I am often asked, “What is self-care acupressure?” because I teach workshops about yoga and acupressure. I have found many people have heard of acupressure, but are not sure of the meaning of this healing modality. I am often asked, “Is acupressure and acupuncture the same thing?” The answer is that they are similar modalities. Both acupressure and acupuncture are based on the meridian system of Chinese Medicine. The difference is that an acupuncturist places needles on points along the meridian, while an acupressurist uses finger pressure to hold the same points. Self-care acupressure is a way to facilitate healing in yourself by using your own hands on special points in the body that are known to have a concentration of chi, or energetic life force. I have designed three techniques for holding self-care acupressure points: use steady pressure, keep breathing relaxed, and focus your attention inward.
Hold the acupressure point with steady pressure. Acupressure primarily uses prolonged finger pressure in one area. This is different from therapeutic massage that uses active movements such as kneading and percussion. Acupressure is shared with hands that are steady rather than moving so that the acupressure point can be activated. When holding acupressure self-care points use pressure that feels appropriate for your body. I typically use light pressure and deepen the pressure if it feels right for my body. The acupressure points could feel sensitive, but the points should never hurt.
Here are some basic precautions for self-care acupressure: If you have a serious disease or illness, always check with a Western physician first; never press on broken bones, burns, or wounds; some points are contraindicated for pregnancy; and always use a light touch if the area is sensitive. (For some acupressure points to start with, check here.)
Practice relaxed breathing while holding acupressure points. Deep breaths into the abdomen could help you relax while holding self-care points. To do this take a deeper breath into your belly, and slowly exhale. Breathe through your nose with your mouth closed. Keep your shoulders relaxed and down and away from your ears. Try to expand your chest and upper back with your breath. If it feels uncomfortable or confusing to do deep breaths, simply breathe through your nose using your natural breath. Notice how your breath feels moving in and out through your nose. Relaxed breathing helps the movement of chi in the meridians. When the body is relaxed it is more receptive to change and movement.
Bring your attention inward. The benefits of acupressure are increased when there is a focused meditation on the acupressure point. Notice the way the tissue feels around the acupressure point. Is there a change to the tension in that area? Also, notice the temperature of skin around the acupressure point. Sometimes when the point is activated people have told me they have felt a sense of heat in the area. Other people have said they feel a sense of pulsing or beating underneath their fingers holding the acupressure point. I know this from personal experience: when I focus on the point I am holding, I can feel more of the positive results in my body. When the attention is drawn inward there is more information to listen to in the body. Listen inward rather than to the outward world.
A large part of the process of acupressure self-care is about increasing body awareness. By holding acupressure self-care points you can help increase the circulation of blood and chi. Hold acupressure points with steady pressure, breathe deeply, and bring your focus inward. Self-care acupressure can also help you gain confidence about yourself and your body because you become an expert in the way your body works and feels, and you can become your own healer.