Amma therapy is a classical Asian bodywork style that predates acupuncture. Amma, literally push-pull, is the oldest Chinese word to describe massage or bodywork. Highly specialized, Amma therapy combines deep, therapeutic, circular digital pressure and acupressure point stimulation with Chinese medical principles for accessing and treating imbalances in the energy system.
To understand Amma better, we need to back up and look at the Three Branches of Chinese Medicine.
The Three Branches of Chinese Medicine
Chinese medicine can be broken into three broad models.
- Bodywork Therapies
- Herbs and Nutrition
All three traditions share their foundations in Taoist philosophy, which recognizes that humans are not separate of the surroundings and to live vitality is to live in harmony.
They share foundational theories including Yin/Yang theory, 5 Element theory, 8 Principle and Zang Fu theory–however, individuals and schools may place more emphasis on one theory than another.
They share assessment and diagnosis tools like tongue and pulse assessment.
All three recognize the body is an energetic system.
The difference comes in how the treatment is applied. Acupuncturists use needles, herbalists herbs, bodyworkers–their hands. All methods should focus on not just treating symptoms, but treating the root cause of disharmonies and then creating vibrance and vitality.
Amma Therapy, like acupuncture and other Asian Bodyworks, focuses on the balance and movement of Qi (energy) within the body. Whereas the acupuncturist inserts needles into the energy pathways to stimulate and move the energy, the Amma practitioner relies primarily on the sensitivity and strength of the hands to manipulate the client’s life Qi. Amma Therapy techniques include both deep-tissue manipulation, that is used in other forms of therapeutic massage and the stimulation of Qi movement that is the basis of Chinese medicine.
A little Amma History
Amma Therapy’s origins date back nearly 5,000 years to the time of the Yellow Emperor (Hwaung Di). Hwuang Di is accredited with being the first to codify medicine in the Hwaung Di Ni Jing. First mentions of this text were during the Han Dynatsty (206 BCE-25BCE). Like other lineages, oral history predated this text. Amma literally means ‘push-pull’ and recognized as one of the oldest Chinese words for bodywork or massage. The form of Amma Therapy I practice comes from the lineage of Tina Sohn. Like other members of Kim family, a ruling class in Korea, Tina was educated in Traditional Chinese medicine, acupuncture, philosophy, bodywork, herbs and martial arts. She married Dr. Robert Sohn and brought Amma Therapy to America in 1964.
The tools of an Amma Therapist
Amma therapy requires years of training and is more than learning a rote technique. Practitioners development is primary to be able to offer superior level of care on all levels physical, mental and emotional. The four essential qualities of an Amma therapist are:
- Physical strength: Last treatment should be as strong and effective as the first of the day.
- Palpation sensitivity: The practitioner should be able to feel the points, channels, skin temperature changes and physical differences in the client and then adapt their treatment appropriately.
- Theoretical knowledge: Amma should never be a rote treatment. The practitioner should be using assessment skills in 5 Element theory, Zang Fu, 8 Principles, point prescriptions, tongue and pulse and other assessment skills to hone the treatment to the client.
- Emotional and spiritual development: Development in this area is of utmost importance. A practitioner can only offer assistance to the level that they have actively engaged in their own development.
- Hand techniques—point manipulation, palpation of muscles, fascia, joints, temperature, etc.
- Physical strength–the ability to hold posters and deliver deep treatment whether it is the first client of the day or the last.
- Exercises–for both the practitioner and appropriate exercise recommendations for clients. These may include yoga, cardio, Qigong, weight training, etc.
- Meditation and breathing exercise
- Self-massage techniques-both for the practitioners health and as recommendations for clients to take home and work on.
Amma therapy includes Chinese energetic and whole food nutritional guidance–this can be specific dietary recommendations for conditions, life stages, illness or recover. Examples include green clay therapy, wheat grass juice, anti-inflammatory diets, etc.
Most Amma therapist will employ additional techniques for therapy based on client needs. These may include but are not limited to: moxibustion, fire cupping, gua sha, and auricular therapy.
It is important to have a good network of likeminded practitioners in different fields and modalities to be able to appropriately refer clients to when necessary.
Find out what Amma Therapy can do for you!