Therapeutic Touch & Energy Work
Native-American medicine includes many approaches with similarities to today’s alternative bodywork or energy-related techniques, including massage, therapeutic touch, and acupressure-like stimulation of body points.
All peoples have methods for hands-on therapy, what we now call bodywork. The Cherokee people were well versed in body therapies and energy healing. They developed a comprehensive, sophisticated bodywork system that encompassed a form of osteopathic massage and manipulation, breath, and energy work. Central to this technique are the alternation of deep pressure and gentle rocking release. The breath was also used to reanimate the body and “draw spirit” into affected tissues. They also used crystal scanning and healing as well as the channeling of spirits and energy medicine.
The Cherokee were also familiar with acupuncture meridians and used acupuncture, with needles made of thorns or porcupine quills, in healing. A nineteenth-century monograph, the Swimmer manuscript in the Smithsonian Institute, speaks to the use of acupuncture by the “primitive savages, when every civilized person would know that the proper treatment is bleeding with leeches.”
In his book on Native American medicine, Ken Cohen, who worked with a Cherokee mentor, noted, “Massage, healing touch, and noncontact healing are practiced by Native healers throughout North and South America. Often the hands are used to sweep away or remove spiritual intrusions or to brush in healing powers. Cherokees warm their hands over coals and circle their palms either on or above an affected area. Some healers hold their hands to the front and back of an affected area, creating what they now call ‘electrodes within the body.’ The healer imagines that electricity is moving from one hand to the other. Sometimes the muscles are rubbed in a manner similar to Western massage. To increase the healing effect, the medicine person massages specific therapeutic points.”
The Hopi people and their practices were the source of inspiration for a type of massage now called Hakomi. Native American practices, in which hot and cold stones are used to deeply penetrate muscles and tissues to reduce pain and inflammation, are what we now know as stone massage. All of these practices integrate physical, emotional, psychological, and spiritual aspects of a person.