Check out Jackie’s Yoga Journey for the origins of this dramatic path to becoming a yogini, and how I'm in the best shape of my life at the age of 40.
Life changing event #6: the connection between yoga & massage.
During my travels, I had the immense blessing of visiting China frequently. About an hour and a half from Shanghai, Kunshan (昆山) is a "small town" of about a million people. It's highly industrialized city with lots of factories…and lots of smog. Based in trade and industry rather than tourism, Kunshan didn’t offer a ton in terms of entertainment when I first arrived. There weren’t many fellow expats either, so I spent many quiet days and nights alone focusing on my own healing journey.
The great irony of Kunshan, the name, Kun = earth, Shan = mountain. And yet, there is not a single mountain to be found in Kunshan. While I didn't find the mountains I'm used to from Los Angeles or Taipei, the canals of water in Kunshan give Venice a run for their money. Over time, I found so many, many beautiful, cool, fun, loving, interesting new things to do in China. Finding commonalities, I affectionately refer to China as the "West of the East." Meaning that like America, China is a HUGE country, and what is assumed of a "Chinese person" cannot possibly be assumed of all Chinese people, because of this vast diversity. Like Americans, especially compared to other Asian countries, Chinese people are considered loud, rude, intrusive, abrasive and generally difficult to deal with. Welcome to America!
I LOVE China and I LOVE Chinese people. Love, adore, respect, appreciate, admire, and more. I count my lucky stars for the opportunities to travel to this secluded space and be embraced by people left and right, up and down, near and far.
When in China, I saw the same healer every time: David. His small family-run business offers every service you could want to heal your body - massage, acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments - AND it comes with a full tea service from his wife at the end (bonus if it's dinner time and they offer you some of their home-cooked meal!). David is a certified doctor of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) with a heart of gold. Although we had a major language barrier, he sat with me for hours, showing me anatomy books and explaining how to heal my injuries. Heart. Of. Gold.
For years, I sat around David’s tea table, sipping, chatting, and building a library of knowledge of anatomy. Between the anatomy I studied under my yoga mentor Pagan’s Iyengar classes and the tea-fueled chats with David, I made the connection between yoga and massage. At the heart of yoga is Ayurveda, or Traditional Indian Medicine (TIM), which has a ton of overlap with Traditional Chinese Medicine.
According to the National Library of Medicine:
“Ayurveda and TCM have many commonalities. The focus of both the systems is on the patient rather than disease. Both systems fundamentally aim to promote health and enhance the quality of life, with therapeutic strategies for treatment of specific diseases or symptoms in holistic fashion. Almost half of the botanical sources used as medicines have similarities; moreover, both systems have similar philosophies geared towards enabling classification of individuals, materials and diseases.”
The differences between Eastern and Western beliefs became more apparent as I was exposed to more techniques, like flaming acupuncture needles! Even children in the East grow up culturally exposed to basic knowledge of meridians, chakras and energy. Whereas in the West, many children are explicitly taught that this knowledge is pseudoscience, as if it is less valuable.
I realized how disconnected we have become in the West from the natural cycles of the world. We don’t celebrate the moon like the Mid-Autumn Festival, we don’t honor our dead like Tomb Sweeping Day, and we don’t dance in the streets like Diwali. We have lost contact with ancient wisdom in the West.
Always intrigued by the “pagan practices” of my ancestors, I researched and made more connections to Eastern medicine. After some intense Chi acupuncture, my cycle aligned with the moon (and remained aligned 5 years later!). I soaked in hand-crafted epsom salt and essential oil potions. I read tarot and oracle cards with mystical accuracy. My sadhana was on point, and I was armed with an arsenal of self-massage and myofascial tissue release tools.
I fully embraced my spontaneous nomadic life and began teaching pop-up classes when I traveled. I was finally able to end the ongoing, draining relationship once & for all.
The world was my oyster as I began formulating plans for semi-permanent home bases in Taipei, Tokyo, Los Angeles & D.C. Life was going pretty great!
Until…just before the pandemic began…
...check in next week to find out what happens in the next chapter!