Bodywork 101 – Introductory Essay

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I thought I might talk a bit more about why I have such an interest in Bodywork.

It’s funny how people intuitively understand the concept behind Bodywork — that stressors cause us to tighten muscles, and that this tightening locks in the emotion that therefore remains unexpressed. Most westerners can pretty quickly feel the pain of tight muscles — all you have to do is push on one, and the tightness becomes quite obvious. Getting the theory, however, is only part of the equation.

What happens next is interesting. Most people absolutely refuse to let go of the tightness. Oh, there might be some superficial shifting and relaxation, but without a complete letting go, the underlying emotion stays ‘stuck’ in the body, and from there, it’s a short trip to a more serious situation.

The key thing to get is that there is a distinct ‘voice of the body,’ and it’s method of communication is ‘pleasure/pain.’ Most people really hate both poles of this pair, and do all that they can to block, push back, or repress any feeling at all. So, the body, having no other way to communicate, ups the ante, by making the pain (or the pleasure) more noticeable.

If that doesn’t work, the body will begin what we might think of as an ‘illness cycle’ — the pain becomes more chronic, then there seems to be a shift to an actual breakdown at the tissue or cellular level, and pretty soon western doctors are sharpening their scalpels.

Here’s an illustration. Darbella and I have been going to the same hair stylist for a decade or more. We really like her. She has been on a ‘self-knowing’ project, a serious one, for the last year. Our conversations, while she cuts our hair, is fascinating.


We were in for a trim a week ago, and as she was putting on her apron she winced, and grabbed her shoulder and arm. Being me, I asked her if I could apply some pressure under her shoulder blade. She griped, "That really, really hurts!" I agreed that it likely did, and told her to hold on. I worked for a few minutes, and the shoulder regained some mobility.

Now, here’s the weird part. While I was ‘digging in,’ she said that she had been to her doctor and to an orthopedic surgeon, and that she was going to have the shoulder operated on.

I said, "Wait a minute! Why are you doing that? Back surgeries are not exactly noted for success."

She said that the pain had been increasing for a couple of years and that massage hadn’t helped.

I asked about acupuncture, and doing some Bodywork.

She said… "I’m a wuss about pain. I really, really, hate pain, and what you are doing hurts."

Think about it. What does she think the surgery is going to feel like?

Now, both eastern and western Bodywork would suggest that the reason her shoulder hurts is that the energy is blocked there. I can actually ‘see’ this on most people. Not physically – I just am ‘aware’ of the location of the blockage.

But, and here is where Bodyworkers differ from western allopathic medicine practitioners, I believe that the underlying cause of the block is some kind of unresolved emotional ‘business.’

Shoulders, and especially at the scapula (shoulder blades) is generally about "shouldering" responsibility, and (in this specific area) about the reverse pull to run away. The scapula, energetically, are like "wings" that want to pull us out of uncomfortable situations. A tension is created between the pull to rescue, and the opposite pull to head for the hills.

Now, if this underlying dilemma is not resolved, all surgery is going to do is clean up some damage. As we all know, allopathic medicine treats symptoms, not causes. Make the pain go away—and all is well. Well, no.

It’s the same with drugs like Prozac. Most people take it, and their mental pain recedes. But eventually things get weird again, and that’s because Prozac is great when combined with psychotherapy. The Prozac clears the mind, and the psychotherapy helps the client to change their approach to life. The life approach part is all, really, that matters. If you just take the drug, the underlying cause is still there, and it will rear its ugly head again.

One of the things I find interesting is how many people end up on our site by searching Google for body related topics. I’d say that 80% of our site visitors got there from asking a Bodywork question.

For example, today I see the following Google queries that people used, and then ended up on The Phoenix Centre site:

Collar bone breathing, blocked chi in the throat, push on pubic bone, Costa Rica and shiatsu, chakra massage, how to straighten pelvis, bone sticks out under sternum, sternum sticks out…

The things that cause us to hold on to pain-creating behaviour seem ‘normal’ to us. Over-responsible people, for example, think that they are on planet earth to rescue others. To do otherwise seems selfish.

Others, who fear their vocations tend to spend time in their heads, looking for excuses, and mentally running away. People like this often have leg and lower body issues, as in being ungrounded and "not having a leg to stand on." Feeling out of balance is almost always a Root Chakra issue. And on and on.

Knowing this, however, is pretty useless if you are not willing to change the underlying dynamic.

When you think about it, this is just like ‘life.’ Many people blame others for their dilemmas, and really don’t want to let go of having others to blame. If they did, they’d be stuck with the truth — everything going on in their lives is caused by how they are approaching their life.

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