Massage & Bodywork

MARCH | APRIL 2017

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C h e c k o u t A B M P 's l a t e s t n e w s a n d b l o g p o s t s . Av a i l a b l e a t w w w. a b m p . c o m . 65 THERAPEUTIC POTENTIAL I've focused on the upper back because it is a particularly revelatory place to begin, but it is just one part among many along the lateral body that is crying out for touch—not just the muscles themselves, but also the layers of fascia wrapping around and between those muscles. Consider all the other therapeutic possibilities contained along our sides: in the peroneals, in the abductors (and adductors), in the gluteus medius and minimus, in the hip-hiking efforts of the quadratus lumborum, and then, beyond our shoulder blade example, all the way up to the many other muscles that wrap the shoulder and neck—from the pectoralis minor to the scalenes to the sternocleidomastoid. Consider how you can work any and all of these muscles using just the two protocols I've described. In the process, you'll grow your own sense of possibility in how you practice and grow your client's sense of possibility for resolving their problems. Remember, this work only works if you don't work too hard. The sides of the body can be quite sensitive—from the iliotibial band (and for some people, even the peroneals) all the way to the base of the skull. Some clients may feel vulnerable or self-conscious, particularly around the hips and up to the lateral edge of the breast tissue. All that to say: proceed with care. In my continuing education workshops, I teach the concept of pouring, rather than pushing, to ensure a contact that is full of care. A stroke that is fluid, rather than forceful, and that pours into the client rather than pushes the client, begins by placing your feet and your whole body in the direction you want the stroke to go. Then, you can generate whatever pressure the client needs merely by leaning your hips away from the client (Opposite-Side Lean) or toward the client (Same-Side Sink). Your actual point of contact—whether thumbs or fingers or elbows—is just a manifestation of what the hips are doing. In other words, think of your hands as delivering the stroke to the client, but not creating the stroke. This concept can help counteract one of our most common downfalls as therapists: working too hard, and in particular, holding unnecessary tension in our own fingers and forearms. This excess tension is instantly, if not always consciously, felt by our clients—especially when we are working the sides of the body. A hand that is clenched like a claw around the ribs, or a thumb digging into the iliotibial band, will feel pokey and invasive; the client will spend the rest of the session guarding against our touch, unconsciously wondering when and where we are going to attack next. Instead, our point of contact should be as floppy as possible, doing just the minimum necessary to engage the tissue. With that relaxed contact, we encourage the client to let go of the guarding instinct, and remind them of their capacity to melt. AWARENESS IS THE KEY When we succeed in muscling as little as possible, and contact these tender areas with a gentle confidence, the benefits can be profound. We can work exactly as deep as the client needs, because the client is working with us, rather than bracing against our efforts. And when we work in concert with the client, rather than forcing change, we give the client the ability to feel the musculature unsticking, or ungluing, from the surrounding structures—a rare feeling, especially in these lateral parts of the body that hardly get touched. Ultimately, attending to the sides in this way allows us to dramatically increase and deepen the client's somatic awareness, showing them how their tissues can move in multiple directions. When we work the sides, our client becomes aware of an area of the body they never think about and becomes differently aware of those areas of tension that they are always thinking about! Thus, by focusing not just on the client's pain and tension, but on their body as a three-dimensional whole, we enlarge their felt experience of daily life. Addressing the sides of the body will, quite literally, broaden your work. And it can liberate both therapist and client from the routines that we as therapists get stuck in, from those perpetually cranky areas that our clients get stuck in, and from the limited perceptions of our bodies that we all get stuck in. David M. Lobenstine has been a massage therapist, teacher, and writer for more than a decade. He is a graduate of the Swedish Institute and Vassar College. He has worked in a variety of settings—from luxury spas to the US Open Tennis Tournament to a hospice to now, exclusively, his own private practice. His aim, both with his clients and in his teaching and writing, is to enhance self-awareness, so that we can do the things we love with efficiency and ease. Find him at davidlobenstine@gmail.com and www.fullbreathmassage.com.

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