A couple of years back Roushan Ara Begum could not even imagine walking from one room to another without assitance, let alone attend to the tasks of everyday life. Her food would be brought to her bed, she could not articulate her thoughts, the phone was off-limits, she even needed help eating her meals. This ordeal was too much to bear for the once active Roushan, who cherished living life on her own terms, doing the things she loved doing without having to depend on anyone.
“My life had come to a standstill. I couldn't even move my fingers and my thoughts were a jumbled mess in my head,” says Roushan, a celebrated dance choreographer.
Roushan Ara, 60, was diagnosed with cancer around five years back and was recommended radiation treatment to lower the risk of a relapse. The severe side-effects of the treatment confined her to the bed, attacking every organ of her body, making each day a struggle for the once vivacious dancer and social activist.
It was then that an acquaintance suggested that she try acupressure, an alternative, natural form of treatment. He gave her the contact details of noted acupressure practitioner, Sagar Sagir who could help her understand and adapt this technique in her everyday life. She started experiencing the difference in her body within days.
“I had met Sagir during an event before but had forgotten all about him. This second meeting, around a year back, proved to be a blessing in disguise for me, as I had given up all hopes of ever recovering my health by then,” says Roushan.
With the help of her husband, she practices acupressure at least twice everyday and swears by its effects. She is able to stand on her feet now, attend meetings and has even been able to reduce the dosage of her strong medicines to a bare minimum. Slowly but quite steadily Roushan is being able to get her life back on track.
The human body has a natural ability to heal itself. Hands were the original therapeutic tools used as treatment by early human beings. Even today, we instinctively start massaging the places in our bodies that ache or hurt. Be it a stomach cramp or a sprained ankle, we find our hands applying pressure on the painful spot for some relief. This is the reason why acupressure is termed as the “original healing therapy installed in our consciousness” by most acupressurists.
Even though it has been in practice in ancient civilizations like India, China, Egypt and South America for thousands of years, this natural healing practice has only gained widespread recognition in recent years. Most people in Bangladesh don't even know that such practice of healing exists and many still confuse this healing practice with acupuncture, a more invasive form of alternative medicine.
The body has several pressure points corresponding to the different organs of the body. Photos Courtesy: Sagar Sagir
Acupuncture or Acupressure?
While acupuncture uses thin needles in treating health concerns, acupressure doesn't break the skin for treatment. Acupressure is actually much older than acupuncture, dating back to around 5000 years ago, possibly in India. In the Sanskrit epic 'Mahabharata', sage Bhishma is said to have lain still on a bed of arrows for half a year. This can be seen as a practical example of acupressure, according to renowned Indian acupressurist Devendra Vora.
Acupuncture and acupressure use the same pressure points and meridians that carry energy or chi throughout the body. Treatment in both these methods depends on the bio-electricity generated within human bodies; both acupuncture and acupressure motivate energy to flow freely within different parts of the body, thus contributing in relieving pain and eliminating harmful toxins from your body.
Acupuncture must be performed under the careful supervision of an experienced practitioner as it requires the insertion of needles at different pressure points in the body, thus manipulating the points to promote the human body's natural ability to heal itself. Acupressure, on the other hand, can easily be learnt from training and then applied by following a handbook. Anyone can perform acupressure on themselves by applying pressure on the specified spot with your fingers.
Equipments used in acupressure treatment.
How Does Acupressure Work?
Every human being comes with an in-built flow of bio-electricity that acts as our vital force from the time of our birth till the moment we die. Bio-electricity runs from our fingers through the rest of the body until it reaches our feet. Meridian lines or the channels through which bio-electricity flows often get blocked when we fall ill or are afflicted with diseases. The natural healing process of acupressure helps in releasing the blocked energy, thus relieving us of the pain and discomfort we've been suffering.
Using the power of the hand, acupressure can help relieve people from stress-related ailments, as it releases tension by increasing circulation thereby leading to a healthier mind and body.
The different pressure points on the sole of the feet.
Acupressure can also be used to diagnose your ailments. When you start acupressure, you apply pressure to various points on your hands and feet. Each point can be directly linked to an organ of the body. When you find some points to be very painful, you can understand that the organs that the points correspond to are in trouble.
“The pain will start to lessen very quickly if these points are pressed daily,” says acupressurist Sagar Sagir. “This means that the organs or glands that they correspond to have started the healing process. When we press these points, toxins are being released from these organs or nerves and these then accumulate in the kidneys. Thus, it's very important that everyone doing acupressure must press the kidney points last, in order to eliminate all the toxins released from pressing the other points.”
Acupressure can be carried out with the help of your fingers or by using a blunt stick. You will also find acupressure equipments such as the Bongojo stick, the hand roller, the foot roller and the Mongol stick at Acupressure Service Centre in Purana Paltan.
“The equipment doesn't matter as long as we find the correct location of our pressure points by being aware of the pain in the point being pressed. We just need to be careful in doing it in a way that feels correct to us,” says Sagir.
Does Acupressure Really Work?
Dr Abul Azad was restricted to his hospital bed for around five months after his heart surgery. The surgery had brought about several other complications in his body; he had trouble breathing, couldn't move about due to acute muscle aches, would complain of constant headaches. Overwrought with agonizing pain, Dr Azad finally decided that he would rather end his life than die a slow, painful death.
As if on cue, just when Azad had made up his mind to take his life, a friend brought acupressurist Sagar Sagir to his bedside who advised him to give acupressure a try. Taking this as a last resort and skeptical of its results, Dr Azad started to follow the guidelines set by Sagir. He soon began to see a drastic change in his health and began to implement acupressure in the everyday routine of his life.
“I've found a new lease on life. I'm leading a healthy lifestyle, thinking positive thoughts, practicing acupressure regularly; the changes are visible to all. I have been able to get rid of ten ailments like breathing problems, muscle aches, piles, insomnia, etc, all thanks to acupressure,” says Dr Azad, a Deputy Registrar at Jahangirnagar University.
Lutfur Nahar Nazma, 56, claims that her ailments could not be diagnosed by any doctor or medical institute. Nazma suffered from water retention in her hands and feet but didn't find any relief from her pain for a very long. Apart from that, Nazma also had high blood pressure and chronic back pain for 15 long years and was dependent on a number of medicines to help her get by.
After her ailments went undiagnosed and untreated in her native Rangpur, Nazma was referred to Bangladesh Medical College in Dhaka. Unable to detect what was wrong with her body, she was sent to the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University but even that didn't yield any results.
At the suggestion of a friend, Nazma visited the Society for Bongojo Shachikisha Proibar (BSP), an organisation that promoted the self-healing practice of acupressure. She felt inspired by the various success stories she heard there and began a 40-day treatment in the organisation. She even asked to be included in the self-training course, which would help her self-administer acupressure techniques on herself and her family members. Along with her husband and children, Nazma is now an active volunteer and consultant at the BSP.
A study at the Institute of Preventive Medicine at the National Taiwan University in Taipei showed an 89 percent reduction in significant disability in those treated with acupressure compared with those treated with physical therapy.
Another research conducted in the University of Portsmouth in UK show that acupressure as a treatment for acute pain could be as effective as painkillers. The research suggests that acupressure can usefully complement conventional treatments for conditions like osteoarthritis, cancer and other diseases associated with pain. The study further showed that receiving acupressure or reflexology resulted in about 40 percent less pain while the ability to withstand pain lasted for about 45 percent longer.
The Poor Man's Treatment
Even as treatments and methods of diagnosis are advancing over time, people are going back to ancient forms of treatment in hope for a healthier life without having to depend on expensive medicines and inaccessible techniques. The beauty of acupressure is that we can practice it in the comfort of our homes, without having to spend big bucks on the treatment. As National Professor Dr Nurul Islam says, “Acupressure is a great benefit to us all in the sense that with a minimum of instructions we can treat ourselves expertly. For this to happen all we need is a desire to heal ourselves.”
The Expert Talks
Sagar Sagir, Photo: Ridwan Adid Rupon
Any conversation regarding the growing demand of acupressure in Bangladesh would be incomplete without the mention of Sagar Sagir. He has been instrumental in popularising this natural form of self-treatment in Bangladesh and can boast of a long list of clientele who swear by him. Interestingly, Saghir began his career as a journalist before he switched gears to devote all his time to the practice of acupressure.
Like all other patients of acupressure, Sagir also came by this form of treatment when he had almost given up on life. He was suffering from a list of ailments, starting from low blood pressure, migraine, spondylitis, acute stomach aches, etc. Doctors were unable to diagnose what was wrong with him while his health kept getting worse everyday. Sagir's colleagues were also quite worried about his deteriorating condition. With their help, he managed to collect enough funds to travel to Kolkata to seek treatment there. But the treatment he received there was also unsatisfactory.
“I happened to visit a book store in Kolkata and came by a book on acupressure called 'Health In Your Hands' by Devendra Vora. I was quite sceptical about the claims made in this book but the shopkeeper insisted that I purchase it, stating that I would definitely see the difference in my health. On my way to Dhaka, I experienced a sharp pain in my stomach and in an effort to distract my mind from the pain, I decided to follow the instructions listed in the book. My pain subsided almost instantaneously.”
Following this experience, Sagir practiced acupressure on other members of his family and friends with equally good results. Over time, more and more people began to come to him in search for a cure to their ailments and he gradually began to understand that practicing acupressure was his calling.
He established and led an organisation called Shachikitsha Andolong Bangladesh in 2004. The members of the organisation, all beneficiaries of acupressure, joined it with the intention of spreading this natural healing practice all over the country. He also received training from Davendra Vora to have a better understanding of acupressure and completed his diploma course in acupressure and reflexology in Kolkata in 2005.
Only practicing acupressure will not help in ridding our body of its various ailments, says Sagir. A change in food consumption and lifestyle is a necessity if one wants to feel completely healthy. Sagir emphasises on eating early and in a slow manner, chewing the food well before swallowing. He recommends on eating in a calm frame of mind with a positive focus on the food.
You should begin your day by drinking 2 glasses of warm water every morning, says Sagir. He also recommends eating half a raw tomato before eating breakfast and having a piece of raw papaya after breakfast. Sagir says that a glass of green juice with liquidised, strained leafy green vegetables, tomatoes and carrots along with a teaspoon of honey would be ideal for the health. If you want to stay healthy, you should have dinner before 8 pm. Before sleeping, you should have warm water, fruit juice and tomato. Acupressure should be applied after you have the warm water in the morning, around 30 minutes after you have had lunch and just before you go to sleep, suggest Sagir.
“Habits around food consumption are the main cause of sickness. Negative thoughts are another cause as they lead to a toxic mind and body. Finally, complete dependence on medication is also quite dangerous,” says Sagir.
Instead of depending on others to offer us relief through acupressure, we should take the initiative to learn this method and practice it on ourselves, says Sagir. Anyone practicing acupressure on themselves will be able to identify 90 to 100 percent of the trigger or pressure points and concentrate on them. If a close relative practices acupressure on someone, 70 to 90 percent of the pressure points will be identified and pressed upon. However, if one depends on a a “professional” to administer acupressure, they will mostly be able to apply pressure only on around 40 to 70 percent of the trigger points.
Many youngsters have taken acupressure to be an easy source of earning quick money, says Sagir sadly. Even though acupressure has no side effects, many of these unskilled therapists have exerted pressure on the wrong points of the body, thus leading to discomfort in the patient's body.
“Many of my own students have only undertaken a preliminary course on the treatment before claiming to be “professional therapists.” I would advise everyone interested in acupressure to take a compulsory training on the treatment. In this way, they will at least be able to ascertain whether the professional is applying pressure on the right points or not,” says Sagir.
Sagir terms acupressure as the gift of nature, stating that the treatment was devised by sages who wanted to perfect their health and create a connection with a more divine power. Acupressure, thus, is a holistic treatment, resulting in physical, mental and spiritual cure.
Acupressure will only work when complete meditative concentration is applied on the treatment, says Sagir.
“When applying acupressure, one should be aware of the pain so that we can start to feel the curative process at work on a daily basis. We can try and maintain this awareness so that the whole process becomes a meditation of the body, mind and spirit.”
Sagir has authored 'Bangladesh-e Acuupressure-er Poth Porikroma' and a self treatment manual called 'Shochikitsha Proyogbidhi', which detail how acupressure can be practiced by oneself. They are both available at Acupressure Service Centre at Electric Plaza, Tropicana Tower in Purana Paltan.