What is Cupping and Why Are Olympic Athletes Going Crazy For It?

I had cupping as part of an Acupuncture Treatment that I was reiving when I was in Bali and seen as Olympic athletes are going crazy for it, I’ve dedicated a specific piece on the theory, my thoughts and how it made me feel.

My overall review of how I felt physically and emotionally after the series of treatments can be found in my review of Acupuncture but I’ve included my notes on how I felt about that particular acupuncture and cupping session on the day, especially for this review.

Cupping is an ancient technique from Traditional Chinese Medicine and it can be used as its own treatment or alongside acupuncture. The British Acupuncture Council states that it’s used to stimulate acupuncture points or larger areas of the body, which may be the reason why it’s being heavily used in the Olympics – all that work on those pumping muscles must require a lot of healing.

The cups are rounded and can be made of a variety of material, most commonly in the Western side of the practice, glass is used. To use the cups, the practitioner heats up the air inside the glass with a flame and then places the glass on the clients skin. Then the natural laws of physics prevail and a vacuum is created inside the glass, causing the skin to be sucked into it. It’s typical that multiple glasses will be used at any one time and they are left on the skin for up to 20 minutes.

The theory behind this method is that it supposed to reduce stagnation of ‘qi’ (energy) and also help draw out toxins. In the news however, it’s been reported that the athletes are using it to aid recovery from the physical aches and pains brought on by constant training and competing.

Red Dots

The Session

This was my fourth session of Acupuncture with Ben and as always it started off with some talk therapy which ended up being a roundup of how I was feeling at the time and how I felt about going home – I was leaving Bali that afternoon to slowly head home (via Jakarta, Bangkok and London). We talked about a recent mindset change that I’d experienced and how I envisaged moving back into the real world once I got home. It was evident that I was starting to come down with a cold which was probably a combination of working through all these emotions so intensely and a little bit of partying towards the end of my trip – I was squeezing in as much Bali fun as I could before leaving. Due to the cold, Ben suggested that I have some cupping as well as the acupuncture to help my body release toxins and move around some of my energy, seen as he’s the expert I agreed.

As I lay on on my back, on the acupuncture couch, Ben took my pulse on both of my wrists and then proceeded with placing some acupuncture needles. After he removed the acupuncture needles he asked me to turn on to my front and remove my upper body clothes so that he could put the cups on my bare back. He left the room whilst I did this and knocked before he returned to ensure that I was decent.

He explained the procedure of cupping and methodically started to place them on my back, one by one. Instantly I could feel the pressure of the sucking of my skin into the cups, it didn’t feel uncomfortable but it was a strange feeling. It reminded me of the feeling of being massaged when the therapist goes quite deep to stretch a certain area, however instead of my skin being moved across my body, it was being pulled outwards. There was a feeling of release as though some kind of space was being created within me, like a void was being created between the pressure of the skin in the glass and the muscles within my body. This feeling felt quite pleasurable but it was difficult to really tap into it because so much was going on. I could also feel that some cups had a slightly stronger pulling sensation than the others, but none of them were strong enough to cause any discomfort. The cups were left on my back for what felt like a considerable amount of time but in reality it was only about 20 minutes, for which time I tried to focus on my breathing.

When Ben came to take the cups away he told me beforehand and then proceeded to remove each glass by releasing the pressure at the side of the glass in what felt like a peeling motion, probably much in the same way that I’d remove a sucker off a glass windscreen. When all the glasses were removed he left the room to give me some space to get changed before coming back and asking me how I felt. We talked a little bit about my experience and also about what to expect in the next 24 hours – that I may be slightly tired. I already felt a little lethargic because of my cold and I was aware that after these treatments I can sometimes feel exhausted, but luckily, apart from getting a taxi to a hotel in the south of Bali I didn’t have much else planned.

Pre-session sense check (02 May 2016, 8am –  1 hour before treatment)

Physically – I’d woken up with a head cold, which has been coming for a few days and is now in full force. I’m feeling tired, achy and without much motivation to do anything other than what is necessary. My head hurts, my eyes feel a heavy and my shoulders ache a little too.

Emotionally – I don’t feel that emotional, or I’m not connected with my emotions much today because my physical sensations are quite intense with the feeling of being a ill. I’m a little upset at having to leave Bali but I know it’s the right time so I also feel contempt too.

Post-session sense check (02 May 2016, 5pm –  7 hours after treatment)

Physically – I feel exhausted and my whole body feels really heavy, my movements are also sluggish. I just want to sleep. I have a weird sensation in my head, as though I had had a pressure build up that was now releasing but very slowly.

Emotionally – I’m feeling pretty fragile. I ended up crying when I got to the hotel, not for anything in particular but just because the tears were there and needed to come out. I feel quite numb to any sense of feeling, as though I’m a bit detached from them at the moment.

Overall Review

The sensation of having the cupping treatment was quite strange at first but overall I enjoyed the treatment. With regards to the ‘success’ of it, it’s difficult to review it individually as I had it as part of a series of acupuncture treatments, however those treatments overall were very beneficial for me because they released a lot of physical pain and also instigated a couple of strong mindset changes so overall I would say that it was effective. As with all holistic therapies, it’s difficult to scientifically measure them as the placebo effect could be having a very strong effect, and because I strongly believe in the meridian energy system which these treatments are based on then of course they are more likely to ‘work’. Whether or not they are proving as successful for the Olympic athletes is something that we’ll have to watch out for when we compare the medals and red spots – hardly scientific but worth a shot to find out. Personally I enjoyed the cupping treatment and would have it again but I think that it’s worthwhile to do your own sense check and reflection to see how effective it is for you.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,

Shereen x

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Follow Your Intuition, Have Intention and Find Courage

I’m on my way home now (via Jakarta, Bangkok and London) but I’m heading in that general direction. Home. The place I went to when I first felt the pang of heartbreak, the place I flew straight back to after the attack and the place where I said my last goodbye to my Dad. It feels good to be heading back and I’m looking forward to seeing my family, friends and the cats. Mostly I’m looking forward to starting a new chapter of my life. I came to Asia with the intention of working on myself and the emotions that came up following these traumatic events, in the hope that I could somewhat heal the brokenness that I felt inside. I made sure to follow my intuition to steer me on my path along the way and it’s not been without its challenges. Although I know that I’ve always had a lot of courage, there have been times when I’ve had to search every bit of me to find what it’s taken to get through the toughest bits but I feel much better for doing so.

I really believe that each person ultimately knows themselves better than anyone else on this planet so by listening to what ‘feels’ right should be the best guide for healing, but without a real intention this intuition can often go unheard or ignored and without the courage to act, then both are useless anyway.

The events are still relatively fresh for me but I find that I’ve reached a turning point where I’m ready to drop the trauma story. I’m not quite sure what that means for this blog yet, I guess I’ll write for as long as it feels right, or maybe I’ll change it or develop it into something new (suggestions very welcome: traumaontour@hotmail.com), but I know that for now I’m ready to change the trauma record. I reached this point in the last week or so and something that I feel sped it up somewhat, was having some intense Traditional Chinese Acupuncture (a therapy that I’ve always respond to very well). I was lucky enough to find an intuitive therapist in Bali, who worked with me to push my limits as much as I could emotionally and physically handle and within the safety of the practice – based on both our intuition and his expertise and knowledge. This application of intuition and knowledge was applied with awareness, then sense checked, reflected upon and evaluated to really measure progress and I reinforce this kind of evaluation in my learning experiences in life, be it for personal development, therapy or learning a new skill. I mean this is commonly done in work environments, why wouldn’t we apply it to our own personal development, growth and healing?

Listening to my intuition resulted in me to staying in Ubud for over six weeks, surrounded by great people, including my inspirational roommate CJ, an awesome self-built entrepreneur, who’s been like a sister to me. Deepi was the third member of our crew, a lively Canadian/Indian chick who speaks her mind and takes no shit. These two women have been an influential part of my healing because we created an environment where it was safe to talk about everything, and I mean everything including difficult personal feedback about vulnerable situations, upfront truths that needed to be heard and all our emotions in all their colourful shapes and intensities. All without judgement and with wholehearted compassion in the hope that we would learn about ourselves and grow more in the process. I certainly feel like I did. Maybe if everyone had an environment like this, where they could talk so freely without fear of being judged or ridiculed then the World would be a much better place. I can imagine that traumas might be processed faster at least, especially because talking so openly and frequently about them would eradicate the taboo and discomfort that so often comes with this kind of sharing.

Now, following your intuition is one thing but it’s not just a case of landing in Bali and expecting to be healed, even if your intuition is screaming “Go to Bali”! No, because nothing really matters unless it’s done with intention, and the right intention at that. I came here with the intention of healing because I wanted to get back to living the nomadic, adventurous, fun filled life that I used to and nothing was going stop me getting there. I knew that I would have to sit through some uncomfortable challenges, that I would have to experience all the darkness of my traumas and the emotions that came with them to process them and get through to a more positive and stable state of mind and it’s not been easy getting here. I knew there would be anger, tears, confusion, embarrassment, shame, blame, apologies, confessions, panic attacks and a whole host of ‘break down’ type moments in front of a variety of audiences (I’m totally cool with public crying now). The thing is that I was ready to look all these moments in the eye and crawl through the sludge of them because I also knew that I had the grit, humility and endurance to do it, I knew that I had courage. Sometimes that meant reaching out and asking for help, regardless of how weak this made me feel at the time. As if I’d somehow failed at life because I was having to ask someone to be there for me or that I was lesser of a person because I couldn’t help but break down at certain situations that ‘normal people’ wouldn’t be phased by. It’s the overcoming of this shame and breaking the silence to speak that took a huge amount of inner courage, especially when to even voice my traumas brought out reactions in others that made me feel outright rejected, unsupported and unwelcome for sharing. I know this comes down to other people’s discomfort at not wanting to deal with these situations but overcoming these rejections (that’s what they felt like) when I expressed myself was a hard thing to keep overcoming. I actually remember a captain friend of mine stopping me on a walk back from the pub to tell me how brave I was to seek counselling straight after the attack. I guess I didn’t quite realise it back then because being from a medical type family going to counselling made sense to me – experience a psychological trauma, go and see a psychological expert – but looking back I don’t think that’s what he meant. I think he meant overcoming the stigma of opening up about my vulnerabilities, and having the courage to speak out. He was right, it was brave.

What I realised is that speaking out takes a different kind of courage. It’s not the courage that you need to live the life of a nomad without financial stability or the security of a fixed base, it’s not the courage you need to jump out of a plane even though your heart is thumping in your throat and it’s not the courage you need before enduring a hike to Everest Base Camp – trust me I’ve done all those thing and they were easy in comparison. Speaking out took a deeper level of courage that I wasn’t even sure I had, the courage to go somewhere that no one wants to go. The kind that makes you feel like you’ve exposed your deepest darkest secrets in front of the whole World and its judgement. Like you’re the helpless child in the playground, being humiliated, alone, being pointed at while the whole school laughs at you. I’m sure you know the feeling, it’s the stuff of nightmares. It’s often the fear of this feeling that silences us while we continue to tear up inside, telling everyone on the outside that we’re “fine” while we sink into a pit of loneliness which gets heavier and heavier until it’s almost unbearable. Having the courage to break that silence is real courage, and as with all things that involve hardship, it pays off, at least it did for me. By communicating and sharing as much as I have I’ve created stronger bonds with people because deep down we all have our trauma secrets, by sharing them it brings us closer together. It’s made me stronger too because I’ve got to know myself well through all these events and I’m sure that I’ll push myself even further with this new depth courage that found.

So I’ll leave you with a thought today. Tap into your intuition about a situation that feels vulnerable for you, see what feels like the right thing to do. It’s most likely the hard thing, that you subconsciously make excuses to avoid without realising. If you do realise what it is, find the courage to do something about it, with intent and see where it leads you. It might be saying sorry for your part of an argument, telling someone how you feel about them or just admitting that you need some help right now.

I want to create a world of greater wellbeing for ourselves and the planet that we live on. That’s why I’m starting an honest conversation about wellbeing; encompassing self care, emotional intelligence, body and mind awareness, personal development, and authenticity. If you want to learn more about these subjects then then head over to www.shereensoliman.com to find out more about the packages I offer.

Sending self care vibes,