Calm down. This isn’t a cult religion’s mating ritual or anything. I recently got Gua Sha for my first time. And no, I’m not pregnant with an alien baby…although I left Exhale Spa looking like I had an insane tribal tattoo on my back.

Gua Sha treatment Gua Sha is a healing technique that’s been used for centuries in eastern medicine. It’s not the same as cupping, which gained notoriety in ’04 when Gwyneth Paltrow was seen in public with what looked like red welts on her back, but it is in the same family of healing practices. And, now that I’ve experienced this massage-on-steriods, I can’t believe how much us westerners have been missing out. 

During the treatment, the therapist rubs out the bad energy and tension in your body using a smooth-edged spoon or similar object. Here’s a visual of my back (shown right) immediately after the treatment. You may think this looks like I got whipped, but before you judge, let me explain. Gua literally means to rub or to scrape and sha refers to the red dotting that appears on the skin’s surface, which essentially shows you all the stress that’s being released. P.S., the redness fades. By day three my back was back to normal.

I should also say that not only does the treatment feel gentler than a deep tissue massage, it actually feels good. My spa therapist Kathleen is a master (if you live in Chicago, request Kathleen). Using a round, metal lid from a jar, she rubbed my back, neck and shoulders. In just 10 minutes, my body felt like she had physically taken a load of stress that I’d been storing for weeks off my back. Aside from the lengthening sensation you get after a good Pilates class, this is the closest I’ve gotten to experiencing what I’d describe as a ‘Lightness of Being.’

Even though Gua Sha was only part of my hour-long service (Kathleen also performed traditional massage and acupuncture), it was the most satisfying. Between hunching over the computer (like I am now, whoops!) and scrunching my shoulders in the freezing cold, I came into the appointment feeling like I had swallowed my neck! I left feeling like I had just given birth to a new one. Ahhh.

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