Words like “massage” and “bodywork” are umbrella terms, meaning the potential client has no idea what they’re signing up for prior to receiving. This fact in and of itself can often be prohibitive to an individual seeking manual therapy because it’s a toss up as to whether they are investing in their own wellness or simply throwing money away as they seek to have a more optimized embodied experience. The industry of therapeutic touch is so nuanced, with each practitioner delivering their own understanding of approach, principles, and beliefs about how the body works and how best to apply their individual insight and skillset. The reasoning for people seeking bodywork is no less complex because of the differences and complications from one body to the next as well as the client’s personal agenda, goals, expectations, and needs. If we boil it way down to simplicity, we can say that most clients fall into one of two categories or a hybrid of the two. One is pain/tension remediation, and the other is relaxation/stress reduction. This is a conundrum for a lot of therapists because it means the practitioner must wear multiple hats in order to facilitate an experience that both meets or exceeds the expectations of the receiver, while also having the professional know how to address underlying issues that the client may or may not be aware of. The thing is that discomfort of any kind in the body influences the mind, emotions, and kinesthetic physiology of the whole and the inverse of that is also true, so if someone is under abundant stress, dealing with emotional overwhelm, or psycho-emotive trauma of any kind, then the body will manifest pain and/or limited performance. So it begs the overarching question:

“What makes for good treatment?”

Simply put, good treatment is that which imposes demand on the body to change while simultaneously opening the flow of energy and cultivating an awareness within the receiver of the inherent flow and vitality that has been impeded. Without getting into the technical aspects, the main benefit of good treatment is neurological rather than muscular. Bodywork results in an alchemical brewing of endorphins, hormones, and neuro-chemicals. The body itself is the cauldron and the mind and emotions are the fire so to speak. Feelings, be they proprioceptive or otherwise are what provide the relief, the reset, or the remediation. This being so, it is too reductionist to state that good bodywork is only derived from the understanding of applied neurology because touch itself is therapeutic stand alone, and of course a good bodyworker will have a practical understanding of structure and function and how to apply techniques that are beneficial to the body under their care. This is why if someone comes in with a complaint of headaches or sore and tight shoulders for example that a therapist wants to work parts of the body distal from the area that is being noticed, because more often than not the causative factors in the issue someone is aware of are not the things being noticed by the client. Even though each person is different and the reasons for their individual states of being are complex, there are also overarching truths that pertain to everybody’s body. Awareness and understanding go a long way towards supporting someone’s ability to self correct, so as an example the following is a somewhat simplified breakdown of what I commonly see and treat in session:

First off, it is the feet that have the main proprioceptive relationship to the head. This means that the head and neck’s position are directly influenced by the feet. I could write volumes on the complexity and importance of the feet, but suffice to say when the feet are under inhibited conditions, the response is to lock the legs for back up stability. When the legs are locked, the abdominal muscles can’t work properly. Long term dormancy in abdominal performance creates a whole host of issues. The most common being low back pain or tension, sore hips and glutes, and restricted quads and hamstrings. All of which will manifest their condition in the felt experience of the head, neck, and shoulders and put the spine into disfunction. Furthermore, when the abdominal muscles are underperforming, the psoas and other hip flexors are also underperforming, creating deep tension and restriction in the upper glutes (medius), as well as piriformis ( muscle from the sacrum to the hip/head of the femur), and TFL ( muscle at the top of the thigh that becomes the IT band). All this tension changes gait, performance, and one’s ability to have optimal reflex throughout their body. Over time any external stimuli is perceived as a threat to safety by the nervous system because it is over tasked with maintaining limited function instead of responding to the demands we place upon our body.

The psoas is wrapped in a sheet of connective tissue that anchors itself on the diaphragm, essentially making your hip flexors a respiratory muscle. If psoas is not firing properly, diaphragmatic breath is limited, making the muscles of the ribcage work harder so that the body can breathe. In order to do so, the neck muscles are working harder and more frequently to raise the upper ribs in order to gain more upper inspiration, or “top of the lung breathing” in order to compensate for the underperforming respiratory diaphragm. But as we have already stated, the feet influence the position of the head and neck, so the added work load placed upon that area to just simply breathe passively quickly becomes too much of a task for the building tension in the neck muscles and upper traps as a result of these conditions, essentially compressing the 11th accessory nerve when the head rolls forward and the shoulders follow. By proxy, when the head posture is forward, the chest drops creating a loss of at least 25% of upper body range of motion.

So, now the neck is locked up, the head feels stuck, the shoulders are sore, the low back hurts, the legs are tight, and overall movement becomes uncomfortable. Over time, the body collapses towards the core, the belly, in an effort to protect its vulnerable areas, add this to the fact that the learned breathing pattern is now to inhale quickly and shallowly in the center of the chest between lots of holding of the breath every time effort or endurance is called for, things become pretty dire pretty quick. All of this is tied to the condition and dysfunctional positions of the feet and ankles, which are also the main communicator of overall posture. So, when our posture is collapsed and we are breathing shallowly, we are sending the message to our nervous system that we are experiencing a threat. This is the classic trauma response as well, so essentially, even if we do not think we are dealing with a “trauma” of any kind per say, our limbic brain cannot tell the difference and we begin to exhibit indicators of being trapped in a loop of “fight, flight, or freeze” as well as the inability to think clearly, experience feeling “energized”, or sleep well in some cases. These conditions influence our circadian rhythm, our digestive responses and bowel function, our sexual performance or ability, our circulation, our lymphatic system, our immune system, our respiratory system, and our mental health. Add to that the fact that there is a reciprocal relationship of position/posture to emotion/thought, all this structural stuff is directly influential on how we feel emotionally and how we think, and/or what we believe about ourselves, which can contribute to states of depression and anxiety and also significantly lower metabolism which often results in the storage of fat and by default, weight gain. Now it is not as simple as working the feet to “fix” all of this, nor is it as simple as only working the areas of discomfort to “fix” the causative factors, in fact it’s not about “fixing” at all. I am not saying that all these conditions can be remedied by receiving bodywork, but I am saying that without the embodied self awareness and making choices to support the biological process of flow, one cannot experience themselves from a place of true wellness in spite of whatever other necessary interventions are being sought. The structural positions of the spine, ribs, and pelvis must be addressed, the muscles and other tissues must be addressed, and the nervous system must be calmed in order to create conditions that are conducive to reeducating the body and restoring an optimal sense of being and objective perspective must be supported which is often the domain of mental health professions. Things like physical therapy are sometimes necessary, chiropractic care is essential, and exercise and diet are key factors. Yet, practitioners cannot achieve lasting results or deliver relief if the position of the head and neck are not remedied, which means that the shoulders and chest must also be released, however that cannot happen until the position of the pelvis and issues of the low back and abdomen are not met first, which as discussed cannot be maintained if the feet and ankles are not restored to optimal function. As true as all of that is, “healing” is only made up of about 20% structural change (therapeutically influenced posture and performance). The remaining 80% is a matter of allowing yourself, the client, to feel, to let go of your story and beliefs or reasons about why you think you feel the way you do, to put on hold all the factors of life that perpetuate stress, grief, or difficulty, and to choose to align your energies with being present for your time on the table and instituting a practice of “ Be Here Now” whenever you catch yourself escaping into a drama or distraction that takes you away from the present moment. If you do so, the flow of energy produced by your body is then beneficially employed rather than stagnating, creating a positive association with those behaviors and their reward. If you focus on breathing and observing stimuli, you train yourself to come out of “defense” mode and begin to experience flow once again, which to bring it full circle is a self love potion of endorphins, hormones and other neuro-chemicals. So a good treatment is at its roots a partnership with your therapist, built upon trust and informed by your own volition to act in your best interest, essentially hacking your feel good states and making them available to you any time you choose to breathe consciously, think positively, and allow yourself to feel the fullness of the present moment.

Upheaval is a sudden change or disruption to the familiar 

It requires each of us to move forward with our lives in the face of uncertainty Uncertainty infers that the means and ends which lay ahead are unknowable 

It reveals control over outcomes to be illusionary 

while accepting the irresolute as reality

We can either choose to embrace the unknown or we can seek to avoid it 

but we cannot do both

In regards to Covid19 and the social influencers connected to it 

the outcomes are so far, unknowable 

The extent of risk is unknowable 

The efficacy of recommendations as well as prohibitions are unknowable 

Some seem logical, and some do not

Yet, without the passage of time and irrefutable results 

determined by exhaustive scientific research, we are left with speculation. 

It is this speculation that is currently dictating both government policy 

as well as individual sense making  

In light of this, it is understood that engaging in anything at all 

outside the safety of home is a willful subjection to risk

 Risk is inherent to life.

Quotes such as

"Fortune favors the bold"

or

"Ships are safe in the Harbor, but that's not what ships are for"

are part of our lexicon of inspiration for a reason

They offer us a middle path

a distinction between unrestrained arrogance and restrictive fear

It is a place without judgement

A place where we can decide with clarity what it is that serves our highest need

Risk is how we grow and how we challenge ourselves

to learn

understand

and make peace

with the things that initially inspired only fear and confusion  

It is with that understanding that we choose to connect and give 

and it is with that understanding that we choose to connect and receive 

Anything less will not do  

 I encourage us all from time to time to loosen the restraints of fear

and set down our bundle of beliefs

to separate that burden from our being

and allow our selves to feel the freedom

flowing within and around

of natural rhythms

of the cosmos

the human body

the spirit

to listen to a different sort of knowing perhaps

One without electricity

without internet

without headlines and soundbites

To do so is to meet ourselves anew

without the weight and masks of

identity

politics

governance

conspiracy

religion

law

Though these things do provide security for some and guidance for others

they do not provide us morality, not really

they do not provide us with freedom, not really

That is the work of Self

Leaning in to the innate

the incarnate

the sentient

the mystery of life

of existence it self

I encourage us all

to not be so sure all the time

so rigid

so righteous

I encourage us all

to seek awe

to become better acquainted with the feeling of not knowing

to acknowledge our vulnerabilities

to experience the unconditional joy of simply being

Then,

when we pick our bundle of believing back up,

may we seek information as an adventure,

as though we are embarking upon explorations of learning without an agenda

with interest instead of indignation

with wonder rather than seeking to prove or disprove

No longer obsessed with the definitive

but seeking instead to explore the space where conflicting information meets

Perhaps holding our questions with open hands

the hands of curiosity

Rather than clutching with curled fingers to answers

like a zealot with a fist

like a fanatic with a flag

so sure

they are the best

they are right

they are the chosen

When in fact there never was a competition

There never was a battle for dominion

There never was a conflict

save the ones within each of us.



We cannot be victims of emotional distress if we are allowing ourselves to fully feel the culmination of our experiences. As students of our own lives we are committed to knowing thyself. Self knowledge is the fruit of authenticity which is itself the growth initiated from the seed of vulnerability.

Did you know that in addition to treating structural imbalances, pains, and tension patterns in the muscles, ligaments, and soft tissue, that bodywork can also assist in dislodging, processing, and ultimately dissipating repressed emotions?

Allowing ourselves the experience of vulnerability in a therapeutic setting creates a safe opportunity to cease and release the repression of emotional traumas while the psyche is in a state of suggestive pliability. As ominous as that may sound to some, it simply means that if a person can enter into a state of relaxation or "rest & digest" as it is often referred to, they can feel supported, at ease, and nurtured enough to subconsciously disengage the guarding mechanisms their personal physiological make up has created to keep perceived threats at bay. Difficult emotions that are avoided can translate to our nervous system as a threat we are in need of escaping, placing us firmly in the well known realm of fight, flight, or freeze. In basic terms, we become reactive rather than responsive to external stimuli, making it extremely difficult to maintain a sense of wellbeing in our day to day lives. If left unchecked, it will manifest physically as sickness, pain, or even a visceral pathology. However, if we can feel good while allowing difficult thoughts and emotions to flow uninhibited through our body-mind, we can recode our nervous system's default programing. Recoding such conditioning can often require on going commitment in trusting the process as there is no quick fix when one confronts one's own self. It takes as long as it takes. Yet ceasing to run the program of armored guarding and reactive dissociation and choosing to change towards a practice of responsive integration and inquiry when confronted with difficult emotional experiences is transformative. Transformation via somatic and proprioceptive intervention has the potentiality to restore our sense of mental clarity and vitality in often rapid and profound ways.

Integrating previously unprocessed emotions absolves our will of the need to repress, thus enabling it to once again be of service to our present needs as well as our future hopes and dreams. When we choose to take care of our wellbeing through means of manual therapy such as bodywork and massage, we are essentially choosing to reclaim our strength. Often, we may not understand the tension and pain our body is utilizing as a means of communication, and even when we can, we may not be able to release it without assistance. To explore one's vulnerability while receiving healing touch is a powerful act. This act of empowerment is driven by the realization that self responsibility is the only way to mitigate division and propagate unity within our very being. When we choose self responsibility, we choose self care for our emotional and physical states of being, we choose to know ourselves deeper. We choose empathy and understanding by allowing ourselves to feel what we strive to ignore. We choose to be more than the sadness, fear, guilt, anger, or whatever emotion may be haunting our joyous expression of life.


We choose to know thyself and thus we choose to let go of defending ourselves against our selves.


In so doing, the fluids and energies of the body can once again flow unimpeded and restore our sense of wellbeing.


To experience the benefits of bodywork for wellbeing, visit www.soulfiresomatics.com


For some introductory comprehension around unprocessed emotion read this great article: https://www.theschooloflife.com/thebookoflife/unprocessed-emotion/?fbclid=IwAR3rl86Cl2v_Uz8UvRCH-hFm2T2kLbWB_JSpJ7VUcCEcSH417rqn6wZga3A