Learning to listen
Updated: Jun 10, 2020
Bodywork is not about your therapist fixing you. It's the process of listening to the signals your body is sending off and using that information to design a treatment that is right for you.
After many first treatments at Sama, my clients will remark how they’ve never had a massage quite like that before. I love getting this kind of response. At Sama, my goal is to release restrictions and knots so your muscles and fascia can do what they do best; allow you to move! I do this by listening to both you and your body to holistically manage and/or eliminate your pain and dysfunction. You will be actively engaged in each treatment and together we will change how your body feels on the daily.
"So what do I actually do?"
Well first, let me just say that I don’t have any kind of routine or sequence that I follow. Your body is the conductor and it will tell me where, what, and how I need to work. My job is to learn to listen to what your body is saying. I do this by looking at how you carry yourself (posture assessment), how your joints move, and how your muscle tissue feels. We each hold tension, pain, and restriction in our own unique way. Because of this, I could work with the same shoulder impingement 5 times a day, but each treatment would be slightly different. All of this is to say that once you’re on my table I will genuinely engage with your body’s specific issues.
"What will it look like when you’re in my office? "
When you walk into my office I want to hear your story and understand first hand why you are in pain. I want to move through the issue with you (from the beginning) and hear what you have to say. Your story gets the gears turning in my head. I begin to formulate a rudimentary understanding of what may be happening and what we will work. I may recall protocols I received for the condition you are describing. These protocols, however, are limited and simply offer me a place to begin.
Your issue is almost never as simple or straightforward as a textbook protocol. It doesn’t take into account the minor scoliosis you may have in your spine. It misses the fact that you hold additional tension in your shoulders and neck from sitting at a desk from 9-5 each day. It certainly doesn’t account for the fact that after this long day you return home to care for your loved ones. The body is complex in its relation to stress, emotion, and injury. Everything impacts everything else and no two responses are the same. So once you’re on the table, my first job is to drop the story you just told me.
Ok, I won’t drop it completely. Your story tells me where to look and how to begin. Your body, however, tells me what to do. It has a language all its own that is far more accurate than any story you could tell. I’m not going to pretend I understand this language completely, but after each client, the language becomes more clear. Noticing how your bones sit in relation to one another, for example, can give me an idea of the fluidity and mobility of your joints. Is there a full range of motion? Are their restrictions? Feeling into the specific tone, pliability, and plasticity of your tissue will tell me if your muscles are restricted, knotted, or even bound to one another. From these minor movements and tissue palpations, your body will show me where to go. This blends with the story you told at the beginning of the session. I’ll ask you questions about how intense the sensation is as I work and we will progress in this fashion until our session is complete.
After the session, we’ll have a check-in to see what progress we made. Were we able to increase your range and ease of motion? As we see the changes we gained during the session, I may offer some yoga poses or stretches to keep the work moving in the right direction. Now the ball is in your court. Can you be patient and allow the work to settle? Can you continue your daily movement practices and listen to the messages your body is telling you? Bodywork, and physical healing in general, is not something that can be rushed. Your body will heal in its own time and in its own way.
As a final note here, please don’t get confused and think that I am going to “fix you.” I am not fixing anything. I am offering some gentle guidance and support to a system that knows far more about its own healing than I ever could. The process is almost never linear and it can be frustrating at times. I know all too well the peaks and valleys the healing journey will entail. My best advice is to be patient and listen. Your body has a language you can learn. The secret is to release your preconceived notions and ideas of what you think is right or wrong. Drop it all. Listen. Move. Repeat. One day, your body will open and bloom all on its own. Anais Nin said it best…
“And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.”