By Sara Calabro
Do you really want to impress your Valentine this year? Looking for a meaningful way to express your love without breaking the bank? Then forget the flowers, chocolates and diamonds. It’s time to celebrate Valentine’s Day acupuncture style.
I don’t mean go out and buy a gift certificate for acupuncture—although, if you can swing it, that’s a good idea too (find an acupuncturist here).
This Valentine’s Day suggestion is completely free and a sure-fire way to win your loved one’s heart. Pay attention.
The Valentine’s Day acupressure massage
Who doesn’t love a good massage? Just offering your sweetie an ordinary ole massage would probably go a long way. But I said sure-fire, so I’ve got something even better.
I am going to teach you how to incorporate acupressure into a massage, creating an experience that’s tailored specifically for your Valentine. This will not only induce pure physical bliss but also leave your Valentine feeling overwhelmed by how smart and thoughtful you are.
Acupressure points for everyone
First, there are three acupressure points that should be incorporated into everyone’s Valentine’s Day massage. They are Kidney 1, Bladder 15 and Bladder 32(ish).
Kidney 1 is located on the bottom of the foot, just behind the pad, between the second and third metatarsal bones. Using firm pressure with your thumbs, press Kidney 1 on both feet at the same time. This point is used to ground a person, to energetically pull down the constant buzzing that happens in many of our heads. Touching this point will help your Valentine quiet the internal chatter and become more fully present in his/her body. It’s a great way to start any massage.
Bladder 15 is located about an inch-and-a-half outside the spine, at the level of the fifth thoracic vertebra. In layman’s terms, that’s about midway between the top and bottom edges of the scapula, the triangular bone in the picture at right. Don’t stress about finding the exact spot because the acupuncture point just slightly above Bladder 15 has similar effects. Again, using firm pressure with your thumbs, press Bladder 15 on both sides of the spine at the same time.
Bladder 15 is what’s known as the Back Shu point of the Heart. Briefly: Each of the body’s organs has its own Back Shu point and they are all located along the Bladder channel. Shu in Chinese means “to transport,” as in transport qi (or blood, or fluids, or whatever’s needed) to the organ associated with that point.
So essentially, Bladder 15 helps to nourish the Heart organ. The Heart in acupuncture has many functions—some of which are similar to the ones we know from Western medicine and some less so—and it does play a role in a person’s ability to give and receive love, and to be present in relationships. It is, so to speak, the key to your Valentine’s heart.
I say Bladder 32 area because there are a bunch of points in the sacral region that can be used. But Bladder 32 is a good point to shoot for, as it’s located at the epicenter of these points, all of which are effective for stimulating sexual energy.
Any of the points in this region should be pressed on both sides at the same time. Rather than using firm pressure right away, ease into these points, as they can be very tender on some people. Women especially might experience tenderness around Bladder 32, as it’s a common treatment point for anything related to menstruation. Men and women who have sciatica or low back pain also might find this region sensitive.
Choose your own acupressure points
The above three points should included in all Valentine’s Day acupressure massages. They alone can make for a great Valentine’s treat. Here are some additional acupressure points that can be incorporated based on your loved one’s specific needs.
Some styles of acupuncture think about the body in terms of zones—the back (tai yang in acupuncture speak), front (yang ming) and side (shao yang). And each of these zones is accessible via certain acupuncture points on the hands and feet.
For example, if a person seeks acupuncture for low back pain and occipital headaches, the acupuncturist might choose Small Intestine 3 on the hand because this point directly affects the tai yang/back zone of the body. The idea is that these opening points, as they are known, help to loosen the tight musculature and constricted meridians of the zone, which then lessens the intensity of any direct needling to the area.
Find out if your Valentine is experiencing any pain or tension in a specific part of the body. Based on that information, you can select from the following points:
This acupressure point is for pain, tension or discomfort anywhere on the back of the body. So if your Valentine mentions low back pain, upper back and neck pain, or headaches that feel like they’re coming from the base of the skull, this is a good choice. You can press it on both hands, although it’s usually easier to do one hand at a time. If the pain is in the upper back or head, you can ask which side of the body is worse and just do the point on that side.
This acupressure point is for pain, tension or discomfort anywhere on the front of the body. Any complaints having to do with the chest or abdominal region can benefit from this opening point. This means chest or abdominal pain as well as shortness of breath and other upper respiratory problems, and digestive or menstrual issues.
Similar to Kidney 1, press Spleen 4 using firm pressure with your thumbs, on both feet at the same time. Go easy at first because this point can be tender, especially on women who are menstruating.
This acupressure point is for pain, tension or discomfort anywhere on the side of the body. Valentines with temporal headaches, hip pain, shoulder problems, or iliotibial band syndrome can benefit from this point. Since the point is on the top of the foot and your partner is face down, you’ll want to gently bend the leg so that the foot comes up. From here you can press Gall Bladder 41 separately on each side since you’ll only have one hand free.Large Intestine 4 and Liver 3
These are not opening points for any particular part of the body. Rather, they form an excellent point combination known as Four Gates. This is one of the most frequently used point combinations in all of acupuncture. There are several theories on why Four Gates is so powerful but the prevailing idea is that the combination opens up circulation throughout the entire body, with Liver 3 handling the lower half while Large Intestine 4 addresses the upper.
If your Valentine isn’t experiencing any specific aches and pains, Four Gates is a great addition to your acupressure massage. It will circulate energy and help ease any stagnation, physical or emotional, that may have gone unmentioned. Learn more about the benefits and exact location of Four Gates here.
How to bring it all together
A massage, especially one given as a Valentine’s Day gift, can be very personal. You know your Valentine best, so the massage should primarily be based on your intuition and your partner’s comfort level and preferences.
There is no rigid formula, but here are a few suggestions for how to bring it all together:
- Start by asking your Valentine if he or she has been experiencing any pain, tension or discomfort in a specific part of the body. This will help you determine which acupressure points you’ll be incorporating into the massage.
- Ask your Valentine to lay on his/her stomach. All acupressure points can be reached from this position.
- Regardless of which points you’re planning to use, begin the massage with Kidney 1. Because of its grounding qualities, Kidney 1 will help bring your Valentine into a relaxed state for the rest of the massage.
- While you are pressing Kidney 1 on both feet, ask your partner to take some deep breaths and imagine that he/she is filling his/her whole body with air, all the way down to the bottom of the feet where you are applying pressure.
- After Kidney 1, move to the area-specific points that are appropriate for you partner. This will help loosen that part of the body so that he/she can get greater enjoyment from the rest of the massage.
- As you did with Kidney 1, ask your partner to take a few slow, deep breaths while you press these opening or circulating points.
- Next, move to Bladder 15 and Bladder 32. These points can be performed once or several times while you’re massaging other areas on the back.
- Each time you press the Bladder points, ask your Valentine to breath slowly and deeply directly into the area that you are pressing.
- Repeat as you see fit.
There you have it. The key to a successful Valentine’s Day is literally in your hands. Good luck!
Photo by Sara Calabro; point infographics from A Manual of Acupuncture
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