You have probably seen somebody who has had cupping on their body.
Those strange round red or purple marks that look like they had a curious interaction with a giant octopus! These are the marks left on the body after a cupping session.
Cupping is a practice that has been used by many cultures, not just in Chinese medicine. It is still widely used today throughout Asia and the Middle East as a method to help the body clear toxins and to heal certain ails.
In a Chinese Medicine treatment, cupping is a technique of using small, medium or large sized glass cups that are suctioned to the body using fire to remove oxygen from the glass and then placed quickly onto the body; usually the back, and sometimes the lower body or even the abdomen.
The suction action helps to pull blood and fluids up through many layers of muscle, fascia and soft tissue towards the skin. As the blood is pulled to the surface, the many layers of tissue beneath are essentially cleaned and cleared by this action, bringing circulation to the area, and helping the body to clear out toxic debris that has been trapped in the tissue.
This is why the cupping marks can vary from pale, red, purple, and even deep plum or black in some cases. The deeper the colour, the more qi and blood stasis has been stuck in the tissues needing release.
Cupping can be a great remedy for stiff and tight muscles that have been sedentary for long periods of time (hello lockdown life!). It can help to loosen up the back, and help the body to get blood and fluids into tissues that have been dry and stiff.
From a western medicine perspective, the action of cupping creates a local site of inflammation in the body. Whenever that cascade of inflammatory response occurs, the body will send a flood of fighter cells both systemically throughout the body, and also to the local area itself. This means that a session of cupping could actually be a great way to help the body kickstart its own healing process when recovering from something like a cold or a flu.
The cups are generally left on for about 5-10 minutes approximately, but if a person is very exhausted and qi deficient 5 minutes is enough time, whereas a very healthy robust person might be ok for the cups to be left on for a little bit longer than ten minutes.
The marks left on the body after cupping can look pretty brutal, but they do not hurt, or at least they should not hurt. If they are tender, it could mean that the cups were too strong, or they were left on the body for too long.
Healthy circulation should clear up the marks within a week and then they will be very faint or gone completely. If you have significant cupping curiosity, do some research and find someone local to you that offers this service and try it out!
Love, Karina x
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Karina Smith is a Melbourne based Doctor of Chinese Medicine and Yin Yoga Teacher, Teacher Trainer & Educator. With a passion for women's health, through Yin and Chinese Medicine Karina aims to improve the health of her students, patients and clients.After years of dancing and its emphasis on performance, yoga was an unexpected beacon of self-care and restoration for Karina, where her relationship to movement shifted to something that was there to nourish her mind and body.
A year after commencing practice at the Australian Yoga Academy (AYA), Karina knew she wanted to do the yoga teacher training on offer there - and from thereon it has been a deep-dive into the rich offerings of this ancient practice.
Karina has now studied and taught yoga extensively - including two 350hr Teacher Trainings (AYA and Shantarasa Institute, India), studies under the renowned Bernie Clark and Paul Grilley, over a decade of teaching at numerous studios in her home town of Melbourne, and lecturing for The Australian Yoga Academy.
In 2018, Karina launched her own 50 Hour Yin & Functional Anatomy Teacher Training and continues to run this course. Karina’s love of Yin Yoga revealed a deeper fascination for human anatomy and led her to pursue Chinese Medicine. After graduating in 2019, she now runs her own clinic offering acupuncture, herbal therapies, moxibustion and cupping treatments.