You Can’t Force Connection

One of my dearest friends came to receive a Reiki treatment from me last week. This woman is one of the most empowered, self- motivated, passionate, and compassionate people I have ever met. Being in the same room with her is a cross between grandma’s baked cookies and sunbathing on a tropical beach. It’s just delicious. The fact that she enjoys and appreciates my work is the ultimate compliment.

We talked for quite some time before the hands-on portion of the treatment. I find that active listening and empathic connection beforehand amplifies the energy. She wanted clarity about changes in her life and also support to focus on solutions rather problems. I really enjoy helping people fine-tune their intentions to get the most from a session. Also, it really helps me decide on a loose treatment plan, which generally morphs into something else entirely, but I am always guided on how to begin based on each client’s words.

I was lead to do chakra balancing to enhance the connection between her being and the world at large. It is quite common for me to be guided to do this with my clients. No doubt I am influenced by my own fascination with the chakra system and my reverence for the potency of this work. As I reached the crown chakra, I noticed an intense resistance. I had never felt anything quite like this and it captured my attention immediately. Her other energy centers had responded to the Reiki with opening and acceptance. I was perplexed.

Then I remembered that my friend is agnostic. She is unsure of the presence of a divine being in this world. The crown chakra is the location where our connection to God originates. It makes perfect sense that her crown would react with suspicion (her word, not mine!) I immediately dropped this course of action. Clearly her spirit was not interested in having an open crown chakra and it certainly is not my place to override her wishes. I don’t actually think I could have won this battle if I had tried. Reiki can do no harm and must be willingly accepted. I do suspect that if I had continued, there would have been some dissonance, possibly even some kick-back. Not for her, but for me.

Once again, the wisdom of Reiki has impressed me. It is truly divinely guided life force energy. And it always knows exactly what each person needs.

Bodywork for Headaches & Migraines

I really enjoy working with clients who are plagued with frequent headaches or migraines. I know how debilitating this condition can be, and when someone is nursing an aching head, it seems to dull all aspects of life. It really is a joy to watch a person sink into relaxation as the pain begins to dissipate. Frown lines are erased and an expression of serenity emerges. The vast majority of clients I see while working at a spa are visiting the area, and it is unlikely that I will see them again. I don’t really know, or even expect, that the results they experience are permanent, but offering temporary relief and the hope that change is possible is a gift in and of itself.

Triggers for headaches are numerous. Dehydration is perhaps the #1 culprit, and obviously water is the cure. However, massage can still be of use in these cases by stimulating the release of toxins and relaxing tense muscles that build up due to the pain. Hormonal imbalance is another frequent contributor to headaches. Once again, I believe bodywork can be helpful through detoxification (a healthy liver can better clean the blood of excess hormones) and deep relaxation can counterbalance the excess of adrenaline and cortisol many people experience in their daily lives. Often clients claim stress itself is the source of their headache problems. This is where elevating relaxing massage to the level of health care maintenance can be of true benefit. Staying ahead of the stress is the most effective way I know of to prevent headaches (along with drinking plenty of water and avoiding excessive alcohol consumption).

Migraines seem to be a bit more mysterious than headaches. Science is still trying to understand this incapacitating condition. Many people become aware of hormones or certain foods as triggers, and are able to utilize this knowledge to prevent migraines. Others seem to be at the mercy of unpredictable onset. I still believe that whatever the actual trigger may be, lowering overall stress can help prevent migraines, or at least diminish the frequency, intensity, and duration of them. It seems the body can handle a certain level of stress, and if people are able to keep their stress below the threshold, they have a much better chance of avoiding this painful condition.

I’ve found that about 90% of my clients who complain of frequent headaches or migraines have congestion and tension held in their faces and heads. No big surprise there. I spend a good deal of time exploring the scalp for trigger points and stuck fascia and almost always am rewarded with a deep breath or sigh. Often times I find a hot mess in the small muscles at the base of the skull which, when given the opportunity, unwind themselves spontaneously. Tension around the temples and the jaw is very common, along with extreme tightness in the neck and upper shoulders. It’s not difficult to find the spots that need attention, but the unhurried pace, patience, diligence, and gentleness necessary to achieve release are necessary qualities that are easy to overlook.

My advise to anyone who suffers from frequent headaches or migraines is pretty basic. It involves lifestyle changes that eliminate, or at least manage, the contributing causes. Hydration, posture, exercise, stretching, and finding outlets to release stress and anger are the obvious solutions for many clients. Sometimes a change in diet is helpful when allergies are the trigger. Fresh air and avoiding chemicals which are all too prevalent in household products may also help.

I find it’s much more effective and empowering to teach clients how to prevent pain than causing them to rely on bodywork as the sole remedy. Of course, massage is a tremendous tool that belongs in the overall program. Reiki is super-effective too, especially when there is an emotional, mental, or spiritual contribution. (And there almost always is, but that is another topic altogether…) Pain is an indication that something is out of balance. I encourage people to address the imbalance at its source rather than struggling to alleviate the symptoms.

Can You Fix Me?

The other day I received a phone call from a man I had never met inquiring about the price of a 30 minute deep tissue massage. He had hurt his shoulder playing racquetball and wanted a session where the therapist “goes deep, real deep, even if it hurts.” In short, he wanted to know if I could “fix” him, in 30 minutes or less, and do it first thing in the morning so that it wouldn’t interfere with his plans for the day. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I don’t believe that aggressive bodywork is effective. Once the nervous system perceives the potential for pain, the fight or flight reflex kicks in, and the muscles tense. Tense muscles are counter-productive to massage and essentially eliminate the possibility of any healing benefits.

The short answer, I told him, was: No. I cannot fix you. I explained that I didn’t know enough about his situation or physical condition to promise any specific results. I have repeatedly witnessed the power of bodywork to alleviate pain and support recovery from sports injuries. Softening the tissues allows increased circulation and relaxation, both of which are key to healing. Yet, this process takes time and a gentle approach, especially for deep work. I’ve found that most people are only beginning to relax at the 30 minute mark and that the real benefits of a session happen after that. I don’t offer a 30 minute massage, and certainly not a deep tissue one, because time and time again, I have observed that the body reacts protectively, thereby preventing the desired results.

Since this is obviously not the answer he wanted to hear, he did not book a session with me. I’ve come to realize over the years that I’m not a good match for all clients, especially the type A/ no pain, no gain folks, and it’s better for everyone if we figure this out up front. I have no doubts that he found another therapist to work with, and suspect that if anything, he is in more pain today. What I regret most is that I didn’t have the opportunity to explain that no one can “fix” anyone else. Massage facilitates healing when clients are ready and willing to allow it. Yet it is ultimately up to them to receive the healing benefits and integrate them into their daily lives. Posture, habits, repetitive motion, sports, and the myriad of activities in life that create imbalance or injury easily outweigh the hour spent on the table. I can help people feel better. 98% of my clients  report improvement after a session. Yet once they walk out the door, the “fixing” is up to them.