Bodywork Therapies: It doesn’t have to be painful

How many of us subscribe to the philosophy of ‘no pain – no gain’ and apply it to various aspects of our lives?

Yet when we truly practice yoga, we learn to develop a relationship with our body, where we listen to what it is telling us and respond and move in a way that is deeply honouring.  After all, yoga means union and how can we be in union if there is not a true respect for the body. To me this means no pushing, no hardness, no pain.  With this, there is much to actually gain.

Pain is the body’s feedback mechanism to say stop what you are doing. Our mind can often override this signal, but at what cost to the body? When pain is felt, the body responds by causing the muscles to harden up around the injured site for protection to avoid further injury.

So what happens when we actively go into a movement that stretches the body to an extent where there is pain?  The connective tissue (or commonly known as fascia) also hardens up in order to protect the body.

This fascia is a system of tissues that runs throughout all the muscles, tendons, ligaments, bones, nerves, blood vessels and organs, overlapping and enveloping these soft tissue structures like cling film. The purpose of this system is to protect these important parts of our bodies.

So if one of our aims in practising the physical postures of yoga is to loosen and open the body, to have more fluidity, then why would we induce pain and cause more tension? It just doesn’t make sense.

We can apply our understanding of this principle in our practice of yoga, and it also makes sense to apply it to bodywork therapies including massage.

As a yoga teacher, connective tissue therapist and massage therapist, I have come to understand that the best way of releasing tension in the body is through the quality of connection – not force.  A stronger stretch in yoga or a harder stroke in massage may offer temporary relief, but does it solve the underlying problem in the long term? In my experience the answer is no.

For long term healing, the approach that I take as a bodywork therapist is to respect and respond to the connective tissue by working with the body in a connected and gentle way.

As an example, in massage, rather than forcefully working into a trigger point (a point of tension held in the muscle) to access the deep tissue and muscles, the body requires lots of repetitive strokes to first of all warm up the outer layer of muscles allowing access to the next and deeper level of muscles (hence the name deep tissue). If you try to access the deeper muscles via force and without truly understanding the role of the connective tissue in the body, the outer muscles harden and go into protection, working against what we are trying to achieve, which is to relax the muscles. Once the outer muscles have been warmed up, then we can access the deeper tissue in a gentle manner, with no force and without inflicting pain.

With the modality of Esoteric Connective Tissue Therapy we work with gentle hands-on healing techniques performed with slow rhythmic motion on various parts of the body. The therapy works directly with both the physical structures of the body (muscles, joints, etc.) and the energy that flows through the connective tissue system and in turn releases tension and tightness in the muscles.

By listening to the body and treating it with absolute care and gentleness it leads the body towards it own natural state of healing with no pain inflicted.

Written by Donna Gianniotis 

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