The Bodywork Perspective – A Bodywork Session

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The Struc­ture of a Body­work Session

While it’s impos­si­ble to learn to “do” Body­work from a web­site or a book, it is help­ful to see a ses­sion — whether you’re con­sid­er­ing hav­ing Body­work, or want to remind your­self of what you learned in oth­er ways.

This sec­tion is an overview, inter­spersed with videos. We’ve bro­ken a typ­i­cal ses­sion down into its com­po­nent parts.


The require­ments for Body­work are few — a warm and com­fort­ably lit room, and a pad for the floor. Body­work can also be done on “Shi­at­su Table,” which is 18 inch­es or so from the floor, or on a reg­u­lar Mas­sage table. There are advan­tages and dis­ad­van­tages to each.

on flooe Body­work on floor pad

» The ben­e­fit of the floor is that there is noth­ing to fall off of — after all, peo­ple receiv­ing Body­work can and do move around.

For exam­ple, anger release is often accom­pa­nied by pound­ing and kick­ing, and hav­ing a wide, flat, firm sur­face is paramount. 

on shiatsu table Body­work on a shi­at­su table

» The Shi­at­su table is a com­fort­able height to work at, and allows the prac­ti­tion­er to change pos­tures from stand­ing, to kneel­ing, to sitting.

massage table Body­work on a mas­sage table

» The Mas­sage table allows for easy use of the elbows and thumbs, and, with a face cra­dle, is eas­i­er on the clien­t’s neck when he or she is face down.

Cloth­ing is option­al in Body­work. Most clients start out in sweats, or shorts and a tee shirt. Belts, elas­tic, clothes with pro­nounced seams (like jeans) and bras are removed, as pres­sure is being applied and press­ing into a seam or a catch is painful for both giv­er and receiver.

If we “add in” mas­sage oil to pen­e­trate deep­er while avoid­ing fric­tion, this need­less to say, is best done sans clothes.

The Body­work Session

There is no one “right” order to a ses­sion. We tend to pre­fer “top down;” we can give you all kinds of rea­sons for releas­ing the upper body to “pro­vide space” for the ener­gy released as we then work on the pelvis.

We think “top down” is a good general rule.

We’re less con­cerned with whether the ses­sion starts face up or face down. The videos in this sec­tion fol­low the “face up first, work­ing down from the top” pattern.


The per­son doing Body­work acts as a coach as well as a Body­work­er. You’ll hear Wayne mak­ing sounds equiv­a­lent to the sounds Karen Ann is mak­ing, as well as giv­ing her sug­ges­tions regard­ing breath­ing and express­ing more emotion.

About the Session

As you’ll see, the ses­sion begins by estab­lish­ing breath­ing pos­ture. In the Video, Karen Ann starts face up. We begin by encour­ag­ing her to breathe deeply and ful­ly. (Had we begun the ses­sion with her face down, we still would have spent a few moments remind­ing her to breathe ful­ly and make sounds on the out-breath.)

You’ll see that Karen Ann is in quite obvi­ous pain dur­ing some of this work, and seems quite “pleased” at oth­er points. This is entire­ly nor­mal in a ses­sion. Some points hurt, indi­cat­ing blocks, oth­ers are OK, and pres­sure on oth­er points seems to cre­ate plea­sure. The points will shift, ses­sion to session.

Because this was a demon­stra­tion ses­sion, we did­n’t attempt to get a big, dynam­ic response from Karen Ann. We’ve also edit­ed the length of the ses­sion for this course — a full Body­work ses­sion often takes 45 min­utes to an hour. 

Estab­lish­ing the Breath­work Pos­ture –
then, Shoul­der, Jaw and Neck Work

We estab­lish good breath­ing, then open the shoul­ders, neck, face and jaw hinge.

The beginning of a Bodywork session.

Notes for this section:

Breath­work Posture

Estab­lish a good breath­ing pos­ture.

Upper Chest
chest diagram

The Upper chest is “vis­it­ed” dur­ing the Breath­work set­up; specif­i­cal­ly, pres­sure to the inter­costal spaces. Have a look at the chart to the left to iden­ti­fy the var­i­ous components.

The Inter­costal Spaces

The pres­sure is even and down­ward, between the ribs and to the side of the sternum.

The Shoul­der Muscles

Pres­sure to the top of the shoul­der mus­cles is firm and straight inward. You can also grasp and squeeze the shoul­der muscles.

The Neck Muscles

The neck mus­cles are mas­saged firm­ly, and again, you can squeeze the muscles.

The Occip­i­tal Indents

The occip­i­tal indents are locat­ed where the neck joins to the skull, and indeed feel like indents. Use the thumb or index fin­ger to apply firm pres­sure into the indentations. 

The Face Points

The face points include the third eye area, the eye­brows, and to the side of the nose. In each case mod­er­ate pres­sure is applied. The eye­brow area can be squeezed between the fingers.

The Jaw Points

The jaw points are at the hinge, and along the jaw. The hinge can be pushed inward with mod­er­ate pres­sure — care­ful! — this is a sen­si­tive point for most peo­ple. Back off until the pres­sure is just bearable.

Use a squeez­ing motion along the jaw line.

The Upper & Mid­dle Back

We pick up where we left off, then have Karen Ann turn over, and begin work along the mus­cles to the side of her spine, from her shoul­ders to her pelvis. We are sys­tem­at­i­cal­ly open­ing the body from top to bottom.

A video of Bodywork for the upper and middle back.

Notes for this section:

The Upper Spine

We’re work­ing on the mus­cles to the side of the spine. No pres­sure, ever, on the spine itself. We begin between the spine and the shoul­der blades. Even, firm down­ward pressure.

The Shoul­der Muscles

The shoul­der mus­cles are avail­able at a dif­fer­ent angle from “face up.” Again, apply pres­sure with thumbs and fin­gers down­ward into the muscle.

The Upper Spine revisited

We’re work­ing on the mus­cles to the side of the spine. The mus­cles are wide enough to allow for the use of the elbow.

The Small of the Back

We’re still work­ing on the mus­cles to the side of the spine — this time, just above the pelvis. You can either “grasp” the mus­cles with the hand, or push inward from the sides of the muscles.

A video of Bodywork on the back pelvis.

The Back Pelvis

Considered the locus for our passion for life, there are often major blocks at the butt. We focus on the side of the pelvis and the sciatic dimples.

Notes for this section:

Top Edge of Pelvis

We’re work­ing on the mus­cles to the side of the spine, and along the top edge of the pelvis. Even, firm pres­sure toward the pelvis. The area is lined with lig­a­ments, and can be worked deeply.

The Hip Joint 

The hip joint is at the top of the long leg bone, and there’s an indent near the top side of the pelvis. You can use either a thumb or elbow to apply pressure.

The Sci­at­ic Dimple

The sci­at­ic indent is locat­ed on the side of the butt cheek, and most peo­ple do have an indent or “dim­ple” there. Again, use a thumb or elbow to apply inward pressure.

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