The best way to have a good understanding for what Bodywork is, is to have a good understanding of what your body is. Your body is a complex matrix of organized systems interacting with your conscious and unconscious mind. Your body is both physical and energetic and so your body systems are both physical and energetic. There is even a system connecting your physical systems with your energy systems!
Picture the simplest water system, a garden hose. Water flows from a main source and travels evenly through the hose unless it is otherwise obstructed, until it comes out the other end. Any kind of obstruction will affect the waterís flow. A large obstruction reduces the flow substantially, a small obstruction, not so much. But if you picture the hose with varying widths along its length, some very narrow, and some very wide, then you might be able to see how a small obstruction, if located in a very narrow part of the hose, might cause just as much fuss as a large obstruction would in a wider area of the hose.
The various systems of the body are far more complex than a simple garden hose, but only because they have more moving parts and more areas where obstructions can emerge. Body-handling systems (a term used for the various forms of bodywork) seek to reduce obstructions within whatever systems they are designed to reach, since reducing obstructions provides for an overall healthier sense of well-being.
The second thing to understand, behind everything that goes on in our body, is that our body is designed to heal itself and that all body-handling systems rely on this innate body wisdom for complete recovery. Receiving bodywork is step one. Watching our body continue to heal past the actual bodywork session, is the very important step two.
It is also good to note that for this very reason, it is best to wait a few days between bodywork sessions, so that you give the body enough time to respond to its new state and to integrate the shifts in structure and consciousness that may have taken place. There are exceptions to this rule, and if a practitioner suggests you do bodywork two or more days in a row, just ask them to explain to you why that is preferred. There is so much to learn in this area, you should take the opportunity to understand all you can. Any good bodywork practitioner will be happy to share this kind of information with you - so donít hesitate to ask!
When you are touched, information rises from the unconscious elements of your life into your conscious mind. It may arise in a feeling or a response, or perhaps the recall of old memories and sensations, but whatever you find happening to you, embrace and welcome the occurrence. Sometimes a good session of bodywork will cause us to release a sensation that we have been holding onto all week. At other times it might reveal a sensation that we have been holding onto all of our life. A tremendous resource of the body is that it can give us such a gift as to lift from our sleeping tissues old traumas and allow us simply to watch them wash away.
It is not unusual or unexpected to have emotional releases during seemingly uneventful bodywork sessions. It is for this reason that I believe bodywork is one of the best methods for raising awareness. If you embrace these moments of awareness and memory, when they happen to you, as answers to your unspoken prayers, you will find yourself in a whole new world of sensation and consciousness without having done a thing but lay there and receive. There are not too many areas in life where the experience is so luxurious and the benefits so life-transforming.
Swedish & Deep Tissue Massage
Massage is a bodywork modality designed to affect, among others, the muscular system and circulatory system of the body. By using the hands to knead the flesh, the muscles are released of tension-grabbing signals that the brain is giving off, as well as cleansed of lactic acid and other toxins which build up in muscles, making them stiff and hard.
I remember once receiving a massage as a demonstration for the Swedish massage technique, Petrosage. Effluerage, another staple of Swedish massage, is a long flowing stroke designed to sooth the nervous system and increase circulation. Petrosage is a kneading technique achieved through the movement of the hands, primarily the thumbs, going back and forth together over the body, lifting and kneading the muscles. For the purpose of the demonstration, Petrosage was the only stroke used, for a full hour, over my entire body!
At that time, I had received a few massages in my life, but I had never experienced anything like this. It was as if my every muscle was squeezed of all the old toxins and replenished with a fresh, new, super-nourished blood supply. I was so affected, so stimulated and transformed, I did not eat for three days, and drank only water. My energy was so alert, my mind so very active, as I had never known it before.
When the three days were over, I went back to the instructor to ask her if she would do it again for me! Though the dramatic effect was not to be repeated, I would never again underestimate the potential, purpose and effects of a good massage.
The difference between Swedish Massage and Deep Tissue Massage is one of pressure and intention. A trained Deep Tissue therapist has an in-depth knowledge of the bodyís musculo-skeletal system and an intention to work deep into the belly of the muscles for the purpose of tension and stress relief. Deep Tissue therapists tend to be strong and confident in their techniques, with a clear purpose of effecting noticeable change in the shape and texture of not only the surface muscles of the body, but the deep layers of musculature often responsible for holding patterns of stress and imbalance.
Swedish and Deep Tissue Massage are usually done on a massage table, with the client fully disrobed. Practitioners take a whole class in sheet draping so as to ensure a physical sense of safety and comfort. Prices range from $50 to $150 dollars, for a 1 to 1-1/2 hour session. Health Spas range from $50 to $75 per hour, house calls from $75 to $150 per session, and fees for practitioners with home practices usually range from about $75 to $100 per hour.
In the muscular system we also meet fascia. Fascia is a sheath of tissue which wraps us from head to toe, in and around everything in the body including our muscles, ligaments, tendons and organs. If you handle red meat products you may have noticed this thin film wrapping through cuts of meat.
Fascia plays a big role in how and why body-handling systems can affect us so strongly. Ida Rolf perfected the art of affecting fascia, and applied it to an in-depth understanding of structural integration - that is to say, how our body aligns with itself for the optimum well being of our particular person. She recognized that the bodyís structure could be profoundly affected if the fascia could be returned to its natural supple state.
The technique of Rolfing focuses on the physical body, sensing the muscle and fascia and applying pressure precisely to the places the fascia needs to be released, while ensuring that all stress points relevant to the area also be addressed - in this light, the body is seen as a whole system, with structural balance.
Many people talk about Rolfing as a painful technique, but as the years have passed, most Rolfers have found ways to stay in good communication with their clients allowing the client to guide the depth and speed of touch the Rolfer uses.
At its heart, Rolfing addresses structural imbalances. It is excellent for sports injuries, chronic physical pain and restrictions, and the breaking down of scar tissue.
During a Rolfing session clients usually dress in their underwear only, with draping used primarily for warmth. Rolfers can be readily found in private practices and alternative health clinics. Prices range from $100 to $150 per 1 hour session and many practitioners in the field of Rolfing also work in conjunction with Physical Therapy clinics or Physician practices so as to take advantage of health insurance coverage. So, it might be worth researching, if your injury is covered by medical insurance.
A gentler approach to the release of fascia in the body is Cranio-Sacral Therapy. The sheath that covers every muscle and organ also wraps the spine and cranium, at which point it is called the Dural Tube. The dural tube is filled with a fluid called the cerebral-spinal fluid, and a trained practitioner can feel the pulse of the fluid as it pumps from the base of the spine to the crown of the head. Since the fascia is wrapped over every muscle and around each organ, this pulse echoes throughout the body. In fact, our entire layer of skin meets up with one layer of fascia so there is no where you can go in the body where the fascia will not be.
The purpose of Cranio-Sacral Therapy is to unwind the emotional memory and to restore proper flow of cerebral-spinal fluid throughout the body. Also related to Myofascial release, this kind of work can gently relax tensed muscles. It is for many practitioners a vital component of overall health and well being.
It is common to find practitioners with some background of Cranio-Sacral work. They will often begin and end with this technique while using another modality for the backbone of the session (pardon the pun!). One of the best Rolfers I know, combines his Soft-Rolfing practice with Cranio-Sacral work and many Osteopaths use it as a staple of their work, as it was a discovery of Osteopathic Physician Dr. William Garner Sutherland about 100 years ago. It is a wonderfully gentle, yet powerfully effecting bodywork therapy.
Cranio-Sacral work is practiced on a table with the client fully clothed. The experience of this work, most notably, is to feel gentle hands caressing your head and spine. Common to this experience is a sensation of gentle rocking, mimicking the pulse of the cerebral-spinal fluid. Prices can vary widely since many practitioners are either physicians, or combine their practice with another modality, but expect to pay upwards of $80 per session.
The Energy System
Now we come to the energy body. Eastern Medicine recognizes the energy body as a system of 14 meridian lines, or energy pathways, running vertically from the top of the head to the tips of the fingers and toes. Along these energy pathways are hundreds of little places of energy resource called Tsubos (the T is silent). All forms of accupressure and acupuncture, study and respond to the energy movement of the whole person by stimulating the tsubos.
What is most fascinating about Eastern and Western body-handling systems is that if you look to the physical structure, where the bones curve and where muscles and bones attach and intersect with each other, you will find direct correlations to the locations of the tsubos as mapped along the meridian lines. More and more, East meets West, as we open our minds to the reality of the interaction between physical and energetic structure.
Because of this interactivity between the physical body and the energy body, Shiatsu is a wonderfully medicinal form of bodywork, leaving the client with a sense of deep physical stimulation and, as a result relaxation, while at the same time producing a gentle sense of overall well-being.
Shiatsu in its original form is practiced on the floor, with the client fully clothed and the practitioner using all manner of techniques to stimulate and effect the energy system of the client. The classic images of a small Japanese woman crawling on the floor, resting elbows along the spine, leaning into the legs and arms of the patientís body, walking on their backs, is the history and origin of this age old body-handling system, known as Shiatsu.
But donít be fooled by these stereotypical images, for your practitioner may well be a six foot tall middle aged man, but your experience can and should still be just as deeply relaxing. Sessions run 1 to 1 1/2 hours, from $70 to $120 and practitioners can be found in private practices and Eastern or Alternative Health Clinics.
Many Westerners also perform Shiatsu-Massage, using the theory and techniques of Shiatsu and adapting them to a more classic massage style by having clients disrobed, using draping and massage oil, but still keeping their main focus and intention on the meridian lines and the stimulation and release of the energy points, tsubos. These therapists can often be found in spas and health clubs, for they usually adapt this technique to blend their style into the practical needs of a massage club. The best thing to do when you get a massage from any health club or spa is to ask at the time you book the massage, what style the therapist uses.
Shiatsu-Massage can be a terrific blend of East meets West, and I highly recommend it.
As a long time bodyworker myself, Zero Balancing was my modality of choice. Working on the interface of the physical body and the energetic body, Zero Balancing focuses its attention on the energy of the bone - the place where it is said the energy body connects most palpably to the physical structure.
Returning to our watering system analogy, imagine an open brook running through a field. The places where the brook bends create little surges of water, as the fluid rushes from one direction to the next over rocks and around curves. If you have a pile of leaves caught along the bends of the brook, water will rush up the leaves and may create an even larger force of movement. In some cases, flow will be blocked by the leaves, severely restricting water movement.
To the Zero Balancer, the energy movement in the bone is much like the movement of water in the brook. The Zero Balancerís intention is to remove the leaves and dirt. The effect being a clean, clear flow of energy through the skeletal system, which in turn has a direct effect on the muscles, tendons and ligaments, because tendons connect muscle to bone, and ligaments connect bone to bone. The result is a noticeable increase in joint mobility and a decrease of physical pain.
This same increase of energy flow brings awareness to two types of tiny joints in the body: facets joints, which run along the spine, and foundation joints, the collection of small bones found in your ankles in wrists. The effects of increased energy flowing through these areas of the body has a profound and long term effect on range of motion and the reduction of physical pain, well beyond what muscle releasing alone can bring.
In addition to bringing added mobility to these tiny joints, it also greatly increases stability. People often report a reduced need for Chiropractic adjustments after getting into a regular practice of Zero Balancing.
More than any other body-handling system, Zero Balancing respects the bodyís wisdom to self correct and heal. So pay close attention to your bodyís transformation for several days following a Zero Balancing session. Due to the work in the unconscious musculature, mental, emotional and psychological patterns are also greatly effected, so it is always good to pay attention to your dreams after a session.
There is a wide range of experiences to be had with Zero Balancing Practitioners, since some will stay more closely to the energetic side of the practice, while others are drawn to lean more toward the physical. Neither way is better. The benefits are as strong, with whichever leaning the practitioner might have. So, feel confident experiencing the differences for yourself.
Sessions are done fully clothed, on a massage table, with the practitioner scooping under the body and pressing up. They run from 30 to 40 minutes, if not combined with any other modality, and fees range from $60 to $100. Bodyworkers combining Zero Balancing with other modalities, such as aromatherapy or massage, will take their sessions into hour long treatments.
© Copyright 2002 KD Farris, Ph.D.. All Rights Reserved.
Read KD's Past Columns:
March 2002 - "Being Present Within Your Prosperous Life"
February 2002 - "HESHE and The Third Bird"
December 2001 - "Manifesting Your Perfect Partner with Personal Truthz"
November 2001 - "Remembering What We Already Know"
September 2001 - "Be Led By What You Are Trying to Avoid"
August 2001 - "Draw Your Way to Clarity, Health & Balance"
June 2001 - "Tending to the Negative Mind"
May 2001 - "Gentle Conscious Living"
April 2001 - "MISON and The Moment"
March 2001 - "The MESHE Concept - A Path to Soulful Living"
KD Farris, Ph.D. is a successful counselor, healer, and bodyworker. For more than twenty years she has taught
extensive workshops based on MESHE, HESHE, MISON & ORBIT as well as many other self-discovery topics.
KD began developing her integrated bodywork and counseling techniques in 1983 under the tutelage of many prominent doctors and healers throughout the United States.
Her education into the spiritual and physical aspects of the human experience served as the foundation for her private practice and the development of a new philosophy. She combined her techniques into four guiding principles, which she shares in her book, MESHE, HESHE,
MISON & ORBIT: What My Grandmother Taught Me About the Universe. She teaches a companion workshop series, where she creates an interactive environment demonstrating the material from her book with tangible, life altering effects. In these workshops, individuals discover a
deepening of their relationship to self, others, and life itself.
Through individual counseling and group workshops, she has taught her results-oriented programs to many different types of people including those confined to mental institutions, substance and food abusers, and generally, people in life transitions, struggling with intimate
relationships, or who lack direction in their lives. Visit www.kdfarris.com.
KD is currently touring a new body of work, Talking About People in Transition, Also Known As
Liminal Space. She will be writing about liminality and its relevance to day-to-day living in upcoming issues of Soulful Living. For more information on this new and exciting topic, or to learn about more her private practice, workshops and lectures, visit
Contact KD at: info@MESHE.com