Your body knows how to heal itself - sometimes, it just needs a push in the right direction.
Although it's over 20 years ago, I'll never forget my first bodywork session. It began much like an ordinary massage, but when the therapist started working on my hips, I felt a mild irritation that grew into annoyance and anger I'd never experienced before. Fast forward to the end of the treatment, when those same hands began working on my face, I felt such tenderness and love.
As I've grown, trained and worked on hundreds of people over the years since I now know that responses like these are no surprise to complementary therapists. Our work is often guided by the theory that emotions are linked to different body parts. Chinese medicine, for example, associates emotions with specific organs - grief with the lungs, for instance, or fear with the kidneys. In bodywork, however, where massage and energy work are used to support clients healing, therapists are often guided by the principle that unexpressed emotions are stored in the body as physical tension or blocked energy.
What is bodywork?
The umbrella term applies to hands-on treatments strategically designed to create energetic and physical bodily shifts. Think acupressure, reflexology, reiki, and massage.
What makes bodywork particularly unique is that practitioners act in tandem with their clients to address both physical (like pain) and emotional (like stress) issues. You tap into somebody and their energy, and you can figure out what's out of balance. You then help them rebalance themselves.
Bodywork and massage: the differences
Bodywork massage therapy is a therapeutic technique that focuses on relaxing a person's body, mind, and spirit. Those feelings often translate into physical manifestations when stressed and anxious for an extended period of time. Muscle tension, aches along the spine and shoulders, and headaches are common physical manifestations of such emotional states.
But bodywork dives deeper than that and is more about developing a relationship with the client. Getting to know their biomechanics and uncovering the root causes behind physical ailments that could date as far back as birth—and even having an emotional connection.
Bodywork is a practice—it's much more than just getting a massage. For the therapist, it's being mindful and specific with what you're working on in that particular session. Bodywork is like body talk; it's a conversation about your body and a willingness to work with your practitioner.
Sure, it's relaxing, but when you allow yourself to actually communicate with your practitioner, you deepen your experience and facilitate sustainable, long-term healing. In my practice, I've experienced both sides of the spectrum: the person who just wants to lay quietly, detach, and relax, and the person who will vocalise what's going on with her body, working with me as I work on them.
I often close my eyes when I'm massaging or doing reflexology. As I move, I feel more into the muscles or the reiki healing kicks in for specific areas. (If you see me yawning a lot, the reiki energy is releasing blockages!).
This may sound a bit woo-woo to some of you, and I get it. It was a weird way to work at first. But, I often find the body tells me so much, especially the feet.
Deep Tissue Massage
Deep tissue massage is often a critical component of bodywork. It works by releasing negative energy and tension deep within the fascia, tissue, and tendons. Clients receive many benefits when choosing a bodywork session - proven to help alleviate high blood pressure, provide whole body relaxation, reduce eye strain, decrease tension headaches, and lower anxiety levels. Because bodywork massage therapy focuses on areas of a client's body that are deep beneath the surface, this is a perfect technique for clients dealing with muscle tension and stiffness.
One of the most important benefits of bodywork is that it enhances a client's knowledge about how the mind-body connection works. The mind-body connection is the philosophy that a person's mental health and well-being are directly linked. This can be beneficial, especially if a client has sound mental health. However, a client experiencing prolonged periods of stress and mental health issues will also notice a direct negative impact on their physical health.
By engaging in bodywork massage therapy, clients will deepen their understanding of this connection, which may prompt them to make further positive changes in their lives. For example, incorporating other stress-relieving activities into their lifestyles, such as yoga, meditation, and homoeopathic strategies.
What are some other holistic treatments that utilise energy work?
Several holistic treatments can supplement bodywork. Here, we will look at a few of them and discuss how they work together with bodywork massage to benefit your overall health and well-being.
Reiki means universal life energy, and practitioners transfer high vibrational energy through their hands to accelerate their client's natural healing ability. There's limited research into reiki, but some trials have found benefits for cancer patients' quality of life, pain and fatigue. There was also some influence on biological markers such as cortisol levels, white blood count, and blood pressure.
Sessions can last from 30 to 60 minutes and be given seated or lying down. Some therapists will touch the body, and others work around four or five inches above the body in the energetic space known as the aura. While working, they are channelling energy - felt as heat - through their hands. You may feel this heat, pulsing, or tingling sensation in your body. Expect to leave feeling calm and peaceful.
One of the oldest known therapeutic treatments is aromatherapy. Certain smells can have a positive effect on a person's mood. Lavender can have a similar effect as a mild sedative. Orange and citrus are energising scents that can give a boost of energy. Peppermint and spearmint are uplifting scents that can cause feelings of joy and happiness. Many clients may choose to incorporate aromatherapy into their bodywork sessions. I use diffusers, massage oils, and lotions that feature their scent of choice. Aromatherapy is an effective way to boost a client's bodywork massage session and enhance their overall experience.
Reflexology is manipulating energetic reflex points in the body, including the feet, hands and face, causing action in response to a stimulus without conscious thought. Reflexology sends energetic signals to the brain or the central nervous system, and the brain consequently sends a current of healing energy to the organs or other parts of the body. Reflexology delivers healing signals transmitted through the meridians – a set of pathways along which vital energy flows – for energy clearing. The body gets an energetic attunement, and we are harmonised.
Reflexology can be viewed as a sort of massage requiring different amounts of pressure to points placed on the feet, hands and face. The theory on which it is based is that there is a connection between these body parts and specific organs. It is based on the ancient Chinese belief in chi – an expression of what the Japanese call ki – or vital energy. Chi exists at a molecular level: a vibrant life force makes a person totally alive, replacing any dullness and bringing us into the alertness of the present moment. As per the Chinese belief, chi flows through every person.
As per the Chinese treatment options, there is a one-to-one correspondence between the body parts and the pressure points on the body. In reflexology, a map is made of these points to determine where the pressure needs to be applied. Reflexology believes in touch; by this touch, a reflexologist sends the energy flowing through the body to the area where healing is needed. We break through the blockage, and healing begins.
Curious about bodywork? Start with a little gua sha at your desk or an abdominal massage for better digestive health.
"Our bodies communicate to us clearly and specifically, if we are willing to listen ." Shakti Gawain
Psst ... here are the ways you can work with me, in case you were wondering ... https://linktr.ee/waterlilytherapies