Gua sha (pronounced gwahshah) is an ancient Chinese medicinal treatment which, with the aid of natural crystals and tools, helps in spa-like pampering of your mind and body. Apart from facelifting, it has several health benefits. Some describe Gua Sha as almost meditative that can melt all anxiety and stress away. And since Zen-like relaxation is the need of the hour these days, Surela Chakraborty gets you up to date with this fascinating ancient treatment. Doesn’t hurt that it can also make you look like a million bucks!
Gua Sha is a Chinese word, which literally translates to ‘scraping redness/illness.’ An ancient healing technique from China, the process involves scraping portions of skin with a tool in order to get rid of inflammation. Interestingly, Gua Sha was used to revive people who suffered from heat strokes, exhaustion and seasonal ailments like the common cold. In ancient China, Gua Sha was administered by coin, animal bone, spoon and horn. These days, Gua Sha tools have become more sophisticated and designed for efficient performance.
Crystals like rose quartz and jade are usually used to make Gua Sha tools which come in different shapes. While rollers have become popular, the flat tools with curves on both sides and teeth on one end have different functional purposes to provide complete relaxation. The biggest advantage of Gua Sha tools, especially rollers is that one can use it at home by referring to easy tutorials available online. One can also opt for a Gua Sha facial done by an expert to feel pampered.
Vanita Naval, a therapist and holistic healer and an expert in crystals, is also the founder of Samatva Sutra, a wellness therapy center. Explaining the use of crystals as Gua Sha tools, she says, “Crystals have a solid body and geometric shape, and were created as Earth formed and have metamorphosed since containing the Earth’s DNA and the memory of all events that shaped Earth as of today. Since they come from the Earth, they contain the same unconditional love and universal healing energy that earth has. The crystals are alive, radiating and vibrating at different rates. They create strong energy fields which enable us to stay charged. The stone emits the magnetic power of the ray of light contained within. Using the crystal near our body benefits our aura and brings harmony and healing.”
The colour of the crystals also makes a big difference as it is directly linked to its functional properties. Red and orange crystals are stimulating and invigorating to the physical body, yellows vitalize and accelerate mental activities, greens and pinks are calming and soothing to the nervous system, blues and indigo are inspirational with a spiritual tone and purples accelerate all processes of body, mind and spirit.
While everyone loves precious gemstones for their startling beauty, semi-precious stones not only look stunning but have amazing healing powers. They are considered sacred in many ancient cultures. Vanita elaborates, “Crystal therapy practiced using semi-precious healing stones is an alternative medicine technique and has been practiced since time immemorial. This ancient art and practice has been designed to balance the chakras, transform energy properties of the body and clear the blocks which prevent free flow of energy. This natural way of healing is often used today to relieve stress and relax.”
The Gua Sha tools or rollers come in different textures and are usually made of rose quartz and jade. What is so special about these two semi-precious stones? Vanita points out, “Rose quartz is a strong healer of the heart, promoting feelings of goodwill and harmony. It’s a stone of unconditional love and peace. It purifies and opens the heart at all levels and is calming and reassuring. It’s especially useful to release the stress of day-to-day living. It gently draws away negative energy and replaces it with loving vibes. It strengthens the physical heart and circulatory system and releases impurities from body fluids. Similarly, the Jade is a symbol of purity and serenity. It is also associated with heart chakra and increases love and nurturing. It is believed to attract good luck and friendships. It releases negative thoughts and soothes the mind and aids emotional release. It helps release toxins from kidneys, rebinds cellular systems and balances the fluids in the body.”
Why Should One Practice it?
Gua Sha is not just for toning your face muscle to get a sculpted look, it has therapeutic value. This ancient Chinese medicinal treatment involves using a tool to apply pressure and scrape the skin to relieve pain and tension. The energy also known as Qi or Chi runs on meridians closer to the muscular and nervous systems. When there is an obstruction in the flow of energy or Chi it leads to tension or stress in muscles and joints, which causes stiffness. Gua Sha tools are applied during physiotherapy, especially for instrument-assisted soft tissue mobilisation (IASTM). Sometimes, Gua Sha is applied along with other exercises to ensure faster recovery.
When pressure is applied or scraping is done with this tool it can cause tiny bruises or microtrauma. This is because small capillaries near the skin breaks and that leads to bruises. Scraping also helps break connective tissue and reduce pain caused due to fibrosis and other musculoskeletal disorders. Not to worry, this is natural and will heal soon! However, if the bruise hurts one can use a cold pack or pain-relieving medicine.
According to some studies women suffering from perimenopause symptoms such sweating, insomnia, hot flashes, irregular periods, fatigue, anxiety and headaches were benefited after practicing Gua Sha. The treatment has also been known to bring some relief to people ailing from Hepatitis B, acute headaches, breast engorgement, and Tourette’s Syndrome. And if you want to get rid of an insolent double chin and get that perfect jawline, then this can be the solution for you. It has also provided relief to people who complain of pain and soreness in muscles from sitting sedentary and under stress in front of laptops all day. It has also shown results on back pain issues, and is reported to have developed stronger immune systems in people suffering from fever, cold and lung ailments.
Another research conducted in 2017 proved that Gua Sha helps in muscle recovery faster. Weightlifters who have undergone this treatment observed that it took lesser effort to lift weights. The Gua sha treatment aids in blood circulation and lymphatic drainage. Rubbing the skin’s surface with long and short strokes reduces inflammation, increases blood flow and speeds up healing. Gua Sha can be used to treat ailments like fibromyalgia, arthritis and those which trigger muscle and joint pain.
In fact, Gua Sha treatment not only reduces pain but increases flexibility by improving mobility in the muscles and tissues.
The tools are rollers, flat stones, and wands. They’re made of rose quartz, Jade, amethyst, obsidian, black tourmaline, green aventurine, selenite, carnelian, garnet, turquoise and clear quarters with their different benefits. Kansa or brass and shankh or conch shell face wands are also used. This gives the face a flawless and relaxed look.
One must understand that Gua Sha is not everybody. Especially those who already have medical conditions that affect skin or veins like deep vein thrombosis, or those who tend to bleed easily or have clotting disorders and take blood thinners as part of their medication. People who suffer from tumours, infections or raw wounds should also avoid the treatment. Some Gua Sha techniques are not suitable for pregnant women, and a physician must be consulted in these cases.
Also, those who have oily and acne prone skin or already have acne should be careful while using Gua Sha tools on the face as it may aggravate the condition. An expert should not break the skin during treatment and if it should happen, treatment should be paused until the skin heals completely. Broken skin is a breeding ground for infection and bloodborne diseases so care should be taken to sterilize tools in between treatments.
Visit a certified Gua Sha expert who can guide you with the crystals and technique.
The treatment should be avoided just after surgery of any kind, and if you have an implant like a pacemaker or internal defibrillator, then you should not practice Gua Sha.
How to Use
Knowing the right technique to use the crystals makes all the difference. Vanita informs, “Wash the rollers with plain running water. Dry it with a soft cloth. Lie down and set an intention that this crystal is being used for the highest healing possible to anyone who uses it. Then either you can give a face massage to others or yourself by gently rolling it on forehead, temples, cheeks and cheekbones, around the ear, mouth and neck. The massage should be done not more than 10 minutes.” The treatment is usually administered on the back, buttocks and limbs, as in a spa. It is also used on the face as regular routines to help rejuvenate your skin. If you are performing it on your face, then it is important to wash your face first, and then apply a face oil or serum to reduce the chances of getting bruising caused during stretching it on the skin. Use a curved tool flat against your face and begin with your forehead. Scrape upwards from eyebrows to the hairline. Proceed to the cheeks and scrape upwards starting from the crease of the nose to the ear. Move to the jawline with the end of the tool which has two curves. Start from the chin and move towards the ear. Massage the Gua Sha tool into the ear to release tension. The area around the eye is very sensitive so be gentle while applying pressure. Start from the inner corner of the eye and move towards the temple. One can opt for a relaxing Gua Sha face massage or use it over a sheet mask at home to get an instant glow.
A question might arise how does Gua Sha work to rejuvenate the skin and help to destress. What is the right way to use it to get optimum benefit? Danna Omari, the founder of Noy Skincare, a skin care & wellness studio, through her YouTube videos and Instagram channel demonstrates the directions the tool should move to help release toxins, drain the lymph nodes and increase blood circulation. A licensed esthetician now, she suffered with acne over the years but decided to take charge of her skin. Practicing Gua Sha the right way has given her tangible results thus she decided to make it her passion. She shows how different parts of the face correspond to the specific organs of the body. Using the correct tools and methods of applying pressure at these points can benefit these organs and thus affect overall health positively. This works on the old principle that still holds water—face mirrors the mind and body.