Exploring Traditional Healing Systems and Commonalities with Western Massage Techniques

Throughout the world, original peoples have developed extensive healing systems, which can be quite different from the biomedical model of North America and Europe. Traditional practice integrates what we are now calling narrative medicine with hands-on therapies and energy medicine. Traditional practitioners didn’t have or need our contemporary categories, which define our specialties and scope of practice, but are of questionable value for efficacy of practice. 

North American Healing Arts (NAHA), CATA’s 16-month, one weekend per month training course, brings this wisdom of spirit-guided practice, traditional bioenergetic principles, and energy medicine practice into the contemporary world. We will explore integrating touching, speaking, and sounding simultaneously for increased efficacy. We will begin by exploring what is common to indigenous systems and highlight a few items of uniqueness among some cultures within which we have worked. We will then explore the role of massage therapy within a variety of cultures, understanding how touch and manipulation fit within the whole context of a system of healing and compare them to western Swedish massage techniques: effleurage, petrissage, vibration, tapotement, and friction. There will be an overview of Cherokee Body Work with comparisons to other indigenous systems (Shawnee, Pawnee, Zuni, Hawaiian, Apache, and others).

Osteopathy, founded in the early 20th century, apparently grew out of Indigenous North American body work and similar forms have been practiced by other tribal nations as well. We will explore these origins, and how indigenous body work has continued to evolve, influencing and being influenced by Western and Eastern massage practices.

Our faculty includes Dr. Lewis Mehl-Madrona, a physician and student of indigenous healing for over 40 years; Barbara Mainguy, a creative arts psychotherapist; John Beaulieu, a naturopath and expert in sound healing; Joseph Schmidlin, an osteopath and integrative practitioner; and Nita Renfrew, a long-time energy healer and now massage therapist.

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