You want Bodywork for the Whole Being
We are complex beings. Complete healing includes body, mind, spirit and the emotion that connects them. Bodywork can help heal on many levels and keep us healthy throughout our lives.
The world is now full of alternative healers who combine various modalities into their own signature style. Learning a little more about the terms and the processes involved can help you find a bodyworker that suits you, now.
Massage feels good and meets our basic need for touch. Standard massage modalties like Swedish, shiatsu, and lomi lomi, focus on the muscles and physical touch. Beyond that, massage increases circulation and offers a host of other physical benefits. Plus, fall/winter is a great time to slow down a bit, turn inward, and receive bodywork.
There are plenty of massage/bodywork options to choose from: deep pressure, lymphatic drainage, hot rocks, yogic stretching, lights, crystals… I once had a bodywork session in which the Hawaiian masseur stopped every so often in the lomi lomi work to play a didgeridoo toward my stuck spots! You can find just about any kind of style, focus and combination if you look.
Massage and healing touch has been around as long as humans have been, and traditional healers have always used touch in various ways. However, modern massage therapy as a regulated profession is relatively young. When I went to massage therapy school in San Francisco in the 1980s, to get a license to practice, massage therapists had to go downtown and get fingerprinted with the prostitutes! Fortunately we’ve come a long way since then, and fast. These days, most people are aware that massage therapy is different from the sexual practices that happen in a massage parlor.
Of course, touch happens on a broad spectrum – from delicious and safe to scary and abusive. We all have the potential to experience the full range of loving human touch. For anyone who experiences all gentle, intimate touch as sexual, I recommend learning to receive therapeutic massage to expand your range for enjoying and caring for your amazing body!
Over the years I worked at a large hotel spa, I saw that large, densely-muscled men often request a female massage therapist and then want the depth of pressure they could get from a linebacker. I’d like to shout out for the many skilled male massage therapists available now who have both the physical strength to work deeply (easily) and the sensitivity to work gently. The male massage therapists who run the gauntlet** in this female-dominated profession often have amazing skills and dedication to healing touch. If you’re big and/or want huge pressure, especially consider choosing a strong, male MT.
How Do You Choose from all the Options out there?
Ask your body what it wants to move or change and how much. Do you need subtle, gentle movement? or do you want to move big, intense energy? Do you want to address stuck emotional energy? or avoid it for now? Are you open to integrating all levels at once? Let your bodyworker what you are looking for.
You want to get a sense that the bodyworker can hold space for any emotions that might arise. Some bodyworkers have a wide range of what they do. Others specialize deeply. Ask questions and then use your intuition. Trust your “gut” response.
The term bodywork includes massage and all its various offshoots. A bodywork session may or may not look like a standard massage depending on the approach and combination of techniques involved.
For example, the therapeutic work I do combines massage (physical manipulation of the muscles), a background in psychotherapy (mental, verbal inquiry), and shamanic journey (spiritual, intuitive healing) with emphasis on moving emotional energy through the whole system. What does all that mean? That means at the least, you get a great massage. We can talk – a lot, or not. The energy of your “issues” arises as you talk and my work helps to move it through and out. We might talk about your childhood, write down the destructive messages that constantly play in the background of your mind, and set them on fire (shamanic play). We might play jacks. You might just talk while I massage. I might guide you through a shamanic process – quietly in your imagination, or acted out. I have a trampoline in my back yard that I use to shake things up, get energy moving, and invite in fun. Within therapeutic boundaries, I am willing to try all kinds of things to help my clients release their dis-ease.
I don’t have an agenda going into a session and I follow where the energy leads. It’s both real and fun. The coolest things is that with the extreme trust I have in my intuitive guidance, and my ability to hold space safely,* deeply-held emotional blocks often emerge and move through, with ease. The experience may be intense for a short time, but without your habitual fear, you experience the energy as it moves through you it’s gone forever. The work can culminate in a Power Circle Ceremony – if and when you’re ready for it.
Most of all, I listen to the intuitive guidance, from your body, through my hands. No two sessions look or feel the same, even for the same person. The emphasis is on experiencing the emotional energy physically. Once you feel it, it can move out – forever, if you so choose. Feeling the sadness or anger you carry is usually much less awful than your fear of it. It’s the resistance that makes it a “problem.”
Whatever the techniques a bodyworker uses, breathing is always your portal inward. Whether or not the bodyworker reminds you, make sure to breathe deeply when you’re on the table. Your breath is the greatest energy mover.
The field of bodywork is expanding and evolving at an exponential rate. We need it to help shift our bodies along with the planet. However, our vocabulary to express working with the complex and subtle energies of the human body haven’t expanded as widely as our intuitive understanding.
Don’t get hung up on the terms
All bodywork moves energy, but the term “energy work” implies a focus on more subtle energy, sometimes with very light or no touch at all. When people ask me “Do you do energy work?” I ask what they mean by that. The way I see it, it’s all energy work, just on various levels.
I call myself Healing Catalyst rather than a “healer” because I catalyze – set in motion – healing without being the one who does the healing. I feel that is up to the client and the divine. I also call myself a “Body Whisperer” because I communicate with the body intuitively the way a “Horse Whisperer” communicates with horses to learn what they need. But these are just names. The proof is in the work.
Bodyworkers use terms in different combinations – bio-energetics refers to the energy flowing through a living system; somatic means “of the body.” “Integrative” and “transformative” are great words but you may need to ask what they mean to the bodyworker that uses them. Look up copyrighted modalities to see if they offer what you think they do. Individuals tend to add their own flourishes the more experience they get with a technique. When in doubt, ask.
How to find a great bodyworker
- Ask your friends, colleagues, and family. They will know if someone they’ve worked with is a potential match for you.
- Look online. You can get a feel for someone from a website, but realize that you want expertise in their touch, not in their graphics and layout.
- Use your intuition to feel out your options. Then, as with any health provider, you ultimately have to meet the person to see if your personal styles and energies match.
- Timing – Sometimes it’s a matter of timing. An approach that may not work for you now might be a match in the future. A bodyworker’s offerings may change, as will your needs.
- Books/workshops – If they’ve written a book or give workshops, check those out. You can see if the work fits you – often for a fraction of the cost of private sessions.
- Hotel Spas/Healing establishments – Booking a massage at a hotel or healing office usually assures you that the bodyworker has all the proper credentials and (usually) a certain level of professionalism. If you are relatively new to massage/bodywork, going to a larger establishment is probably worth the additional cost. Plus, the establishment often has a hot tub, sauna, or other goodies to round out your bodily indulgence. 😉
- Ask questions/communicate. At a establishment with many massage therapists, you can ask about the therapists’ experience. Keep in mind that the skill level and experience of the front desk staff can be very different from the person who will ultimately touch you. Ask questions, go with an open mind, and communicate what you do and don’t want. Even highly intuitive people can’t read your mind – and it’s your body.
- Experience – More experienced or older bodyworkers tend to have deeper intuitive and practical capabilities. Less-experienced or younger bodyworkers tend to have more physical stamina, be willing to work extra-long hours, or be ready to carry their equipment to you.
When I was fresh out of massage school, I happily lugged my table up flights of stairs and had plenty of energy to dig into muscles that had difficulty relaxing. After four decades doing this work, my clients now have to come to me + I use all my energetic tools – not just my physical energy – to go deep when I need to. I also can work with a wider range of “issues.”
You may not find and exact match every time you try a new bodyworker but sometimes going to someone who doesn’t help you catalyzes clarity about what you do need, instead.
So with all these variables, how do you find the right match for what you need, now? Ask questions and use your intuition! Please be good to your body today and consider treating it to some bodywork. Enjoy!