Cupping: Chinese Relaxation Therapy, My (Fire) Cups Runneth Over

By Sierra Fromberg

Relaxation is not my forte. Even the finest acupuncturist in NYC, Bianca Beldini of Sacred Space, couldn’t calm this rambling mind of mine. But alas, there is hope on the horizon for those, like me, and it comes in the form of an ancient Chinese method called Cupping. (You likely remember the uproar goopy Gywenny – aka Gwyneth Paltrow – caused when she showed up at New York film premier in 2004 with cupping-caused dark purple circles all down her back.) Well, this “I’ll Try Anything Once” figured if it’s good enough for Gwyneth, it’s good enough for me.

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With a quick email to world-class cupper Jodie (who is actually Bianca’s partner in business – and crime), and an intentional effort to do no prior research for the treatment (for fear of chickening out), I quickly found myself back at my old relaxation stomping grounds.

Jodie who, like Bianca, just has the most sweet and calming disposition, prepped by asking me to remove my top and lie face down on the treatment table. Padding propped up my upper body ever so slightly while my head rested in a cradle with a small bowl of French lavender just below, wafting ever so dreamily into my nostrils. Note to self: this is literally the most comfortable position I have ever been in and will attempt to re-create without suffocating myself in the near future.

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Before we began, Jodie used a combination of therapeutic grade essential oils over my back and neck that acted as a complimentary therapy to help release toxins, soothe the musculature and detoxify. The general practice of cupping involves taking either plastic or glass cups (Jodie’s preference and now mine as well) and applying them to the skin (most often on the back along the spine). Jodie uses the traditional method of cupping, whereby fire is used to create pressure within the glass cups, causing them stick to the body and pull in soft tissue. When the cups are applied, underlying muscles are drawn up and toxins are drawn out. The purple marks are visual proof of the areas that had been harboring “toxins,” which are thus released into the bloodstream and flushed out. Self-disclosure – I bruise like a rotten peach so I was especially red, but I gotta be honest – I kinda dug how hard-core I looked (and they faded within a few days).

Now, I know this may not sound relaxing, but let me tell you this – think of cupping as the most calming deep tissue massage you’ve never had. Once the cups are applied, Jodie moved them up and down and side to side on my back, rubbing those toxic bad boys out of my system. I have NEVER been able to drift off during a regular massage. I’m usually thinking about how I should have peed before starting or how long it’s going to take me to wash off all the greasy lotion on my body. But I emerged from my cupping session so relaxed; I actually fell asleep on the train home and missed my stop (another note to self: take cab home next time).

That night, I slept like a baby on Ambien with a glass of red wine in a warm bath. And that ever present knot just below my left shoulder from carrying my life around in my bag? Not entirely gone, but definitely less painful. And the real proof? I just returned two days ago for my second appointment. Looks like Jodie’s got yet another loyal follower!

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