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Ashwin’s healing hands

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Alternative approach: Chinese philosophy is at the heart of Ashwin Nathi’s work (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Ashwin Nathi can spot a complaint as soon as you walk through the door.

The way one walks, talks and carries oneself are all hallmarks to the massage therapist’s trained eye.

Adopting the principles of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), he opened Nathi’s Tui Na, a “fusion” of his own experience and traditional therapeutic massage that has been used in China for more than 2,000 years.

“Think of the human body as a guitar,” Mr Nathi said.

“If somebody has back pain, people keep rubbing on the back, which pushes it further forward. If a guitar is bending forward, you have to loosen the strings and the guitar becomes straight. In the same way, if you release you hip flexors your back pain goes away. Ninety per cent of the time I get results — I don’t even touch the back.”

“Generally, Tui Na is considered not as relaxing as a regular massage people do for 50 minutes for your wedding anniversary,” Mr Nathi explained.

“This balances the disharmony of the body. Anybody can rub the back, I want to know the root cause of the issue.”

He said that the concept of Tui Na is textbook.

“Anybody can be treated with x, y, z, but you if you come with this pain pattern, I chiefly address that pattern and also look at the whole body [to see] what else could be causing the problem and fix that too.

“That’s the difference between the classic Tui Na and the Nathi’s Tui Na massage fusion.”

He was introduced to Tui Na by Reginald Cann of Coha Limited.

“He’s my mentor. I’ve been working with him for more than ten years,” said Mr Nathi, who started at the complementary medicine practice as a massage therapist in 2007.

“When I started working with him, I learnt about TCM concepts and became fascinated with some of the hand techniques in Tui Na.”

He studied the techniques in England and New York and continues to work with Dr Cann three days a week, splitting the time with his own practice.

His early career was as a personal trainer in his native New Delhi.

“Fifteen years ago people were not as fit as now,” he recalled.

“Everybody wants to be fit and look thinner, healthier, tighter, muscular, but nobody had the courage to get up in the morning an hit the gym or follow a healthy lifestyle. When I was a personal trainer many would book me and not show up. But they used to go for massages all the time.”

Noting that it was a lucrative business, he switched to Swedish massage.

He said working with Dr Cann gave him a new approach to massage.

“After that I never stopped learning,” he said.

As such, he begins each session with a relaxing massage to knead away any tensions.

“You need to have a little bit of yin and yang,” he said of the balancing principles at the core of Chinese philosophy.

“So I use medical massage and other techniques in my Tui Na and tailored it according to [the client].”

A typical session lasts 30 minutes, but Mr Nathi is not rigid on time — stretching to as long as the client needs.

He recommends following up once a month. Sessions are covered by all major insurance companies.

He said Tui Na provided endless benefits including alleviating neck pain, arthritis, insomnia and digestive disorders.

“First, it calms the nervous system. It increases the range of motion of the body.”

He said it is not unusual to feel agitated afterwards, especially if you are new to the massage.

“If you’ve never been to the gym and then you go to the gym, the next couple of days you’ll have soreness. There’s nothing wrong with you — it’s just your body is not used to it.

“Once your body gets familiar with that, you’ll get better. Relaxation comes naturally when the body has settled itself.

Instead of stripping down, clients are encouraged to wear loose clothing.

Mr Nathi incorporates stretching techniques known as hip internal and external rotations within the treatment and loose trousers are perfect for the range of motion.

Tui Na is translated as push and pull to name the specific rolling and kneading use in the massage. The practitioner uses the same acupressure techniques as traditional acupuncture.

He said his most common complaint is stress — often felt in the shoulders.

“Everybody has stress these days; office relationships, job issues, people are just stressed about coming in, dealing with traffic from one end of the island.”

Another issue is what he calls “texting neck”.

“People look down at their phone. Leaning forward you are elongating the muscles — it’s called forward head posture,” he said.

And another — “iThumb”.

“People texting — even massage therapists and hairdressers — all those people who use their fingers to the maximum, they will have this inflammation in their hands and thumb.”

If you’re hurting in one place, you may overcompensate by putting pressure on another part of your body. He calls this biomechanical or postural disalignment.

“If someone comes to me with neck and shoulder pain, it’s not just neck and shoulder it comes from the hip or from the knee,” he said.

He uses the buttons on his shirt as an analogy.

“Imagine if I put this button here, instead of here. It messes up the entire shirt.”

•Learn more at www.nathistuina.com

Branching out: Ashwin Nathi has opened Nathi’s Tui Na, which aims to get to the root of your body’s problems (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Ashwin Nathi, Tui Na Massage (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)
Ashwin Nathi, Tui Na Massage (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)