TuiNa workshops in Ulm, Germany.
    I am using the opening and closing of the joints movement quite often on myself which has helped me considerably with my right arm (computer mouse arm…).
    Thank you so much for your great teachings and your efforts to spread this knowledge and experience!

    • Carolin Feyerabend

      Ulm would be great.

  25. Mir

    Dear Bruce,

    I’ve attended all of your Qi Gong Tui Na workshops in the UK since 2001. If you decide to do anymore I will definitely be there with all of the other dedicated practitioners who practice it regularly.

    Kind Regards,


  26. AJ

    Hi Bruce,

    I would certainly be interested in learning some Tui Na.

    I would obviously like to attend trainings by yourself, in addition to this can you recommend anyone who teaches this in the UK. Are any of your UK instructors teaching this ?

    (I have also developed a few troubles within my Chi Kung practice, so I would be keen to find someone competent for some treatment also!)

    It’s interesting that you rate Osteopathy highly. The training and emphasis in the UK may be different, however I know a number of body workers in the UK who view Osteopathy as being a technique that is known to often cause damage.

    This I believe is as a result of forceful joint manipulation and alignment. My father went to an Osteopath and as a result of poor spinal manipulation had to have surgery (disc removal and fusion of 2 vetebrae) so I think it’s well worth checking the approach of any Osteopath before submitting to their, hopefully tender, mercies.

    I have personally had very good experiences with Alexander Technique and have heard very good things about Mctimoney Chiropractic (mainstream Chiropractic can again be too forceful) and Feldenkrais. The alignments taught in Alexander Technique are very similar to the alignments taught in energy gates / Tai Chi etc. Do you have any comments on any of these other systems ?

    I would be very interested to see further posts on deviations in Chi Kung practice and how to address these both as a practitioner or instructor. (I have read your excellent post about Chi getting stuck in the head) I have met a few people, including myself, who have run in to some problems practicing Chi Kung and I believe that as more people are practically from books, DVDs etc without the feedback and supervision of a experienced instructor, this would be particularly useful for the community.

    Many thanks for a great blog and all your teachings

  27. Amber

    Hi Bruce,

    Thank you for the post, the insights that you had in it were useful since I’ve been thinking about becoming an osteopath in the future. On another note, I would be very interested in learning more about qigong tui na, since I don’t heal people through massage or bodywork as often due to my own energetic blockages and also the fact that I easily get drained in healing an individual. I would like to learn how to be a more sustainable healer.

    Many Thanks,

  28. sheila fowler

    best advice I ever got from ???(can’t remember) was to seek out a D.O instead of M.D’s… they approach healing from a systemic perspective while MD’s are trained to diagnose and prescribe for symptoms (which rarely incorporate the cause ) This offered suggestion was proven most effective when I discovered the most comprehensive Doc my Dad had (out of five) turned out to be a DO 🙂 !!! Still loving my D&T studies and know that this good road will continue to work hand in hand with my own Native Red Road path…one hundred thousand thanks 🙂

  29. Bob Hughes

    Thanks Bruce,

    At this time I would be interested in a more limited on-line course focusing on how to balance one’s energy during the healing process.
    (not necessarily a full-blown qigong tui na curriculum–
    I need to finish your Bagua Mastery program first).

    More and more I find myself working with individuals with Parkinson’s disease.
    I can really notice the negative pull on my system–individual practice of D&T and taiji and bagua and tonglen (Tibetan “give and take) helps considerably–but I’m finding that it is getting harder and harder to restore my balance.

    Post Falls, Idaho

    Along with some of my students I have been mapping potential ways to teach more of the Qigong Tui Na in the future. It would be wonderful to train a group of healers that had the desire to learn and put in the work to make it happen. If

  30. caroline de glanville

    Learning qigong tui na is high on my list of priorities. I have been studying your book about Opening the Energy Gates of the body,and found it very useful. I have been practising many of the qi arts, aikido, shiatsu, reiki and tai qi in the past, and am particularly interested in the healing and health aspects of qi.

  31. Maria

    Hi Bruce
    Thank you for your posts – the advice you give is really useful, I’ve practiced your system for twenty years for myself and do Shiatsu. I would love to support any further qigong tui na work you could provide. Last year I went to your Chi of the Emotions day course in Reading which was really helpful in beginning to be clear about recognising someone else’s energy as distinct to my own and using inner space practices in the client/practitioner relationship. I have never come across this level of awareness or teaching on how to protect yourself as a healer with any one other than yourself and all your work is very gratefully received. It would be really useful to be able to share it with other practitioners as well
    Thank you Bruce


  32. morgyn

    LOL at the PBJ. You keep rockin Bruce! Thanks always for sharing.

  33. Caroline

    Nearly all of the things you mention happens to be sulpiisrngpy appropriate and it makes me wonder the reason why I had not looked at this with this light previously. This particular article really did turn the light on for me as far as this particular topic goes. However at this time there is one particular point I am not too comfortable with and whilst I try to reconcile that with the actual core theme of the point, allow me observe what all the rest of your subscribers have to point out.Very well done.

  34. Steve

    Hi Bruce,

    This is a great article and I really enjoyed reading it. I’d be very interested to join you on one of your courses to learn Qi Gong and particularly the techniques we can use to regenerate ourselves after treating patients as I do also often feel drained after treating. Do you have any courses coming up in the UK anytime soon? Many thanks.

    Best regards,

  35. Charlene Vartanian

    Love this post and the reality you speak so clearly. As a bodyworker/CranioSacral/qigong awareness, i feel I am on this cusp. Thank you for the articulation.

  36. Sonya Dessureault

    Hi there!

    I’m currently studying osteopathy and would love to make the link with energy healing and also having the patient participate in the healing process. If you still have work you want to do around it (as stated in post) please let me know!



  1. qigong and osteopathy blog online « susannah bso - [...] http://www.taichimaster.com/travels/osteopathy-and-healer-heal-thyself/comment-page-1/#comment-1087 [...]

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