Tibetan Massage

Tibetan remedial massage is one of the oldest forms of massage found on the earth. It is a specialty of Tibetan medicine that specifically addresses the external body. It is one of six types of external therapies found in the Gyud-Zhi (TIB: rGyud-bzhi), a classic of Tibetan Medicine referred to as the “Four Tantras” in English.

In the last Tantra (or Fourth Text), in the last section dealing with Accessory therapy, massage is outlined under the heading of “Wind: Massage with Sesame oil”. Massage then is used in combination with different media such as vegetable oil, clarified butter, etc. Adjunctive therapies address specific problems. Fomentation address the Phlegm diseases, massage the Wind diseases and hydro-therapy the Bile.

This type of massage is called “Kunyi” (TIB. bsku-mnye) or literally “ointment rub”. Other methods used are the rubbing of specific acupoints with or without a herbal paste or liniment. The method and points used are similar in nature to Japanese Shiatsu therapy.

As an external treatment, massage using a herbal medicated oil or medicine butter(sman-mar) is traditionally an important adjunctive therapy for Wind disturbance or rLung. Symptoms of imbalance of rLung are, among others, restlessness, insomnia, dizziness, stress, unbalanced emotions, depression, muscle cramping, stiffness and backaches. Tibetan medicine believes oil holds the Wind in place, and smoothes it out. In the Gyud Zhi “Men-ngak” or “Secret Oral Instructions”, it is the most important principle or secondary therapy for stress disorders. There are 15 major points listed in the Men-ngak to use for treatment.

There are five major massage strokes used in Tibetan massage

  • Stroking – application of oil, long longitudinal strokes (effleurage)
  • Rubbing – vigorous circular motion, friction.
  • Kneading
  • “Acupressure” – deep localized, circular motion
  • Triple technique

Cleansing – oil is considered Phlegm producing. It counteracts Wind but, can produce too much Phlegm. So, there is a need to cleanse the body with chick pea flour after the massage to prevent side effects from the massage.

Two main categories of massage:

General – oil is applied to the body with rubbing, kneading, etc. This is a general treatment for stress disorders but is not diagnostically specific.

Remedial – specific pathologies are addressed with acupressure on specific acupuncture points. Any point that is sore or looks different are points amenable to massage.

Media used:

Four types of oil are used (1) Butter(clarified butter / ghee) (2) Vegetable oil (3) animal fat (lard) (4) Bone marrow. Butter, usually wild Dri butter, is sweet in taste and warm in nature. Used for Wind conditions, stress and strains. The older the better (one year old butter). Vegetable: sesame oil is best. It is sweet, mildly warm, relieves stress and strengthens the body. Animal fats: specific animals are used for specific disorders.

Lotions or medicated oils are are also used that are made with melted ghee, nutmeg and certain types of flour to make a paste and that is rubbed on acupoints. Used for tension headaches, insomnia, palpitation, dizziness. There are various combinations of ingredients used to make the medicated ghee. Each one is has specific applications.

In Tibetan remedial massage there are 15 main points that are found on the exposed areas of body. This comes from the custom of modesty and the coldness of Tibet. A combination of these points combined with others can be used for Wind disturbances, tension headache, palpitations, reduce or stop bleeding, sciatica, lumbar pain, menstrual irregularity, frequent urination, constipation, and hiccough (self massage).


  • High fever
  • Inflammation
  • Infection
  • Swelling by fluid retention
  • If results in aggravation of symptoms

Good therapy:

  • Appetite is good
  • B.M. is good
  • Sleep is good
  • More energy
  • Mood is good