My philosophy to Bodywork.
Awareness and Touch
Massage therapy helps people. Anyone who has received a massage can agree that there is something about it that just feels good. Research says that massage can reduce pain, lower muscle tension, lower blood pressure, decrease stress and anxiety, promote circulation, and more... A lot has been written about massage’s benefits but there has been limited discussion on why or how it actually works. This essay proposes a hypothesis to the following question: What does Massage do and why does it work?
Have you ever given a massage and have the recipient say, “Wow, I didn’t realize how sore that spot is.” In that phrase lies the heart of my hypothesis, that: 1) Discomfort/Illness occurs in the places of our body that have lost awareness, and 2) Massage is beneficial because it brings awareness to unaware/neglected areas. From this perspective the therapeutic value of massage is deeper than breaking apart adhesions or reducing blood pressure. I believe massage “lights up” areas of discomfort and pain. It brings awareness to a damaged area and therefore causes the nervous system to send its restorative healing mechanisms.
One may ask, “Why doesn’t the nervous system do this on its own? Isn’t that what its job is?” To answer that question I will say that, in a perfectly healthy person the nervous system does do that. The problem is the majority of us are not healthy, and hence the dis-ease, illness, pain, and stiffness of the body. Like the humming of an air-conditioner or the buzzing of a light, which we hear when first walk into a room but then forget it’s there at all, so does pain begin as something sharp and noticeable and then recede until not noticed at all.
In a healthy environment the pain is addressed and healed when it occurs, in which case the healthy body is healing itself. What happens though when pain occurs and it is not responded to? What happens when someone is put in a painful position everyday of their life and doesn’t change? Like the buzzing of a light we loose awareness of it, and hence the onset of dis-ease, stiffness, numbness, and illness. Pain is the initial signal that something is wrong, something needs to change or be fixed. When pain is no longer felt but the pain-causing-agent is still active something very bad is happening.
Eastern philosophy has the concept of “Chi”. Chi has many translations some of which are “Breath, Blood, Energy, and Awareness.” Chi is the the life force of everything. Where there is no Chi there is no life. In a healthy body there is a full circulating of Breath, Blood, Energy, and Awareness, in other words, Chi. In an unhealthy body there is an absence of circulation, or Chi. Pain in our tissue starts off as acute, then becomes dull and chronic, slowly becomes numb, and still if nothing is done then the afflicted area dies. If we stay in a pitch black cave for 2 weeks we go color-blind, after 3 months we go blind. If we don’t use it we don’t loose it. In other words, if Chi is not going to an area, if we loose unawareness and feeling shuts down, then dis-ease and death is approaching. The path towards health then means bringing awareness, or Chi, back into the areas that are being ignored.
Moshé Feldenkrais said that “Illness is ignoring the body.” He invented the FeldenKrais method which is especially interesting because of its approach to health. He thought that chronic pain is caused by a person’s moving patterns. He addressed it by having people repeat simple movements over and over which brought awareness into the movement rather than the movement’s outcome.
Bringing attention to the pain or inefficiency in a movement opens the door for a healthy change. It allows the pain signal to be felt and a regulating action to take place. Felendkrais saw his work as a re-patterning of un-healthy movements. The re-programming is able to take place by bringing awareness in actions that were before done automatically. Symbolically we can say that this process brings light to the darkness, or makes the unconscious conscious.
If we accept that awareness brings health then one can use any form of practice to do so. This may explain why Yoga, Tai Chi, Meditation, and massage all have very similar health benefits. The healing potential of all of these come from bringing awareness, or chi, back into our bodies and the places we have become shut-off from.
Massage brings awareness through touch and the triggering of awareness is the crux of healing a client. When someone says “Wow, I didn’t realize how sore that spot is,” you have helped them change. Of course bringing awareness to a broken bone will not fix it, but not being aware that your bone is broken would cause major problems. It is such a simple and obvious idea that I wonder if it is silly to repeat it. But sometimes the most obvious is hardest to see. Just as person would be seriously ill if they did not feel a broken bone, a person would also be ill if they did not feel that the way they are sitting is causing them pain or the food they eat is making them sick. A healthy body is an aware body and touch increases awareness.
Benifits of Yoga and excersize
Are you saying that movement can cause problems?”
“Yes, I am. The way that you move can cause problems. What’s more interesting is that you can be unaware that the movement is at the root of the problem.”
“What do you mean by being unaware of movement being the cause of the problem?”
“Most of us are unaware of how we move. We pay attention to where we are going or what we are doing, not to how we move. For example, think about how you stand up from sitting. How do you do it? What happens? What moves when?”
Peter stands up and sits back down a few times, saying, “I see what you mean. It is more complex than I expected. Usually, I think of standing up and then, next thing I know, I am standing. I guess I have never thought much about it before.”
“That’s what I mean. Most of us don’t think about our bodies until we experience pain or some kind of problem. But that means that we could have been moving in an inefficient or dangerous way for a long time by the time we notice something is wrong. This is one place were the saying ‘If it works, don’t fix it’ doesn’t apply.”
The Feldenkrais Method isn’t about curing or fixing people. It isn’t a medical treatment, it’s an educational approach. It’s about helping people get control back into their lives by understanding why they feel the way they do and by learning how to move differently so that they don’t have to keep feeling that way.
In traditional Chinese culture, qì (also chi or ch'i) is an active principle forming part of any living thing.Qi is frequently translated as "life energy", "life force", or "energy flow". Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts. The literal translation of "qi" is "breath", "air", or "gas". -Wikipedia
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