Gua Sha 101: With Traditional Chinese Practitioner Vivian Vaughan
Today, we’re turning to another traditional practice and healing ritual: Gua Sha.
Taking its traditional roots and cultural history to heart, we deeply admire + respect the story of gua sha and the profound impact this ritual has had on holistic health and well-being for centuries. Get to know the ancient roots and rich history of this Traditional Chinese Medicine technique from our dear friend and Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioner, Vivian Vaughan.
MEET VIVIAN: TRADITIONAL CHINESE MEDICINE (TCM) PRACTITIONER
Our Founder, Bethany, first connected with Vivian a couple years ago for her own personal Acupuncture experience (if you haven't tried it yet, we highly recommend it!) and we've since had Vivian at the PP HQ to share her skill and passion with the Primally Pure Team and today we can't wait to introduce her to you! Vivian's story is incredibly special and speaks to her deeply rooted passion and connection to Traditional Chinese Medicine and holistic well-being.
PP: Please introduce yourself, Vivian! We’d love to learn more about your background and what drew you to Traditional Chinese Medicine?
My name is Vivian Vaughan and I am a Licensed Acupuncturist and am also a San Diego Native. I guess you could say that Chinese medicine is in my DNA. My Grandmother was known as “The Barefoot Doctor” in her Taiwanese village and people would come from all around to have their ailments treated by her. My father was an American chiropractor that fell in love with Acupuncture and he went to Taiwan to study where he met my mother - who is also an Acupuncturist. My parents moved to San Diego and opened one of the first clinics in my hometown of San Diego. (Interesting fact: Acupuncture wasn’t recognized in California until 1976.)
I grew up in my parent's clinic and distinctly remember the smells of Moxa—a Chinese herb that is lit on fire to extract its healing benefits. I can also clearly recall staring in wonder at the acupuncture points that were marked on the human body model that was displayed in the reception area of the clinic. Initially, I thought about becoming a nurse, yet upon deep reflection, I realized that Chinese medicine was my true calling. I graduated from The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine in 2001 and have now been practicing Chinese Medicine with my Mother for the past 20 years in our Clinic.
Traditional Chinese Medicine is one of the oldest healing modalities on the planet and considers the whole person (and the body's beautiful self-healing capabilities) in cultivating optimal well-being. Rather than simply targeting symptoms, TCM takes into consideration the underlying conditions to restore balance. TCM's roots are deep and rich and are continuing to impact us today.
PP: I’m sure it can be difficult to condense your years of experience along with centuries of this ancient healing practice, but for those of us who are just discovering TCM for the very first time, can you give us a brief overview of Traditional Chinese Medicine?
Chinese medicine is both a way of life and a philosophy of wellness. We see the body itself as the miracle. We believe that the state of wellness is achieved by living in harmony with nature. We clear away blockages and “dis-ease” from the flow of life force (or “Qi” as we refer to it) and allow the body to flourish and thrive in its natural state.
Here in the west, we are taught to look at our health like an automobile. When something goes wrong, we take our car in to be repaired or replaced. Many of us spend almost zero energy and effort doing daily preemptive automotive maintenance to prevent a problem before it occurs. Essentially, we are taught to deal with health problems only when the metaphorical car of our body finally breaks down.
TCM approaches health differently. We are primarily concerned with doing the daily maintenance required to make sure that the body functions consistently at its best and does not break down. (This would be akin to routinely changing the oil, checking the fluids, and using quality clean fuel in the automobile example above). TCM uses acupuncture, herbs, nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle modalities as tools to achieve this state of consistent wellness. TCM practitioners look at each human as an individual and customize a treatment protocol accordingly. Acupuncture has been thoroughly researched by the institutions of western science and TCM’s effectiveness in treating a plethora of conditions has routinely been proven.
This ancient healing technique has been passed down from generation to generation, making its initial origins a bit of a mystery. But what's not a secret, is that the use of a simple tool has profoundly impacted immunity, relieved sickness and enhanced beauty for centuries.
PP: Gua sha is rooted in TCM and has become a transformative beauty tool for us in the west. Can you take us back to its history and how this ritual has been used and revered?
Gua Sha translates as scraping. Gua means scraping and Sha means redness, which appears as toxins or the release of stagnant blood. “Scraping” or applying pressure to the skin increases circulation, thus bringing more oxygen and blood flow to the region. This scraping also releases stuck toxins and impurities allowing them to enter the bloodstream and be released. Muscle tension is also released and alleviated through this process.
Several different instruments have traditionally been used for Gua Sha. For example: A food spoon was used to scrape the body below the neck and for facial or cosmetic treatment, stones, coins or horns were utilized. Special jade stones were used for royal cosmetic Gua Sha. These traditional Gua Sha techniques have been dated back as far as the paleolithic age. Facial gua sha has become popular in modern western culture and we now see different stones being used for the Gua Sha tools. Facial or cosmetic Gua Sha has been known to sculpt the face shape, increase collagen production, reduce puffiness, and improve lymph drainage. These results are achieved by stimulating blood flow in the area of treatment.
PP: Among the many benefits of Gua Sha, one that isn’t as commonly talked about is its ability to stimulate acupressure points. What are acupressure points, how do they impact our well-being and how can we activate these benefits?
Facial Gua Sha also stimulates the underlying acupressure points of the face and their respective energetic Meridians. These Facial acupressure Meridian points correspond to specific organs of the body. As one beautifies their face, they also inadvertently heal the rest of their body.
We say beauty comes from within. You can look at the neck as “the stem of the flower” and we like to focus on releasing the tension in the neck first to water the flower of the face. Additionally, internal herbs and masks made from seeds, herbs and other botanicals are also used to complement and complete a cosmetic treatment. I personally do a customized acupuncture facial rejuvenation what I like to call no-tox botox. Again, TCM observes and treats the body as a “whole” or complete system. Beauty truly begins on the inside and when the body is healthy on the inside, it also shines outside. In other words: as within, so without.
HONORING ITS HISTORY + OUR HEALTH
As we reflect on the roots of this ritual, we're deeply grateful for those who have gone before us all across the globe to pave the path of wellness and share their ancient wisdom to help support well-being in our modern-day.
PP: As we incorporate gua sha into our regular wellness ritual, how can we continue to honor its heritage and history in our modern-day?
We can honor this rich history by sharing with our friends and family. I feel that it is my duty to share with others that there is an effective, natural, sustainable, and time-tested solution to ageless health, beauty, and optimum well-being.
PP: It’s such a privilege to get to share in these ancient and holistic remedies for healing - thank you for sharing your experience and passion with us, Vivian! As we wrap up our conversation about Traditional Chinese Medicine and the roots of gua sha, what words of wisdom or final thoughts would you like to leave with our community?
I’m honored to share today and I hope we will all take the time to care for our bodies and use clean, natural products and promote wellness. It is the simple things that we can do every day that really make a profound difference: hydration, exercise, thinking good thoughts, getting out into nature and remembering to appreciate the gifts that we all have.
We hope this traditional healing ritual and ancient beauty tool helps to not only impact your internal wellness, skin health and create space to reconnect with yourself, but is a tangible reminder to connect with the world and its beautiful traditions around you. XO
To learn more about Traditional Chinese Medicine and healing modalities, visit Vivian's Instagram and website!