Gua sha is a form of massage used throughout much of east Asia that involves carefully scrapping specific areas of the body in a way that increases blood flow and lymph circulation. From the perspective of Traditional Chinese Medicine, pain and stiffness are caused by blockages in the flow of energy or 'chi' through the body's energetic channels. There is a classic Chinese saying that sums up this view well, "If there is free flow, there is no pain; If there is no free flow, there is pain." A gua sha tool facilitates the breakup of stagnation in the body and energy channels, allowing energy to flow again where it was once blocked. It's also thought to both aid the immune system by stimulating the movement of lymph and remove excess heat from the body by bringing blood to the surface of the skin.
Gua Sha Tools
There are many different kinds of gua sha tools and each one can be used in a number of different ways. They are often rounded and unsymmetrical, allowing them to fit in to the many shapes of the human body. One kind of tool may be best suited for the length of your back, while another might be suited for the fine curves of your face (more on that in the next part). As with many self-care tools, it's best to experiment, play, and discover which one suits your needs!
If you're completely new to gua sha and want to know where to start, I'd recommend a rounded, rectangular tool like the one shown below. This kind of tool is incredibly versatile and its rounded edges allow it to be both gentle and effective on your muscles.
Body vs Facial Gua Sha
There are some distinctions to make between how gua sha should be performed on our face versus on our body. The skin on our face is much more delicate than what's found elsewhere. Because of this, we need to take extra care when working with it. On our body, the strokes are quick and deep, but when it comes to our face we should be slow, deliberate, and gentle. After a session there should be very little or no redness at all. Unlike when we perform gua sha on our body, the goal is not to get especially deep into our muscles or bring blood to the surface of the skin, but to softly encourage lymph to return to our circulatory system and allow blood to flow into our tissues unimpeded.
While almost all gua sha tools can be effective for facial work, some are specifically made with facial gua sha in mind. These tools tend to be flatter and more petite. They also have smaller curves that are able to contour our finer features. The two shown here are great examples of tools that are intended to be used for facial gua sha.
Facial Gua Sha How To
First apply bit of facial oil to help the tool glide over your skin rather than pull on it. Remember to keep the tool be almost completely flush with your face, not at a ninety degree angle to prevent it from tugging. You should stroke each section indicated on the diagram three times.
- Neck - Move vertically from top to bottom and from the outside in. Gently stroke over each of the three parts of your neck three times then repeat on the opposite side.
- Chin + Cheek - Here, the strokes should start from the midline of your face and move out horizontally towards your jaw and ear. Begin the first stroke right on top of your chin and move successive strokes up towards you eye, but make sure not to catch the delicate skin directly underneath your eye.
- Forehead - Start with the tool right at the center of your eyebrows and move horizontally, over your eyebrow, towards your temples. Bring each of the following strokes up a little higher until you reach your hairline.
Just like any other form of massage, it's a great idea to finish your gua sha practice with a large glass of water.
Creating a Ritual
You can do Gua Sha much as you feel called. We recommend starting with once a week. One tip is to schedule your self-care time, have time blocked off in your calendar once a week to do your self care ritual. When it is time, get a cup of tea, light some copal and even sound a little tuning fork at the beginning of and end of the session. This to dedicate the full time to self-care and not be distracted by other things that may come up.
Finding the Right Tool
And as always feel free to email us if your have questions!