Thursday, July 31, 2014

Making Connection

A client told me this week, "You seem to know exactly what my body needs.  How is that possible?"
I told her, "Massage is very much like a dance.  I make connection and your body opens to receive.  If I am paying attention to your body's response, I will adjust pressure, pace, and focus in sync with you.  So we dance, we move, we breathe together." 
Sometimes, massage is an introduction to the body-mind feedback loop, one in which the therapist plays the part of compassionate facilitator.  Through touch, we become aware of our body in a new way, maybe for the first time.  We are in our body. 
So what does that mean, to be in your body?
Being in your body means being present in this moment, aware of the space you fill, aware of yourself in relation to your surroundings and to others in your vicinity, and engaged in the current situation.  So in the case of my massage client, she was in her body.  And she felt the connection.
Once you feel this connection in your body, it is difficult to forget.  And, like anything else, maintaining the feeling of connectedness takes practice.  Some activities to help you maintain connection are:
  • Breath Awareness
  • Walking barefoot 
  • Yoga
  • Massage
  • Dance
Really any activity that is performed with your full presence activates the connection in your body.  You engage the body-mind feedback loop.  And in doing so, you open yourself to personal wisdom, internal guidance, and the opportunity to heal.


Monday, July 28, 2014

Body-Mind Feedback Loop

We've been exploring how the body offers wisdom, insight, connection.  As we become aware of the body's road map, subtle shifts may occur.  For instance, we may notice our breath is shallow as we are driving in traffic.  Or we may notice we are slouching at the computer.  These are examples of the bodymind feedback loop, informing through discomfort, pain, or other sensation.  Tuning in, listening, becoming aware, allow us to consciously make changes - relax our shoulders, breathe deeper and slower - which, in turn alleviates the discomfort.

As a massage therapist, I see the effects of poor posture, repetitive-use discomfort, chronically held tissues, and injuries due to ineffective feedback loops.  We are distracted.  We "push through the pain."  We numb our senses.  Our bodies are talking to us and we either don't hear, or we choose not to heed the message.  And then we wonder, usually down the road a bit, but sometimes more quickly, why we're hurting.

I've been discussing physical cues in the bodymind feedback loop.  But what about emotional cues? 

Our emotions are responses to stimuli - both external and internal - with psychophysiological, biological, and cognitive components.  Emotions influence behaviors and vice verse.  Emotions play a part in every experience, with or without our conscious awareness.

Much like the body's cues, emotional cues are rich with personal insight.  Let's try a simple experiment.

Get comfortable in your chair and take a few deep relaxed breaths.  Maybe roll your head gently side to side to relax your shoulders.

Now read the word: H A P P Y.

Say the word H A P P Y aloud and notice any sensation in your body. 

Notice any thoughts or memories that appear. 

Now breathe a few relaxed breaths.  Write down your observations.

For me, the word H A P P Y, lifts my eyebrows slightly, and raises my cheeks slightly at the corners of my mouth.  I have a sense of elevated mood.  These are subtle, but definite cues.

If I take this a step further, I sense warmth in my chest and see the color yellow, like a sunny veranda appear in my mind's eye. 

Emotional cues may fill in some of the picture that our physical cues draw.  For example, I am experiencing a tightening in my neck, causing my shoulders to raise towards my ears.  When I tune into this area, I am aware of shortened breath, a constriction of air, and slight anxiety.  I can be pretty sure that the tension in my neck is related to the constriction of breath, and the anxiety.  Now what do I do with this information?

My next post will explore pathways of using the bodymind feedback loop to begin healing and to deepen awareness.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Body-Mind: Exploring the Breath

My previous blog post took you through a brief body-mind awareness exercise.  It was an introduction to a deeper level of perception.    You may have noticed sensation, pain, shifts in breath, blocks, or any number of thoughts or feelings as you participated in the exercise.  Try the same exercise with another area of your body and notice what is similar, what is different.  Perhaps during the time since you first did the awareness exercise, your awareness of your feet spontaneously came to mind.  This is what happens when we start to look, listen, and observe.  We notice all kinds of things that previously went unnoticed.


Practicing body-mind awareness helps us “tune in” to our own experience, to our body, to our thoughts and feelings, and to our relationship to our surroundings.  It gives internal knowledge of our own experience.   This is wisdom in its purest sense – knowledge gained through experience.    And who better to be the expert of you, than you?


Let’s take a moment to tune in.  This time, as you breathe in, follow your breath into your body, into your lungs.  Does the breath enter through your nose?  Through your mouth?  Both? Is the exhalation the same?


Breathe in again and notice where your breath goes.  How far does the breath go in?  Is the pathway open and clear?  Or is the air restricted anywhere?  As you exhale, what do you notice? 


Allow yourself to just observe your breath in, and out for several cycles. 

Jot down your observations.  Remember to include sensations, thoughts, feelings, memories.


Next week, we’ll explore the use of intention with the body-mind.