A typical session

Today’s entry should give you an idea of what an hour at Kirin Bodywork is like. No two sessions are going to be the same, though, because everyone is different, and nothing stays the same.

How are you? How are things going?

From the moment I open the door and while we are chatting, I am making mental notes of your posture, the way you walk, your overall impression. Everything is connected, and it all matters.
I will ask you to empty your pockets, take off your watch and accessories, remove your belt and shoes. If you had brought a change of something comfortable like a T-shirt and running shorts, that’d be the best.

First, we’ll take a look at your spine.

Before you get on the massage table, I’m going to ask you to let me take a look at your spine while you are standing up or sitting in a chair. Spine assessment is essential to Japanese bodywork. A few quick moves and you might already feel the difference.

So let’s see what’s going on today…

You are going to be on the table, comfortable and warm. I will continue with my assessment while gradually lessening overall tension. Japanese bodywork does assessment and treatment at the same time. Sometimes I will take your pulses or ask to look at your tongue.

Breathing is important.

If we can’t breathe comfortably, our body will tense back up right away. Pretty much everyone needs a bit of work to ease breathing. I want the lungs to expand and the whole body to gently move with the breath. There are some acupoints and techniques we can use to experience better breath in a matter of seconds. Feel the difference!

The abdomen.

Are there areas of discomfort, pain, is the whole abdomen supple. The ideal is to have the upper abdomen soft and supple, the lower abdomen tighter with a nice bounce,  _ki_ (qi in Chinese) full in the _tanden_ (dantian in Chinese).

Working on discomfort and its related areas.

An area of discomfort always has another place in the body that is related, and when we work on both things shift for the better, often dramatically. Every body is different, but there are patterns. It helps to think along the Traditional Chinese Medicine meridians.
The body works as a whole, and working on the perceived problem areas is not enough. I try to achieve better balance. Newer problems tend to be easier. Older ones often take more time. There are many techniques to choose from, thanks to all the traditional wisdom. I may ask you to change position on the table a couple of times.

Deep relaxation and integration.

Deep relaxation, from head to toe, helps all the manipulation get integrated into the body at this stage. Relaxation works at least as well as any medicine. If you fall asleep, rejoice! I won’t stop working on  you, and you won’t be missing anything.

So, let’s stand up and see how you feel.

See what’s changed. How do you feel? How is the pain, how is the range of movement? Do you feel taller, looser? Are there other things we need to work on?

There’s still a little bit of time…

This is the fun part. I can teach you self-care movements so that you won’t have to come in so often. Women love a quick facial or waistline improvement. You could try cupping (then have an entire cupping session next time if you like) or moxibustion. Or we can talk about all the amazing things the body does, the wisdom passed on to us from cultures around the world.

Have a glass of water.

Cold or hot depending on the weather. If you prefer, I’ll make you an appointment for next time.

Standardized Acupoints

I have wondered now and then why the description of the location of these points in various books sounded so very technical. They are not just technical, they are often dry. Even Japanese sources are strangely similar in their dryness. There are easier, friendlier ways to describe body parts, even when you are using technical language. Why make it harder to read for normal human beings?

Now I know.

WHO has a publication called WHO Standard Acupuncture Point Locations in the Western Pacific Region, and the language in that book is dry. It’s the source everyone is quoting from. I found the Japanese official translation of it too. There must be many other language versions.

Is it surprising to you that WHO has standardized the point locations?

It was to me, when I first heard about it. But it makes sense. It must have been a huge undertaking, in that a large number of experts in different countries and schools needed to come to an agreement. There was probably historic variation, too.

The screenshot below is from Amazon. The book is out of print and costs 200 dollars at least at the moment. You can see the way the points are described. Oh, so, impersonal. But I think we should forgive them for sounding a bit too technical and lofty, on the grounds that the compilation of this book was very likely an extremely difficult task. It’s useful for all beginning and intermediate learners, and wouldn’t have gotten done without someone like WHO.


Foot bath – Awesome points of the feet

One doesn’t need any knowledge of acupoints to benefit from a foot bath. But it’s fun to think about it, and I have found that the act of “thinking about it” itself is already good, in an awareness building kind of way.

These points are truly awesome. I don’t think I ever give a session without using Kidney 1, for example. Everyone needs some love at Kidney 1. It grounds and brings calmness. It nourishes and gives a bit of energy. If you pay attention, you too will feel the difference.

You will see in the list below that the reason we want our foot bath vessel to be a little deeper is Spleen 6. It is one of the main points used for obgyn conditions. It gives you a little bit of a lift. As in, you may find yourself wanting to stand taller, wanting to look forward into the future. I use it often for people with backache, too.

So here are some of the awesome points* of the feet.

Kidney 1 (gushing spring, yong quan, yusen 湧泉)

Indications: Energy depletion, Urinary problems, emotional release, revival for fainting and shock, later period, etc.

Kidney 6 (shining sea, zhao hai, shoukai 照海)

Indications: Insomnia, swollen throat, tonsilitis, dry or painful eyes, gynecological problems, ankle pain or swelling.


Liver 3 (great surge, tai chong, taishou 太衝)

Indications: Master tonic point, allergies, yin energy deficiency, foot cramps, tired eyes, toxicity, headache. (It’s supposed to be great for easing hangover symptoms. I’m waiting for an opportunity to try it myself.)


Spleen 6 (three yin crossing, san yin jiao, saninko 三陰交)

Indication: Labor (do not use during pregnancy!), genital and menstrual pain, nervous depression, nourish blood. Helps spleen, kidney and liver.


Bladder 60 (Kun Lun mountain, Kun Lun, konron 崑崙)

Indication: Headache, stiff neck, eye inflammation, back pain, sciatica and Achilles tendonitis, conditions of the uterus.


Gall Bladder 40 (Mound of Ruins, qiu xu, kyukyo 丘墟)

Indication: Sprained or painful ankle, weak joints, muscle spasms. Also diseases and conditions of the gall bladder, heartburn, shoulder discomfort, eye conditions, depression, weakness of the mind, irritability.



  • The term “awesome points” was invented one afternoon by the beloved instructor at McKinnon, Carl Johns. These really are awesome, so I call them that, too. They are used all the time, by pretty much all practitioners.
  • The points have many names. WHO standard numbering is the better known one in the US, so I have put it first. It is followed by – meaning of traditional name, Chinese reading, Japanese reading, Japanese writing. Those with knowledge of the Chinese writing system should be able to recognize most of the written Japanese names, too, since they were originally Chinese.


  • All the point location images come from the giant and wonderful book, A Manual Of Acupuncture. There is an app for it, too.
  • Many of the indications were taken from the McKinnon Acupressure Manual. It is a concise and friendly guide for beginnners. Too bad it isn’t sold outside the school.