Few of us understand relaxation well enough to access it regularly, and at will to reverse the heightened nervous system response we call stress. That is because we have forgotten how to relax. It no longer comes naturally to us in particular when our environment is not optimized for well-being and health. And we might think that doing nothing to counter-balance stress is the same as relaxation. It is not.
Relaxation is an active engagement of mind and body. It’s not quite the same as doing nothing. But it has a lot to do with being present and feeling into and listening to your body. It has a lot to do with perception, attitude, and outlook, with tuning in. Relaxation can be learned, or better re-learned. This means you can take an active role in accessing more well-being for yourself.
Practice and consistency are key.
There are many ways to practice relaxation. Massage is one of them. While it appears to be requiring little involvement from the recipient, the body and mind are highly engaged in the experience. Once felt awareness is stimulated during a massage, once tensions can be experienced, an opening appears that allows for release which is an active body response, and deeper levels of relaxations can follow. This process can never be forced, only encouraged and supported. Massage is giving guidance, focus, direction, and motivation. Check for my availability here.
Stop judging your body, how you look, move, or feel. It does not judge you. It serves you beautifully, no matter what and only does what you ask it to do. It is time to celebrate it for that reason alone. Celebrate it for how well it responds to what you do, think and believe even though its responses might not be desired or wished for.
We all make decisions based on how we feel, and we are equally good at ignoring our body, overriding the subtle signals that ask us to stop, to start, to rest, or to do it again. The answers we seek are all there. Our body has them. And it’s not what our culture tells us. We ought to acknowledge that our cultural programming is strong. The voices out there are often confusing. Eat this, eat that, move this way or that. All we have though is our body and the way it listens to whatever we do. If we tune in we get all the answers we need. It is no good telling yourself off, or doing something because it is supposed to be good for you. Start by celebrating your body for what it is, beautifully serving you, always, and then start serving it as well.
Check my availability here.
Not many people know that I have been practicing martial arts for over 20 years because it is not as relevant for anyone else but me. It has, however, influenced the way I work as a massage therapist.
What I learned in the dojo is that a relaxed body, a body that can sense its surroundings and its inner state with awareness, a body that can harness focused attention and senses the intention of others, is a very responsive body, able to go with the flow no matter what you throw at it, creating a much higher tolerance for stress.
Does that mean we all have to practice martial arts?
Not necessarily, there are many other ways and arts to foster more awareness and access wellness, massage therapy being one of them.
Like in the martial arts, massage therapy doesn’t just involve the body. It involves the mind also. It involves bringing it out of the head into the body. Since our body is constantly and quietly relaying information about how it feels, it is important that we pay attention and learn to understand what it needs.
A distracted mind, however, is not able to hear the quiet whispers of the body. So my aim is to quieten the mind, have it listen.
I will get my clients to feel their own tension, to experience their own restrictions. When we sustain that felt body awareness for a time it allows the body to respond and those restrictions will shift and dissolve, gradually.
For my availability please check here.
Are you feeling bombarded with good advice and suffer from information overload about what to do, eat and how to move, how to stick with resolutions? It is often very difficult to decide which way to turn, where to start. Unfortunately, there is no magic bullet and no quick fix to be had and good intentions are not enough. Unless we learn how to embody the change we desire nothing is going to stick. Here are some useful pointers.
Start by listening to what your body is telling you. Connect to your internal guidance by giving the body a voice. Develop the sensitivity that could be supporting you in finding what is best.
Begin by imaging what it must be like to feel great and amazing. So amazing that stress is peeling away, bouncing off you, with clarity and peace returning to your mind. Imagine feeling energised by breathing well, eating nourishing food, sleeping and resting well, moving with more purpose and awareness, feeling less discomfort and pain. Your creative and playful self starts to reawaken, with your body no longer dragging you down and restricting you. Imagine allowing yourself to relax and soften, releasing and replenishing energy that is no longer locked up in your body.
It is possible to begin by moving in the right direction even if the steps we take are small. We can re-learn how good our bodies feel, re-train our bodies to move more efficiently and free up our breathing. We can let go of reacting in a way that used to protect us from pain and injury in the past but no longer serves us. Remedial and therapeutic massage serves as an excellent catalyst for deep healing and re-energising the whole body.
If we map out the road ahead and commit to the little steps necessary for change, we will see surprising progress. For my availabilty please check here.
In summer I attended a six-day professional training course in Lomi Lomi massage which I am now offering to all my clients. Some of you might be familiar with that type of massage and some of you might not.
Lomi-Lomi can be translated as rub-rub and is a massage practice or style that has developed out of the Hawaiian traditions and is also known as Loving Hands Massage. The deep connection and reverence for nature of the Hawaiian healing arts have created an approach that is suited to restoring the body’s natural resonance and rhythm. It works gently and yet deeply into the muscles with continuous and flowing strokes, allowing the recipient to enter a state of deep relaxation and surrender to nurturing touch. Lomi-Lomi works from the belief that memories are not just stored in the brain and mind, but also in every cell of our body. The long and continuous strokes are designed to help the body let go of its old patterns and behaviours.
Full-body and under-body strokes, as well as light stretches and joint mobilisations, are used to free up your energy flow with the intention of staying within your comfort zone. Added to that are stillness and holds which support the body with integrating the effect.
Please get in touch if you would like to know more. Check my availability here.
Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to create and stick with good habits? Sleeping, eating and moving well are key factors to leading a healthy and more fulfilled lifestyle. Knowing this, however, is not enough to motivate change.
We are becoming increasingly disconnected from our bodies when using modern technology and negotiating our man-made environment. The ability to feel into our bodily sensations is no longer required to live our lives. By becoming disconnected we literally lose sense of how we are treating our bodies.
We also lose the connection to our internal guidance that supports our decision-making, we no longer trust what we instinctively feel, we no longer trust our bodies and we have to become reliant on what others tell us. It’s easy to follow our own misguided thoughts and fears that are a product of our perceptions and past experiences, but not rooted in reality. It’s equally easy to follow all the distractions on offer and avoid our true feelings or what our bodies are trying to tell us.
We all are seeking connection but neglect to keep that important connection to our selves. How do we then re-connect with our bodies?
Re-connection can be created if we start by making a commitment to our selves, taking little steps daily, finding practices that help us to live more in our bodies rather than in the world of thought and distraction. Keeping up with a daily practice ensures a re-connection to our selves, revitalizing our bodies, our overall wellbeing and quality of life.
Check my availability here.
We acquire basic as well as new movement skills by stimulating and creating new neural pathways so that we don’t have to consciously think about how to move when a new skill is established. Once we have learned how to stand upright and walk, we know what to do without needing to think about it. Motor skills can also be lost over time when neural pathways are no longer sufficiently stimulated or required. Our tissues also adapt and create the strength and structural support necessary for movement, sometimes through shortening. Therefore we are always in the shape we are meant to be, in line with what we are asking our body to do.
It is very common for clients with lower back or hamstring issues to show inactive gluteus (buttock) muscles due to either prolonged sitting or other movement habits where those muscles are inhibited for some other reason. That is what a simple test I perform often demonstrates.
The body loses the use of this area if it hasn’t been activated well for some time. This will lead to overworking either the lower back or the thigh muscles as they have to compensate and work harder to make up for the insufficient or late activation of the glutes. In order to remedy that I will release any painful or tense areas in conjunction with prescribing exercises designed to re-activate the glutes so that balance is restored and the extra strain on the lower back and thigh is taken away.
If you want to check my availability please check here.
Some of the students on the Holistic Massage course at the Bristol College of Massage Bodywork, where I work, asked me the following question: Does massage have to hurt in order to get results? They had experienced the benefits of relaxation in massage but weren’t sure how to approach remedial work as they had received treatments in the past that were sometimes so unpleasant they felt unwell the next day and needed to recover from it. They thought that they had to create similar experiences for their clients, appeared very reluctant to work in that way but assumed it was necessary. No pain, no gain, right? Sounds like old school thinking, and it probably is, although many people have been on holiday abroad and experienced something similar or been to a Spa where there was a heavy-handed routine.
I shared my views with the students, in my opinion it is not desirable to endure high levels of discomfort when receiving massage. This is not how I work and not the kind of massage I would choose for myself. My preferred course of action is to reduce a heightened nervous system response before moving on to more focused work where it is needed. When body tissues are in a temporal or chronic state of excitement or stress, it is because they are receiving an increased energetic input from the body. Initially this level of energy needs to be reduced and toned down before working on specific areas. Inviting your clients to let go via surrendering to pain is forcing relaxation in an extreme manner. It’s not a pleasant method for relaxation of the body and possibly shows a disregard to the needs of clients. There are a few people who enjoy a great deal of pressure and discomfort, which does produce results, but it isn’t really necessary. The nervous system responds more directly and with greater benefits with a subtle approach to massage. Why shout at the body when it responds to much quieter stimuli and with fewer side effects?
As a therapist I intentionally want to stimulate a new healing response in my clients and creating a level of inflammation in tissues that have become stuck is part of that. The level of inflammation, however, does not have to be very high to be effective and experiencing soreness is not required. I work by fine-tuning the level of discomfort with my clients when focusing on responsive areas.
I work with an approach that allows my clients to feel their tissues without pain or suffering, experiencing the point of release, slowly and gently without force and which is often accompanied by a feeling of lightness and ease as well as an increased range of movement in the body.
If you want to check out my availability, please do so here.
When meeting new people, after a few laughs and shared stories the conversation will often end up with the question of what I do for a living.
One line that I’ve used in the past is that I fix people. If that arouses interest, I build on that momentum.
For a start, I don’t actually fix anyone. Remedial massage facilitates a process by which my clients have a good chance of tuning in and experiencing a change in their bodies. Even if those changes are temporary at the beginning, they can become the motivation for more changes later down the line, particularly if the issues are of a more chronic nature.
My remedial work is based on the anatomical understanding that the body is one interconnected unit and that when one part moves the whole body is responding. One of the main structures of the body to allow for this interconnectedness is the fascia, a type of connective tissue. It’s this tissue that holds absolutely everything in place as it wraps around individual muscle fibres, muscles, organs and bones. Any movement restrictions, aches and pains can often be traced back to changes in the fascia, which over time can become immobile.
Where fascia is not able to slide and glide freely, increased tension can be felt in that region and the normal flow of energy is interrupted. This can lead to pain and dysfunction over time and my remedial work focuses on those areas.
The Fascia and the nervous system are responding to mechanical forces when we move and they work to integrate the loads placed on our body. This responsiveness can be used intentionally in massage therapy by locking into the identified areas of tissue and waiting for a gradual release, which is triggered by the brain when discomfort or pain is felt.
When the body is stimulated through remedial massage it begins a healing process in areas of soft tissue inflammation, creating another response when the body might be stuck in an inflammatory feedback loop.
The re-introduction of movement and the separation of tissue layers that have become stuck allows for more blood and nutrients to feed the tissues, increasing the flow in the body leading to more movement and less discomfort.
A sense of release and lightness can be felt immediately after a remedial session.
Further changes can be experienced up to 3 days after treatment.
These are the first steps in the process of recovery and healing and to sustain any gains, changes in movement and postural habits need to be considered too.