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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