Accommodation for courses and treatments

Chinese Wisdom - Gloucestershire Echo

Newspaper picture from the "Chinese Wisdom" articleAncient medicine inspires family to spread the word

Chinese wisdom is being spread across the western world thanks to one Cheltenham woman. Owen Adams found out how an ancient form of massage changed the life of Maria Mercati and her family.

It may seem hard to believe unless you've been initiated, but behind the trim suburban facade of Flecker's Drive in Up Hatherley there's a drug-free health revolution in progress. From her modern Cheltenham semi, Maria Mercati - author, teacher, masseuse and acupuncturist - is spreading Chinese wisdom across the western world.

Maria, her family and her students from around the world, have a busy schedule. For, Maria's Bodyharmonics is the only place in Europe to treat and teach people using Tui Na massage and acupuncture as a complete package. And, as her books and instructional videos are selling by the thousands, so people are travelling from all over Britain and Europe to receive treatment. Since discovering the ancient massage Tui Na (pronounced twee-nah) on a 1992 trip to China, Maria has become one of the foremost authorities on Chinese medicine outside the Orient.  

Tui Na works separately and in conjunction with acupuncture and herbs. All three forms of Chinese medicine work using a complex diagram of the human body which consists of 12 energy channels linked to various organs. On the body, there are 365 different points. The treatment is to remove blockages to the flow of energy, thus restoring balance. It involves basic Chinese philosophies like the yin and yang and the five elements of fire, earth, metal, water and wood.

Simply put, Tui Na is acupuncture with moving pressure used instead of needles - it uses bare-handed rubbing, chops, knuckle rolls and a myriad other often vigorous, intense and deep pulling, shaking, pummelling, pounding, kneading and vibrating techniques. In addition to specific ailments being treated, you leave after a session of Tui Na and acupuncture feeling considerably refreshed, more alive and as light as a feather.

However, the massage is not a form of chill out therapy - it's intense, rough, bordering on violent (although the pummelling and pushing is very subjective) and you're likely to wake up the next day feeling like you've been in a mangle. But breach the pain barrier and you experience something almost transcendental. If that seems enough of an ordeal, Chinese practitioners of Tui Na and acupuncture allow for at least 10 similarly powerful sessions to complete any specific treatment. This is to ensure that the energies are so balanced that the body's healing is complete.

Obviously, for babies and young children, the treatment is far gentler. Each of a baby's fingers can be tweaked to encourage the Qi (energy flow) for each organ, rubbing the abdomen in a circular motion treats wind and colic and a needle between the thumb and index finger of a young child wards off colds and flu - according to the doctrine of Tui Na and acupuncture.

Maria was diagnosed with Perthes' Disease (a destructive hip complaint which often develops into osteoporosis) as a child and was told she would eventually need a hip replacement. But an eye opening trip to China for a month long course of treatment in 1992 meant no hospital treatment was needed. Nine years later, Maria still has her own healthy hip. She said: "I was so amazed by my progress in the first week of treatment, I felt I had to bring Tui Na to the western world - teach it, practise it and write books about it.

'The public get told by their doctors that they have just one option, which often involves an operation or drugs. "In China, there are no chiropractors, osteopaths and other Specialists that you find in western medicine because all their needs are met by massage, acupuncture and herbs. "For something like a car crash or a burst appendix, you need western treatment but most health problems and diseases can be cured with Chinese medicine. "You're not actually healing people, you're just getting the body in a state where it can heal itself."

Since that fateful visit, Maria has returned to China eight times to gain extra knowledge. On the last visit, she took along a camera crew to record 50 hours' footage of people being treated using Tui Na and other Chinese medicines in combination. After the laborious process of editing the tapes, a short series containing the footage will hopefully be shown on TV. In one case, a weeping mother and father were told by doctors that there was no hope for their baby daughter, infected by meningitis. She had been in a coma for three months and the hospital wanted to turn off her life support system. But, after a Tui Na practitioner had worked his magic for five minutes by pressing his hands, on her acupoints she came out of her coma and was on the road to recovery. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes,” said Maria.

Maria says many of her clients are families. She teaches parents step-by-step to massage their babies while adults require a professional Tui Na practitioner as stronger and more complex techniques are needed. "Every time I complete a session and see the difference in the person leaving, I feel a great sense of fulfillment," she said.

picture of Daniella Mercati treating patientAll four of Maria's children practice Tui Na - Gisela, 29, and Gina, 27, in London and Graham, 25, in Buckinghamshire. His twin Danella has re-joined her mother in Cheltenham after spending two months in the Caribbean resort of Parrot Cay, where she massaged stars like Paul McCartney, Gwyneth Paltrow, Liam Neeson, Bruce Willis, Ben Affleck and Demi Moore and their families. 

Tui Na Can Treat Many Ailments