Stressors, compensation patterns, self-healing, and neuroplasticity are just some of the fascinating subjects we covered during a recent long weekend in San Francisco.
The beautiful city was a wonderful backdrop for a deep dive into The Brain Speaks Two. This Upledger course builds on the foundation of neuro-anatomy and physiology, as they pertain to CranioSacral Therapy taught in the first level course I took about a year ago. As a reminder or intro; CranioSacral Therapy is a light touch form of bodywork that releases restrictions in the central nervous system, the brain and spinal cord.
Let me start by familiarizing you with the structures we are working with as CranioSacral Therapists. When first learning Craniosacral Therapy (CST) the therapist learns to work with the dural membranes and the cerebrospinal fluid around the brain and spinal cord. The dural membrane is the connective tissue, fascia, “casing” that creates a protective environment for the brain and spinal cord. Our body’s fascia is one continuous web from the bottom of our feet to the top of our head in every cell. This is why restrictions in the fascia surrounding your brain can have an effect on shoulder tightness or why an ankle sprain could affect your hips. The dural membranes are where the cerebrospinal fluid is made, held, and reabsorbed. The cerebrospinal fluid, a filtrate of blood, suspends the brain in our skull for protection; it is how the brain receives nutrients and how the brain gets rid of waste products. This fluid has a rhythm and is tracked during a CST session by the therapist to evaluate changes and illuminate significant pieces. CST works to release these restrictions in the fascia using the fluid as a guide to increase flow and space to the very important central nervous system.
The central nervous system, the brain and the spinal cord, governs all of the activities of our body. This system is made up of a variety of parts which is what was covered in The Brain Speaks One class, the neuro-anatomy and physiology. To simplify a complicated system we have the forebrain, which allow us to think critically, have emotions, regulate visceral functions like temperature control, eating, and sleeping. Then there is the midbrain which aids in movement, controls eye movement, processes hearing and visual input, and connects the forebrain and the hind brain. The third division of the brain is the hindbrain which controls all functions outside conscious control, like breathing and blood flow.
These three parts of the brain are not separate, in fact nothing in our body works alone. Everything we do involves many parts all working together beautifully and seamlessly. The Brain Speaks Two class brought the parts together and showed how our systems work as a whole. But what happens if there has been an injury, trauma, or disease? When these events happen our bodies do the very best they can in the moment, they make brilliant decisions quickly to keep us safe. And if it is just a single instance we recover quickly without the need for much intervention. The problems occur when these events happen during neuro-development, if stress lasts for longer than a system can compensate, or when the injury is too devastating.
The Brain Speaks Two taught us how to support our clients overall well-being when these problems create compensation patterns. And more importantly it taught us to trust the client’s own treatment plan, because our bodies know how to heal themselves, we may have been missing some of the essential resources at the moment of injury. Our brain is especially self-healing due to neuroplasticity meaning it can change, adapt and grow at any age. This class helped to bridge a gap I hadn’t realized was even there. It helped me to understand why some clients have a harder time healing when their life is filled with continuous, prolonged stress. This work is paramount in being able to reduce stress and our autonomic response to stress. I have been incorporating this wholeness approach into my sessions since taking the class and it has made a difference.
The founder of this work, Dr. John Upledger believed that every client is a teacher and I whole-heartedly agree. I am excited to continue working with and learning from all of my clients at Alchemy Healing Arts Center using these new skills. I will also be adding to my skills in March when I take a class working with the Glia cells in the central nervous system! Stay tuned for that report.
When is a massage gift certificate the perfect gift?
And when is it not?
Gift giving is a joy and sometimes a challenge. Gift certificates are often touted as the "perfect solution", yet are they really? We would like to offer some guidelines to help you decide if a massage gift certificate is the perfect gift.
Not so Perfect:
While we have worked with people who don't like to be touched, this can be a challenge. Many of our therapies do not require people to undress, so that is an option for someone who is very shy or modest. We hold very high standards for professionalism at Alchemy Healing Arts, we do our best to help people feel comfortable, safe and welcome. If you really think that someone you love would benefit from bodywork and they are reluctant, feel free to suggest a consultation, and we can explain more and perhaps ease their concerns.
If it is a yes, do feel free to click here and purchase an instant gift certificate for yourself, your loved ones or friends!
You can choose a dollar amount or check "Services" and a list of services and packages will show for your selection. Gift certificates can be emailed, printed or we can mail them for you from our offices.
The recipient can redeem their gift certificate at our office, by making an appointment for the session they would like to receive. Gift Certificates retain their dollar value for 5 years, prices and services may change however.
"Take your time getting up - move gently and slowly"
Why do we say this?
Because we want to help you maximize the benefits of your session.
So, before you get up, rest gently on the table for a couple of minutes, breathe deeply and simply notice. How does your body feel right now? What is different? What feels good? How could you move differently? How would you like to spend the rest of your day?
Take this time to notice and let the changes and the sensations sink in. It is a delicious time after a session, you are alone, it is quiet and peaceful and you can indulge yourself with a bit more me time.
If you are concerned you will fall asleep, let us know, we will set a gentle alarm or knock quietly in 2-3 minutes.
Let it sink in, you just had a marvelous bodywork session, let it permeate deeply into your body, move slowly, be gentle, honor how well you are taking care of yourself.
A few other after session thoughts. Consider handling scheduling and payment before your session so that you don't have to get back in your head too quickly. If you feel a bit ungrounded when you get up, sit quietly and press your feet into the floor. Have a drink of water to help you refocus before driving and to rehydrate.
Talking Back to Those Voices With Lovingkindness and Information
Are there people in this world without self-esteem or image concerns? Are there people who love and care for their bodies without judgment? Yes, but are they over three years old? The truth is, there are adults who live very comfortably and lovingly in their bodies, and that is something that is quite unimaginable or at least difficult to imagine for many others.
What I am wondering today is, how is your body image effecting your ability/willingness to take care of yourself.?
Do you have an angry/authoritative parent voice in your head who scolds and berates you for your body's perceived failings or shortcomings? When we are busy shaming, it is very hard to be gentle, compassionate and loving to our bodies. We have all been socialized into a society that expects us to look like the airbrushed images in magazines, yet offers so many health-depriving options for our day to day lives - stress, exhaustion, little access to fresh air and movement, toxic food choices, abundance of pharmaceuticals, and so much blame and shame when we don't live up to the ideals.
What is significant to note is that as adults, much of the criticism has become internalized, we don't need to hear it from our peers (like we did in third grade) we happily beat up on ourselves. Do you know any animal or child who really changed and improved themselves from being yelled at, shamed or intimidated? Has a fear of being ostracized made you a better person? I sincerely doubt it. In fact, I would suggest it has made you more fearful and less willing to take risks and truly bring your gifts into the world.
This subject came to me as I considered the moments I have been caught and constricted about taking care of myself. If this is something I get caught in, what happens when others consider taking care of themselves? Especially when thinking about getting a massage, or other hands-on therapy.
How can we each shift this? I would like to suggest that the deepest answer is gentle, loving, kindness. For ourselves and receiving it from others. By receiving loving kindness we can literally re-program our neural pathways and change our biochemistry. (Candice Pert, PhD - "Molecules of Emotion")
Hands-on therapists are people who (in general) bring a great deal of loving kindness, compassion, gentle-heartedness and peace to the world. We are self-selected and then trained to be accepting, non-judgmental and kind. Our professional and ethical standards call us forward to best provide for our clients in ways that help them feel safe, nurtured and cared for. We provide touch, which in and of itself is healing and life-giving. Of course, finding the right therapist for you could be a process, not everyone is able to demonstrate these ideals, however most of the therapists I know who are experienced and successful fully embody loving kindness, gentle-heartedness and compassion.
So, perhaps I can answer some of those concerns and "talk back" to some of your inner voices by going through some of the common reasons people don't come and get on the table. Because, as I have stated above, therapeutic touch is healing. Be it massage, CranioSacral Therapy, Lymph Drainage, Reiki or so many other forms of touch therapy - these are real ways to take care of yourself and bring the caring and gentleness into your system in a real and palpable way.
I feel uncomfortable about my body size.
That is a common and understandable feeling in our world today. Society's ideals don't always line up with what we see in the mirror or how we feel. A few things to know. First, you will be fully draped during your session, so the therapist is only working with one part at a time. Your privacy is always assured. Therapists they are looking from a therapeutic standpoint, in general, they are seeing with their hands, feeling for tension, stiffness, congestion and working to relieve it. Your size is not really the focus. Yes, it is different to massage different sized bodies, and all can benefit. There are a number of things the therapist may do, ways to use their body, ways to set the table that will help them give you a great session. We love that you are in with us, taking care of yourself. Bodywork is a wonderful step in self-care and improving how you feel about your body. I believe that healthy, long term body changes come from a place of love, so finding a therapist who helps you feel this for your body a positive all around.
I don't like my feet.
We love feet. They are so much fun to work with, it's so productive too, so much relaxation and release can be provided with good foot work. We have seen old feet, tired feet, dancer's feet, missing toes, and lots of other things. We do need to know one thing though, if you have any kind of foot fungus, we need to work with gloves on or avoid your feet. If you know that you have a concern, just let us know. Leaving on your socks is a good way to signal that we need to be aware of something with your feet. Thank you for letting us care for your feet, if you really like it, see if your therapist can incorporate some Reflexology into your session - an energy work that is said to enhance the health of the whole body… it feels great too.
I don't want to get undressed. Period.
There are many touch therapy modalities that do not require you to undress. CranioSacral, Therapeutic Touch, Reiki, Shiatsu and Thai massage are all performed with the client dressed. Many forms of massage and lymph drainage therapy can also be effective when clothed. Its ok, we understand and want you to be comfortable.
I have lots of body hair.
That's easy, if you are getting a therapy that involves oil or lotion, your therapist will simply use more, this allows their strokes to glide more and not pull on your hair.
Please don't touch my… face, legs, belly, feet…
If there is an area that you don't want touched, simply let us know. The session is about you and a good therapist can always find something else to do! Now, if you are ticklish, let us know that too - often a bit firmer touch will allow an area to be massaged, so don't give up on foot massage yet.
I feel like I am going to cry.
Sometimes emotions arise during a bodywork session, emotions can become trapped in our bodies. At other times, the experience of deeply relaxing or receiving nurturing touch can open the door for emotions to be released. Many therapists have experienced this personally so are very understanding. In general, our training is to allow you emotional release, check in and see if you are ok, do you need a tissue or privacy for a few minutes? If you want to talk, that is certainly ok, we simply know our practice boundaries and are happy to listen, and allow space for you to release what has been held in your heart or body. We are not licensed counselors or talk therapists, so we will simply hold space and not step into "counselor" mode.
Other Therapists Have Told Me
This is a touchy subject, we try very hard not to make proclamations in our practice, and we have heard so many reports of things other therapists have said that have made people feel badly about themselves. I even had one client tell me that a massage therapist had told her she was not allowed to get any more tattoos and the ones she had would cause her pain and suffering for the rest of her life. It had taken the client's husband a great deal of persuading to get her in to see me after that. I can only hope the information I provided relieved her mind a bit. In general, therapists can make statements that confuse or hurt - "These shoulders are so tight, what have you been doing?" can make a client feel like they have done something bad or wrong. I can't promise anything, and ask that you don't judge us all by the behavior of a few. Please visit another therapist.
I got a massage once and I hurt worse afterwards
There are reasons that might explain that, and in general people really do feel better after receiving bodywork. I'm sorry that was not the case for you. Let's talk about your body, do a thorough intake and health history, and consider the best options for you. There are many modalities, and all will move the body closer to health and wellness, but they are not all for everyone. Deep Tissue massage for someone with Fibromyalgia could be very painful and perhaps debilitating, while Trigger Point work, which is also very deep, combined with lymphatic or cranial work could be soothing and healing. The reverse could also be the case, as each body really is different. What is most important is that your therapist takes the time to learn about you, any special conditions or contraindications and adjust the session for your needs. Practitioners in private practice or in healing arts centers such as ours are often more skilled and have the freedom within each session to make such adjustments.
Certainly, there are some other voices out there that I haven't answered, feel free to post me a question, I am happy to address your concerns and apprehensions about bodywork.
We live in a society that judges quickly and forgives slowly. Perhaps it is time to open and allow some love and acceptance into your day to day experience.
Owner Amelia Mitchell, brings her years of experience as a therapist as well as a deep interest in wellness, self-care, and healing to Alchemy's blog.