“You’re Teaching Me to be Kind to Myself.”
A client said this to me during a massage treatment a few weeks ago. The concept of treating our bodies with kindness is somewhat uncommon in our culture of harder/ faster/ deeper/ push-through it mentality. In this particular case, I was working on an inflamed tendon that had been causing quite a bit of pain for over a month and interfering with her quality of life. I was using gentle pressure to soothe and comfort the entire area to encourage circulation and the release of muscular tension.
She had been braced for a painful session and was quite surprised at the results she experienced from my gentle approach. During the treatment she noticed how various body parts connected to one another and then began to see a bigger picture. While it is true that one particular tendon was inflamed due to overwork and a moment of excess strain place on it, all the surrounding muscle groups had been recruited to assist and protect the injury. Tension spread out from the source and had enveloped the entire quadrant. As relaxation settled in and muscles began to release, she could feel the internal structure settle into a more neutral position and breathed a sigh of relief.
When she returned two weeks later for a follow up treatment, she reported much less pain, more ease of movement, and a greater sense of harmony in her body. The persistent pain had been downgraded to a dull ache and the surrounding muscles were no longer locked in defensive contraction. Again I worked gently; this time spending a greater portion of the session integrating the limb with the torso while explaining how the whole body works as a team. She became intrigued with the idea of this one small tendon affecting distant areas and realized how she had adapted posture as well as movement to accommodate the injury.
She left that day encouraged to be more aware of her body mechanics and overall attitude towards her body. Introducing clients to the transformative belief that treating ourselves and our bodies with kindness produces lasting and deep effects is perhaps the most helpful input I have to offer as a bodyworker. I could explain this in terms of the nervous system triggering the fight-or-flight reflex vs the relaxation response and get into the biological effects of an aggressive approach vs a more gentle on; yet I think that deep down we can all intuitively grasp this concept. Be kind to your body; and it will respond by letting go of stress and pain.