Amma Therapy – What's in a Lineage?

Amma Continuing The Lineage

Amma Therapy is a traditional Asian bodywork and lineage healing art, brought from Korea to the US by Tina and Dr. Robert Sohn in the early 1970s. The Amma lineage is a unique and holistic approach to bodywork. The Wellspring School for Healing Arts is the only school in the United States currently teaching Amma Therapy in its full form.

We often get the question from prospective students, clinic clients and our community at large on “What does a lineage healing art actually mean?” Good question! We thought we’d do a two-part response, asking current lineage holder and Director of Education at The Wellspring School, Rylen Feeney, for her perspective this week. Next week we will follow with Corrina Snow, Amma Therapy program graduate, practitioner and teaching assistant in the Amma Therapy Program.

Below what Rylen had to say:

What exactly does it mean to study/practice a lineage based healing art?

It means maintaining a connection to something that’s been in existence that has been studied, practiced and passed on with a sense of reverence. It isn’t just mechanical repetition of a technique. It isn’t a static skill set one learns. It is a living continuation of history and the authenticity of the modality that one engages in.

Committing to a lineage based healing art is something that one shouldn’t take lightly. When you practice a lineage based healing art, the history of the art and the truth that lineage carries comes through in your practice. It isn’t just a static skill. There is a sense of responsibility, accountability and connection in your work. You are cognizant of the long lineage of teachers that came before you. When you work, the imprint of the past is alive with the awareness of what your teacher’s teachers and those before them might have said or done. That serves as a strong guide to remaining true to the practice.

There is a living spirit within a lineage art. When you practice it isn’t just you. You are also holding space for the intentions, practices, and teachings of the past lineage holders. This makes for an intensified connection, energetically, to what you are doing. The presence of the lineage produces a magnified sense of energy and purpose. Participating in a lineage art is definitely committing to something larger than just yourself.

 What are benefits of keeping lineage alive?

Having strong, remarkable undiluted arts available for people to experience and directly benefit. When we practice techniques passed on via a mishmash of teachers and lineages the power and intention of the art is diluted. Keeping alive lineage arts is like crafting a fine wine. You continue to distill the very best from a tried and true recipe.

Chinese Medicine is so old and has withstood a lot of changes in history and the world. However, the way it’s now practiced in the United States is more fractionated and you don’t always experience what it was originally intended to be in the holistic sense. Holding a lineage art like Amma Therapy really allows the holistic origins of the approach continue.

 What are the typical steps in preserving a lineage like this?

You have to study a “standardized” curriculum in the sense that what’s being taught is consistent with what’s been taught with each generation of lineage holders before you. As you continue to study and develop, it’s important to maintain relationships with the lineage holders that came before you.

At The Wellspring School, currently the primary Amma instructors all trained with the lineage founders back East and were original students of the founders so there’s a direct connection to the lineage. Instructor notes are passed down through each generation of the lineage. We maintain that practice and subsequently don’t hire outside instructors to teach TCM.

Self-development is also an important component required to stay clear about what you bring into the practice vs. what was already there. This isn’t to say that we don’t teach things that were not part of the original art form. However, we are very clear to differentiate that which is Amma specifically and that which isn’t. Technique doesn’t make Amma Therapy. It’s the intent.

Mrs. Sohn encouraged students to do a lot of self-development. Self-development is critical in maintaining the integrity of a lineage art. And you have to practice all aspects of the art, movement, technique, etc. It’s not just theory. We specifically look for students committed to this process, who thrive in this type of environment and that are interested in continuing the lineage as teaching assistants and ultimately the next generation of teachers.

How do you hope to see alumni, teaching assistants and future instructors contribute to this process?

The tradition of the student/teacher relationship in Chinese Medicine is unique. It’s based in a hierarchy where the students dedicate themselves to the learning process without question. Students must have a beginner’s mind and accept instruction to do things that might seem inane but trust their instructor that there is a higher purpose. This natural hierarchy builds character and is integral to the consistency of any lineage.

Students who thrive in this environment are carefully vetted and selected to continue to develop their education and practice after graduation in the role of teaching assistant (TA). As a TA they shadow lead instructors and continue their learning process. They are given further guidance in their roles of practitioner as well as instructor through observation and feedback in the hopes they will continue the lineage with integrity and authenticity.


If studying the lineage based healing art of Amma Therapy appeals to you, our next program starts up October 7th, 2015. We are enrolling now. Contact us with any questions or come to one of our upcoming open houses or info sessions.

Next Open House is Tuesday, August 4th at 5:45PM.  

Amma info session: Thursday, August 20th from 12:00-1:00PM.

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