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This is my "blog" (web log) for my journey as a student of massage therapy and bodywork.
What is a blog?
According to Bytown internet: Blog is short for weblog. A weblog is a journal (or newsletter) that is frequently updated and intended for general public consumption. Blogs generally represent the personality of the author or the Web site.
I wanted to share with you some of the highlights from a very relaxing class that I had at The Whole You school of massage: Polarity Therapy.
First, some background. The following explanation is from: Polarity Therapy: In Introduction
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Polarity Therapy is a gentle, holistic method of treatment, applicable to many health problems and also useful in maintaining health. Central to Polarity Therapy is the concept of a life energy, which is in constant pulsation from positive to negative poles via a neutral position, creating fields and energetic lines of force. This creates an energetic "template" for the physical body. Although the life energy shares some properties with electricity, one should not follow the analogy too closely, as it has many properties which differ.
Disease is a process which occurs when the life energy is blocked or out of balance. It could be said that there is only one disease, that of disturbance of the energetic system, with different outcomes depending on the nature of the disturbance, and where it occurs. To overcome these problems Polarity therapy uses a system of gentle bodywork supported by a specific set of exercises, advice on diet and nutrition, and counseling."
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Another overview is from "Tappan's Handbook of Healing Massage Techniques":
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"Polarity therapy is a holistic health practice involving exercises, nutrition, and love, as well as gentle bodywork techniques. Polarity techniques involve simple touching and gentle movements. The practitioner always has both hands on the receiver's body, either resting them in specific places, rocking the body, or rhythmically pressing in at various depths. These touches are designed to release obstructions to the free flow of energy through the body, so that the person is supported in returning to health."
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As a student of massage therapy, my scope is on the bodywork, and during the class, I found it to be very relaxing and nurturing, for both the giver and the receiver. One principle of the school is that we need to experience as receivers all the techniques that we are taught how to give, in order to get the perspective of the receiver.
Our instructor, Sandra Tompkins, was very good and for our last exercise, we used a guided session from an audio tape, and it was so gentle, subtle and relaxing that even though the touch was very light, the relaxation was very profound.
One technique that I can apply to other modalities of bodywork is to have the intention of transmitting loving energy, caring and well being between my hands while they are touching the receiver. For example, if a knee is hurting, then I place my hands in opposite sides of the knee and I visualize "energy" going between my hands and fingers, and in my mind's voice I will ask the tissue between my hands to take as much energy as needed. This energy is not coming from me (otherwise, it will deplete my energy), but rather is a universal life energy for which my body is an antenna and amplifier. Sometimes I feel extra warmth or a tingling sensation in my hands and fingers.
Thank you for reading this note! I am sending to you my unconditional loving energy!
In February, I started my 3rd and last semester. On February 8-9, we had a great introduction of Reflexology, mostly for the feet (and a little bit for the hands and ears). I found a very good web page that has a concise and useful explanation on Reflexology:
What is reflexology?
I am quoting some parts of that web page. I need to clarify that I am not a reflexologist. I just had an introduction to the technique. I found it very very relaxing to receive a reflexology session. In fact, during our last exercise during the class, I felt so relaxed that I felt asleep and I started snoring, to the delight (not!) of my fellow students!
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What is reflexology?
Reflexology is the application of pressure, stretch and movement to the feet and hands to effect corresponding parts of the body. Reflexologists view the feet and hands as a mirror image of the body. By applying technique a reflexologist can break up patterns of stress in other parts of the body.
How does reflexology work?
There are many theories but in our approach we look at the nervous system as the explanation of reflexology's working. Pressure applied to the feet generates a signal through the peripheral nervous system. From there it enters the central nervous system where it is processed in various parts of the brain. It is then relayed to the internal organs to allocate the necessary adjustments in fuel and oxygen, Finally a response is fashioned that is sent onto the motor system. This message is feed forward to adjust the body's tone or overall tension level. If applied properly the tone will reset itself to a lower operating tempo. A lower operating tempo means a lessening of stress and less wear and tear on the body's systems.
What are the benefits of reflexology ?
In general terms the benefits of reflexology have to do with the reduction of stress. Because the feet and hands help set the tension level for the rest of the body they are an easy way to interrupt the stress signal and reset homeostasis, the body's equilibrium.
What should I expect from a reflexology session?
Reflexology sessions in general last from 30 minutes to an hour. It is a clothed session with only the removal of shoes and socks as a requirement. (Some massage therapists add it as a part of a overall massage session so they will require the removal of additional clothing.) Reflexologist will use a chair and at times a table. Some do use oil. However, this is a tool that is debated within the profession. Dry technique is common.
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Finally, on February 10-11 we had a very interesting class that talked about the "Missing Link in communication". The main idea was to learn some insights on external traits from the face of other people in order to get a better look at some emotional aspects from that person. The goal is to be able to honor the other person and not to try to manipulate the person; this was insisted quite a lot, and I understand why, because this information has the potential of being misuse, kind of a double edged sword.
Some people call this technique "personology" and there are some web sites that have more information on this subject. By the way, a search in the internet showed also a lot of material about astrology and personology and this is not the topic that we studied.
Let me give you one example: the first physical trait that we studied was the position of the eyebrows with respect to the iris. If the eyebrow is located high (away from the eye) then in general, the person is more formal and reserved, while if the eyebrow is located lower (closer to the eye), then in general, the person is more informal and a bit more open. We could use this information as massage therapists when we meet our clients for the first time: when we approach the client, we could take a quick look at their face and observe the eyebrows, and if we approach the person with the proper attitude (more formal or more informal) we could, hopefully, get a better first impression with the client, which could help in starting a good relationship.
We studied 12 traits in total. While talking about one trait (narrow vs broad face), I had a heated discussion with the presenter, and it was fascinating to later read that we both had broad face and our discussion was a prime example of the trait: directness and confidence. Wow!
I am very glad that the Cornucopia House, which is a cancer support center in Chapel Hill, ( http://cornucopiahouse.org/ ) has given me the great opportunity to serve fellow journeyers in the Wellness and Recovery journey from encounters with cancer. As part of my community service, I go to the Cornucopia House twice a month to give massages and to be able to share hope and information with people affected, directly or indirectly by cancer. I feel very fortunate that, being a 20 year survivor and thrivor (thriving is more than just surviving), I can offer hope and inspiration to people who need to see and talk with someone that has traveled a lot in this path.
Well friends, thank you for sharing with me this fascinating journey of my personal growth!
Finally I am sitting down to write my report for the last few classes at The Whole You school of massage and bodywork.
On January 5-7, 2007 we had a great introduction to Lymphatic massage for healthy people and massage for the Tempo-temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ).
Every month I get a manual lymphatic drainage massage on the left side of my body in order to help reduce the swelling that I have in my left leg, due to the several operations that I had in order to remove lymph nodes, some of which has cancerous cells (malignant melanoma). This swelling condition is called edema or more specific, lymphedema because the swelling is due to the accumulation of lymph. The lymph is nothing exoteric, it is just basically the plasma from the blood (the liquid part, without the blood cells and most large proteins) that is not inside the arteries or veins, and that surrounds the cells. In my case, the massage that I need is very specialized.
In the class, we learned a form of the lymphatic massage that is appropriate for people who do not have lymphedema. This type of massage is very gentle and it is extremely relaxing due to the rhythm and soothing effect. However, it is a powerful massage technique because it helps to mobilize the lymph from the tissues and helps to flush the waste, by-products, from the cellular activity, back into circulation with the objective of eliminating them via the kidneys or to be recycled in the liver. This means, that in some cases, patients that have a lymphatic massage may feel a bit sluggish next day because their body is processing these by-products but the next day they may feel great, because of the reduction of the by-products in their tissue.
One way that I try to explain the lymph is the following: imagine that the body is a fish tank, where the cells are represented by fish. The heart and the lungs form the pump and the aerator which moves the water around the fish and provide oxygen and remove carbon dioxide. The fish release excrement which settles in the gravel at the bottom. Well, you can visualize the lymphatic system as being the gravel (filter) and let's further imagine that beneath the gravel there is a set of tubes that take the filtered water back into the pump. Well, this set of tubes will be the lymphatic system. Thus, a lymphatic massage would be the equivalent of gently squeezing these tubes and gently stirring the gravel, which will improve the filtration and recycling.
I found in the following article in the web that explains more about the lymphatic massage. As I mentioned, it is very gentle and relaxing!
Women to Women: The lymph system and your health
We also had an introduction to the massage to help people who have problems with their jaws, specially when they are so tense that those people grind their teeth during the night, or when they cannot fully open their jaws, and this is called temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ). I found the following article that explains one massage session for TMJ disorder:
Medical Massage for Jaw and Joint Disorders
In the last class, we studied the analysis of posture and a very gentle technique that can be used to help relax a muscle that seems to be "locked" on a short position. The person to be analyzed stands up behind a plumb line, which "dissects" the body into a left side and a right side, and this helps to see the symmetry (or lack of) of some bony landmarks. For example, we could see that one shoulder was higher than the other, or that it seemed to be more forward than the other (which would indicate a rotation). We started the analysis from the feet, then the ankle, the knee, the hips, the shoulders, and we looked at the front, the back, and both sides. Then, we had to do some "detective" work in trying to figure out which muscle or group of muscles are shorter than the other.
Because muscles can contract (getting short), that is the reason for concentrating on the muscles that seemed shorter, because if we can help them relax, then they may reach a more normal length, which in turn, will help the counter-part muscles that seem to be too long, to get to a shorter, more normal length.
For example, if the neck muscles in the right side seem too short, then the neck muscles in the left side will seem too long. The strategy for correcting this condition is to concentrate in working the short muscles in the right side, because once they are released, then the muscles in the left side will get relaxed. In many cases, the patient with this condition will likely have pain on the LONG side of the neck and will ask the therapist to work on that side, and a good therapist will of course work on that side, but will explain that the shorter side (even though is not hurting) is the one that needs more attention!
I learned quite a lot in that class of postural analysis, and in many occasions, I am catching myself staring at people sometimes and trying to figure out which shoulder or hip is higher or rotated, and what muscle or group of muscles are involved, how to try to correct it, etc. This reminds me of my sister, who was trained as a dentist but who is not working as such right now, that she used to stare at the mouths of people whom she was talking and sometimes forget about the conversation because in her mind she was looking at the teeth, and thinking about the shape, what procedures she could do to fix defects, etc.
Let me tell you more about a typical session, as it was explained to us
I will need to provide a plumb line (a string with a heavy object at the bottom, hanging from the ceiling or something tall). The receiver will need to be in a swimming suit or underwear that will reveal bony landmarks, such as the vertebras of the spine, the upper part of the hips. Then the receiver stands up in front of the plumb line, and the therapist will perform the analysis and record findings for each of the 4 views (front, back, both sides). A palpation of the sacrum and coccyx may need to be done to identify if there is a forward or backward tilt of the pelvis.
Based on the observations of the bony landmarks, the most likely target muscle or group of muscles will be identified and then a bodywork session of 15 to 20 minutes will take place on the table, then back to the plumb line to see if there was a change. Sometimes, this will show the next set of muscles to work on, then back to the table for 15 minutes then back again to the plumb line. The recommendation is not to work on several muscles at the same time because we may not know which muscle was the one that was causing the major effect.
The touch is very gentle and steady. The main idea is to try to reprogram the short muscles by "making them longer" by pressing into them for several minutes. This procedure "resets" the memory of the muscle and has the potential to provide a more lasting effect than other types of bodywork.
The instructors told us that they usually recommend that the receivers be willing to throw out their old worn shoes and get new ones after a full session of postural analysis. The reason is that the old shoes will hold the memory pattern of the old posture, and if the receiver keeps using them, then it is very likely that the corrections of the posture will be lost because of the strong influence of the old pattern of the shoes.
After 30-40 minutes of doing the above procedures, a nice relaxing Swedish massage can be given to connect the body.
In my case, the main analysis indicated that my knees were a bit out (like a cowboy) and my student partner did the procedure on the muscles on the lateral/outer side of the right leg, The day after the class, I felt that my legs were more flexible and my walk seemed more smooth. For my student partner I found that the hips, knees and ankles lined up fine, but the ears and shoulders were leaning too much forward, and thus, I worked on the abdominal muscles which might be pulling down her chest and thus causing the leaning. She sent me an email few days later that her back felt much better and that she felt that she was not leaning as much. Even though the technique seems very quite, it can be powerful.
One of the instructors showed us a practical experiment to demonstrate the need to work with the muscles in a way that we start very slowly and then gently we increase the pressure little by little, which will allow the muscle to relax and eventually to accept more pressure. This is in contrast to the misconception that the muscles need to be worked hard and fast, which in most cases, just causes more tension and pain on the receiver. The experiment is very easy to perform: in the kitchen, get a cup and pour cornstarch up to the middle, then add a little bit of water and stir with a fork or spoon, add more water if needed until it becomes a paste. Once it is a paste, you can perform these 2 experiments:
1) With your index finger, try to poke fast the surface of the paste and try to get to the bottom of the cup. The result is that your finger will just bounce! Your finger will not get inside the paste!
2) Now change the speed with which the finger will get into the paste: just place gently the finger on the surface and try NOT to push it down. It is amazing that your finger will slowly sink into the paste and then you can gently increase the pressure and eventually you can touch the bottom of the cup!
I performed these experiments at home and my kids were very impressed with it. They spent half an hour playing with it!
In the class of "Visceral-Somatic" massage which consists on a better understanding of the processes that are related to pain in the body. Specifically, if some of our internal organs such as the gallbladder are congested (the gall bladder is a sac that contains bile, secreted by the liver, and located behind the lower ribs in the right side of the body), then it may have a ripple effect of discomfort on the surrounding tissue, including muscles. In turn, the muscles near the gallbladder may get tense and contract too much, which in turn may pull up the right hip, which in turn may pull up the entire right leg.
Thus, when looking a patience that seems to have a right leg that seems shorter, one possible explanation is that the gallbladder is congested and if something is done to release the congestion on the gall bladder by doing very carefully, an external compression, then the surrounding muscles may relax, which may stop the pulling on the right hip and leg. This is another interesting tool that we can add to our tool set to help address some issues related to posture and pain.
Another technique that we learned that weekend was the activation (turning ON, contracting) and deactivation (turning OFF, releasing) groups of muscles to cover all the joints of the body. The specific technique is called PNF which stands for Proprioceptive Neuromuscular Facilitation which "uses the body's natural counter-balancing neurological wiring to control muscles: when you contract a muscle (the agonist) your body automatically relaxes the opposing muscle (the antagonist). For example, when you tighten your biceps, your body automatically relaxes the triceps." This technique can be very useful for people who have conditions that due to inactivity, pain or fatigue, they do not use their muscles too much, and the technique helps increase the awareness of the capability of the muscles.
Sorry for the delay in reporting my experience during my massage class in October. I had a very interesting weekend at The Whole You school in which we explored and experienced some psychologic-somatic (mind-body) techniques to help clients to manage chronic or recurrent pain. We did not learn a manual massage technique this time, instead, we explored with our emotions and feelings and possible connections with the body in order to better understand our clients and better assist them.
The main idea is that it might be possible that a client may not be able to get sustained relief, even after trying many techniques and many sessions, unless the client explores the possible connection of stored memories, feelings or emotions with the discomfort in the body. We were reminded that we should not get deeper into this area because we do not have the proper training that psychologists or counselors have; instead, we could mention the possibility of the connection and if the client is interested in pursuing it, then the client can consult a professional in the field.
Another aspect that we explored is when a client has an emotional release during a session. For example, if a client was abused during childhood by a parent who hit the client always on the shoulders, and then during a massage session, the therapist touches the shoulders, it might be possible that the memories stored in the shoulders may surface and may be released during a session, and the client may become agitated, anxious, and may sob and cry. If we were not trained a little bit about this possibility and about some techniques on how to behave and treat the client during these situations, the therapist and the client may get into an possible awkward or embarrassing situation.
In my case, my left leg has the memory of the several operations that I had due to my encounters with cancer. Sometimes, when the left leg is touched, I may get a surge of strong emotions and I may sob and cry silently for few seconds. That release feels very cleansing to me and I get very relaxed after that.
Before this class, I had 2 actual situations in which receivers had an emotional release. My first situation was a big one and I let the receiver cry for a while, but I am afraid that I let the receiver release too much and I was not able to realize that the session needed to be kept shorter; frankly, I did not know what to do. In my second situation, the receiver had a brief surge of crying, and after few seconds of centering, the receiver told me that it felt good to do that quick release and then we continued with the session; the receiver was totally relaxed for the first time in many months and the receiver appreciated that I "held the space" and that I provided a safe environment for that expression.
Few other students and I took an additional class on Reiki, which is a modality that restores flow to the life force energy with spiritual guidance, where there is just a gentle placing of the hands on certain areas of the body. The receiver sometimes can be a lot of warmth coming from the hands of the giver.
Well friends, I appreciate very much the opportunity that some of you give me to practice some of the skills that I am learning!
Angel Cellular: 744-8081
I had a very good time during my 2nd class last weekend at The Whole You school of massage. The topic was an introduction to "neuromuscular massage therapy" and we had to try the techniques that we learned on a partner student. I am including a reference to an article at the bottom of this email that explains more this modality: "Neuromuscular massage therapy".
I want to share a personal experience during the class. One of my receivers had a discomfort in one of the hips and had to use a pillow when seating on a hard surface. After a long session using the techniques, and after feeling a release of one tight muscle, she felt relieved and she was able to seat without the pillow and having not discomfort. It felt so nice that I was able to facilitate the healing! Wow!
During my massage sessions, I am noticing that I am trusting my intuition more and more, and adjusting my touch and pressure as needed. Sometimes I find tender spots that the receiver was not even aware of those spots or that they were very sore.
I like very much giving massages and it is difficult for me to have short sessions, because I get so concentrated that I am not aware of the passing of the time. Most of the time I feel relaxed and energized at the same time at the end of a session. I keep also in mind that the massage session is a two way channel, because as a giver of a massage, I also receive from the receiver.
I would like to share with you, some products that I use and that I like. I do not have any financial interest on the companies, and thus, there is no conflict of interest.
http://www.earthlygood.com/ Earthly Good. It offers a line of organic and natural body care products. I am using the Lymflo blend of massage oil, for his self-massage for manual lymphatic drainage; also, I am using a massage oil blend with Grapefruit aroma and a lotion with Rosemary aroma, which are very pleasant and they do not have an overpowering scent. Erika Williamson, one of the co-owners is living in Durham, NC.
http://www.jojobacompany.com/ , HobaCare from The Jojoba Company I got a recommendation from Miriam Reid, a massage therapist from Cary ( http://www.moonshadowmassage.com/ ), about using HobaCare. I have used it and I like it very much. I bought it Whole Foods. The product HobaCare is jojoba extract (pronounced ho-HO-ba). It is stable and it is not really an oil, although it feels like it; jojoba is a "liquid wax ester". HobaCare Jojoba is also non-allergenic and non-comedogenic (non-clogging), which are related to the fact that jojoba is a liquid ester molecularly comparable to the esters we produce in our skin; our sebaceous glands produce sebum, which is composed primarily of esters like jojoba.
I had a very nice beginning of my 2nd semester at The Whole You school of massage. We had a great introduction to "therapeutic medical massage" or 'clinical massage therapy", which use manual manipulation of the soft tissues to relieve specific complaints of pain and dysfunction.
We had 3 very good instructors and we also had the presence of several licensed practitioners who attended the class for the periodic Continuing Education Units and who provided a lot practical advice that we could use in our future practices.
We had the opportunity to receive massages in order for us to feel the treatment and have a better understanding of the therapy (the perspective of a receiver) and then to practice the techniques on our fellow students. We cover these areas: head and neck; feet; chest; abdomen and pelvis; spine; hips; back and shoulders. I thought that I did not have any areas that needed extra work, but I was wrong, because my body has been compensating for postural misalignments, bad habits, etc., and IT FELT SO GOOD to have some muscles being worked and released; I like it very much!
With this semester I have to formally keep track of the tons of homework: medical massage, neuromuscular therapy, viceral somatic, structural rebalancing, lymphatic drainage (with my history of Lymphedema, I am almost an expert in this one!)
If you are interested in experiencing a relaxing Swedish massage (which we learned last semester) or being a volunteer for one of the more clinically oriented modalities, please let me know! As a student, I cannot receive monetary compensation, therefore, this is a FREE massage. I have a portable massage table that I can bring to your place; well, in the Triangle area in North Carolina, smiley ;-)
Subject: Finished with first semester of massage therapy course Date: 07/26/2006 07:15:26 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time
I wanted to let you know that this past weekend I finished with my first semester of the massage therapy course at The Whole You school of massage. On Sunday we had our final exam in Anatomy and Physiology and I passed, yeah!
I have studied hard for this exam because I find very exciting to learn about the subject, specially about the workings of the different levels of organization in the human body. You know, my engineering mind wants to know how things work, and these topics are fascinating to me.
On the other hand, the spiritual and energetic components of the massage studies are very fulfilling to my spiritual side in me. I like to meditate but I do not usually do a sitting medication doing nothing, just being. Instead, I have mindfulness meditations when I give massages, because I pay attention, on purpose, in the present moment, with no judgement.
Last Saturday we studied "aromatherapy" and each one in the class had a full treatment which used many essential oils from plants. I liked very much the beginning of the treatment, when we had 1 or 2 oils, but as we kept adding more different oils, instead of being a "symphony" (sounds coming together) to me, it became a "cacophony" (sounds in discord of each other) to me. Well, the experience was worth it because I was able to sleep very well that night and now I know what a full treatment is all about and I think that I will incorporate some aspects of this technique in my future treatments, starting with only 1 or 2 oils, and for the moment, avoiding combining many at once. At the end of this note I am including more details on this technique, for those of you who may want to know a bit more.
Well, I am sending you my greetings and my wishes for a nice summer!
Aromatherapy means "treatment using scents". It is a holistic treatment of caring for the body with pleasant smelling botanical oils such as rose, lemon, lavender and peppermint. The essential oils are added to the bath or massaged into the skin, inhaled directly or diffused to scent an entire room. Aromatherapy is used for the relief of pain, care for the skin, alleviate tension and fatigue and invigorate the entire body. Essential oils can affect the mood, alleviate fatigue, reduce anxiety and promote relaxation. When inhaled, they work on the brain and nervous system through stimulation of the olfactory nerves.
The essential oils are aromatic essences extracted from plants, flowers, trees, fruits, bark, grasses and seeds with distinctive therapeutic, psychological, and physiological properties, which improve and prevent illness. There are about 150 essential oils. Most of these oils have antiseptic properties; some are antiviral, anti-inflammatory, pain-relieving, antidepressant and expectorant. Other properties of the essential oils which are taken advantage of in aromatherapy are their stimulation, relaxation, digestion improvement, and diuretic properties. To get the maximum benefit from essential oils, it should be made from natural, pure raw materials. Synthetically made oils do not work.
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