When it comes to healing with the power of touch, there are a wide range of modalities and techniques we can gain from other cultures. Asian countries, such as Thailand, China, Korea and Japan, offer a particularly extensive selection of bodywork modalities, and most of these manual therapies have been practiced successfully for centuries.

Whether it’s shiatsu, Tui Na, Thai massage, amma or any of the many others, there are a huge selection of Asian bodywork styles to choose from. Although each modality uses different techniques and practices, they all are based on an underlying principle of traditional Chinese medicine: the human body has the innate capacity to heal itself if the mind, body and spirit are balanced. To this end, Asian bodywork seeks to not only impact the body, but also the mind and spirit.

Today, Eastern notions of health—particularly the mind-body connection—are rapidly growing in popularity in American culture and health-care circles. You can take advantage of this popularity by learning forms of Asian bodywork to augment your skills, expand your menu and grow your practice. Moreover, when these new methods are combined with your already established massage repertoire, your scope of practice can be greatly enhanced.

Some massage schools offer extensive programs allowing students to specialize in Asian bodywork therapy for their certification, and numerous other organizations offer a broad selection of continuing education options. For practicing therapists, one the easiest and most efficient ways to get a feel for Asian modalities is through home study courses. By taking a few of these classes first, you’ll learn some new techniques and gain a fundamental understanding of Asian bodywork principles, without investing a lot of time and money. This will allow you to better determine if more intensive study in the modalities is something you want to pursue further.

While each form of Asian bodywork uses different techniques, some of topics likely to be covered by these courses include comprehensive patient assessment methods, location of key acupressure points, passive stretching techniques, various forms of traction and compression, along with numerous methods of soft-tissue manipulation. In addition to soft-tissue work, most forms of Asian bodywork also seek to optimize a patient’s natural energy, or qi, throughout the body in a similar way as acupuncture. Using such techniques, your own healing capacity can be expanded beyond the musculoskeletal system and reach many other levels.

Fortunately, the massage industry saw the value of Eastern styles of bodywork years ago, long before it became popular with the mainstream. Because of this, the vast majority of these home study courses are approved as continuing education credits by national and state licensing bodies. One of the most helpful resources for learning more about Asian bodywork and the education options available is through the American Organization for Bodywork Therapies of Asia (AOBTA).

By studying Asian modalities, you’ll gain access to a vast array of massage practices and principles—all derived from cultures that have placed the utmost value on the power of touch for thousands of years.

Chris Towery is the former associate editor of MASSAGE Magazine and is currently a full-time freelance journalist. He has written hundreds of articles for more than 20 different magazines, newspapers and custom publishers. Much of his recent writing has been for the complementary and alternative health-care industry. To contact Towery, e-mail cmreuben@yahoo.com.