I had a very interesting question from a client today. We had spent the entire session working on deep-seated trigger points in the mid-scapular region, levator scapula, upper traps, scapula, and cervical regions. His work requires him to hike into remote areas with a heavy backpack doing biological research, so his entire upper back and shoulders are problematic areas. Towards the end of the session he asked, “Are the muscles relaxing because the muscles are controlling it or is it the mind?”
Very perceptive question, right? The simplified answer is that it’s a little bit of both.
Sure, there are biomechanical processes involved in creating and releasing “tight muscles” and trigger points that our work must affect if we’re going to see positive results. However, no one really has any conscious control over those processes.
But the mind? It’s the ultimate tool that everyone can use. If your client decides (either consciously or unconsciously) that they want to resist your work, there’s no way you’re going to affect change. Once they’re able to consciously harness the power of their mind, despite the fact that it may be more than a little uncomfortable for them, you become a team working for the same goal. Then the effects are amazing! And it’s part of your job to lead them through that process.
I’ve worked on literally tens of thousands of bodies and through it all have discovered that the breath is the direct connection between the mind and the muscles. The best way to help clients work with you – and not against you – is to teach him/her to breathe with intention…to breathe into the pressure (and into the pain) and to release and “unclench” with the exhale.
Holding the breath is just the body’s instinctive way of reacting to pain, but it inhibits the process of deactivating trigger points and allowing contracted muscles to lengthen (you could also teach clients that the same goes for stretching – breathing into a stretch yields improves results with each exhale).
And it’s not just the clients’ breathing that’s important to the process – it’s up to the bodyworker to be aware of their own breathing, too. Every now and then check in with yourself and notice when you’re holding tension in your own body, especially when you work on more resistant areas. We have to breathe while we work…not only to release the tension but also to disperse the energy that results from holding that tension.
When you’re able to help clients help you – and they become an active participant in their healing – not only will you get better results, but, just as importantly, you’ll get a client for life; and that’s how you build a strong practice.
I use (and teach) a technique that is rooted in ancient Hawaii called Ha breathing. At Hawaii Bodyworkers Retreat you’ll learn all about the Ha – the breath of life – and Ha breathing as we focus on Integrated Modalities Technique, a pain management system that combines Western, Eastern, and Energetic modalities.