What is Bodywork?
New clients often comment that my style of 'massage' is unlike any other massage they have ever received. These comments are regularly expressed with a combination of bewilderment and gratitude. The gratitude comes from the great relief experienced in receiving a treatment that is genuinely effective for them. I'm told the bewilderment comes from simply not understanding, in all the years these clients have been receiving massages, that they could possibly experience something so new to them. The only answer I have is that I am not a Massage Therapist, I am a Bodyworker.
Bodywork is an umbrella for which many body based therapies intended to support not just a client's physical well-being, but also to support a client's mental, emotional and even spiritual well-being, fall within. And, like many Bodyworkers, I am trained in many different body based therapies. In all of my training and experience I have learned that Bodywork requires a level of intuition, empathy, genuine connection and collaboration with the client. That said, Bodywork creates a certain intimacy between therapist and client. An intimacy that creates a truly safe space for deep healing.
In writing this Blog I am realizing how important it is for me to communicate the specific setting of intimacy Bodywork provides. The reason for this is that in booking a Bodywork session, with myself in particular, it is good for the client to know they are not signing up for a generic, superficial or fluffy relaxation massage. My mantra helps communicate what I mean by this:
"WE CANNOT LET GO OF WHAT WE DON'T KNOW WE ARE HOLDING ON TO"
With Bodywork, it is my role to bring attention to your tension in a safe and supportive way. And, to be honest, having our tension deeply held and acknowledged is not always a very comfortable experience. For example, let's say once upon a time you injured your right shoulder and during your session we discover a pattern of protection. Your shoulder needed this protection way back when the injury occurred but because this protection has since become your shoulder's habit of moving (or not moving) problems have arisen as other areas of the body compensate. So, we work together to safely release these patterns of holding and introduce a new and healthy pattern. In introducing a new pattern, the old pattern is challenged. Depending on how deeply ingrained the old pattern has become, challenging it can be very overwhelming as change is inevitably resisted only with intention of helping you maintain the protection.
With all of the above said, Bodywork is not a passive experience, where you just lay there and I touch you and we're done. Bodywork requires you to actively receive, to be present with and to be willing to feel into places that haven't been felt for sometimes, a very long time. Your presence and willingness is what makes room for you to notice your discomfort and allow for your body to remember a healthier pattern.
When our bodies, either from physical trauma (injury), repetitive strain (work) or emotional trauma (life!), get twisted and pulled on, our minds often turn away from these places of strain simply to help us do all the things we do all day every day. Again, it is often physically, emotionally and mentally overwhelming to be present with the excess tension we are holding onto. So, you come to your friendly neighborhood Bodyworker to let all that shit go. Let it go. Deeply relax. Unwind. And, most importantly, develop the body awareness to not pick it up 2.5 seconds after finishing your treatment. This takes practice and that's ok, because you're also given fantastic tools to remember how to let it go if and when you do, because, life.
So, Bodywork. Bringing attention to your tension with the intention of letting it go. How, ultimately, do you let it go? I'd say it's by the client becoming aware of one main thing: the affects of the nervous system. What I've seen in my years of practice is that our society is stuck in what I like to call, 'doing mode'. Doing mode is when our nervous system is producing stress hormones keeping us alert and in anticipation of all what life throws at you. This doing mode is so habitual we often don't notice it's happening. We sometimes think we are relaxed while the body is still quite active, stuck in patterns of protection and anticipation.
Bodywork is a team effort whereby the Bodyworker is also ever present, holding space for the client to notice, feel and shift from from doing mode (sympathetic nervous system) to genuine relaxation and restoration (parasympathetic nervous system). With guidance and conscious practice you are literally learning to turn off the production of your own stress hormones, turning off the patterns of anticipation and protection, thereby turning on relaxation and restoration mode. A multitude of the body's natural healing processes happen when we sit in our relax and restore mode. And so, I invite you to come and learn to deeply and genuinely, let go.