Cupping, Massage and Ear Seeding: The ultimate self-care combo you didn't know you needed right now.
I am excited to share how beautiful my experience was at the East West Center Atitlán in San Marcos la Laguna with the owner and head therapist, Juliana. From the very beginning, I was treated with an authentic, warm welcome.
"The moment I walked into the treatment room I felt peace in my heart"
The energy of the treatment room was tranquil. Soft music played gently in the background and the smell of essential oils filled the cozy space. I was invited to start with a delicious, warm herbal tea made with ginger and star anise, a tea whose health benefits are only outweighed by its incredibly fresh and spicy flavor. I could have easily melted into the sofa as I filled out my health evaluation sheet.
When I began exploring the different massage technique options available around Lake Atitlan, I was very excited to learn that East West Center Atitlan offered 90-minute massage sessions…I knew 60 minutes wasn’t going to be enough. I had heard great reviews about their services, so I was excited to try one for myself. Even more, I was intrigued by the massage and cupping combination treatment option.
This would be my first experience trying cupping, so I did some research before my appointment to better understand the benefits, such as, remove toxins that cause sore muscles, alleviate tension, and improve immune function, to name a few. Since I work full-time from my computer, poor posture combined with a tendency to carry my stress and tension in my shoulders and neck, I thought this might be a great option for me.
The massage session started with some light breath work and aromatherapy. Since the environment was so peaceful when I entered, it didn’t take me long to relax on the table. Juliana moved on to a focused massage on the areas that I needed the most work.
Early on in the treatment, I was surprised when I started to feel warmth in areas where she was working. It was a gentle heat that I could feel penetrating into my skin and at the surface of my muscles. I later learned that Juliana was using a Moxa stick, a traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) tool that once lit, the warm embers are passed over the body, creating the warm sensation that I was feeling. It was incredible! I’ve had hot stone massages before, but this was very different. The heat was more intense, but there was no pressure. As I was getting this treatment, I was wishing that I had known about Moxa sticks before to use on old sports injuries.
Midway through the massage treatment, Juliana began strategically placing the cups and creating the suction. It didn’t hurt, but there was definite pressure that soon felt pretty good. Imagine the opposite of a massage, where instead of pressing on the muscles that need work, the suction lifts the facia in that area, promoting blood flow.
Next, Juliana pulled out another surprise element in the treatment…ear seeds! Similar to acupressure, ear seed treatment starts by placing tiny stainless steel balls on certain points on the ear. The seeds stick to the ear with a clear adhesive. Much like the mapping of foot reflexology, the ear is a central microsystem to the rest of the body. The TCM practice provides gentle stimulation to certain areas around the ear and the treatment is said to reduce anxiety and tension in the body, and helps clear up qi blockages. The best part is that the adhesive seeds will stay stuck in place to my ears for the next 3-5 days, allowing me to press on the pressure points if I am ever experiencing tension or anxiety. Like the gift that keeps on giving, this is the treatment that keeps on treating.
"During the ear seed treatment, I could feel the energy flowing down my back, through each arm, and down to my fingertips on both hands."
When the 90-minutes were over, I was left to slowly reenergize and bring attention back to my breath. Still laying down, I finally opened my eyes, I turned over and looked out to the window to see the volcanos hugging Lake Atitlan. It was a powerful and humbling reminder that I have the opportunity to explore the lake and all of the beautiful wellness treatments the region has to offer. I slowly got up, redressed, and drank one last cup of tea, while making a mental note to find star anise at the health food store so I could try to make the tea at home.
As I reflect now on the experience, I am so grateful for the benevolence and knowledge that Juliana shared. The massage opened up inside of me the idea that self-care isn’t selfish, it is necessary. That we all need to prioritize our physical and emotional wellbeing so that we can be the best versions of ourselves.
48 HOURS LATER
It's been a couple of days since the session and I am excited to report that some chronic joint pain I have had in my fingers feels less rigid today. I have an increased range of motion in the knuckles. This is a very exciting and promising outcome that I had not anticipated since I had originally booked the massage appointment with the hopes of reducing the tension in my neck and shoulders. I'd like to believe that the feeling of energy that I experienced during the ear sedding treatment was the catalyst.
I am drinking a ton of water, as instructed by Juliana, but I am still on the hunt for star anise. (If you know where I can find it at the lake, message me on Instagram!)
"One of the BEST massage experiences I have EVER had. I can't wait to go back to see Juliana."
To book an appointment with Juliana at the East West Center Atitlán, visit their Facebook page and message them directly.
Ear seed treatment photography by Cody Guilfoyle