Osteopathy and Healer Heal Thyself

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

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