How can having someone physically ‘work’ your body possibly produce therapeutic benefit?
The body aligns and regulates itself using feedback from sensors distributed throughout the system. A competent bodyworker can adjust the information flowing from these sensors and thereby improve how the system works. Perhaps, for example, chronic pain has led to immobility of a shoulder. We now have two sets of information feeding from the shoulder to the brain: pain and a cessation of normal mobility information. During bodywork, the shoulder area can be ‘worked’ to release unnecessary protective contraction thereby reducing pain, and new movement information (without pain). This kind of physical re-education can produce rapid results.
How can bodywork influence mental or emotional wellbeing?
We tend to forget there is a relationship between thoughts, feelings and physiology. Importantly, the relationship runs both ways. Just as we frown when we are worried so we worry if we frown. We smile when we are happy but we also feel happier if we smile. Research also shows that posture influences mental and emotional state. For example, adopting a ‘power pose’ of head up, legs astride, even for a few minutes can make people feel more confident. And the effect lasts for hours. That in itself is amazing. There is biofeedback from our body influencing psycho-emotional state. Importantly, hands-on somatic therapy works at the interface of physical, mental, and emotional well being. We somatic therapists change the way your body feels to you and that changes how you feel.
Bodywork therapists have numerous specific tools for specific tasks–far too many to discuss here. My training took four years and, since then, I have added 18 years hands-on experience of living bodies. There are a great number of different types of bodywork,each with their own conceptual model of how their therapy works. I adopt a base model of Shiatsu therapy–a Japanese form of physiotherapy applied to the conceptual model of acupuncture meridians. As many other therapists find, I have adapted my original Shiatsu training to suit my Western clients and my own training in physiology to create an individual form of therapeutic bodywork.
Treatments are received fully clothed and comfortable on a floor mat or in a chair.
What does Shiatsu feel like?
Most of us experience a deep relaxation during bodywork which itself is beneficial. Deep relaxation switches the autonomic nervous system away from ‘Fight or Flight’ mode into ‘Rest & Repair’ mode allowing the digestive and immune systems, which are subdued during stress, to come back online. Although bodywork can be extremely relaxing, that is not necessarily the primary aim. Depending on the needs of the client, sometimes a session may involve deep physical pressure; other times, extremely light and gentle. Sometimes, a session may induce uncomfortable emotions while a part of the body is worked.
Snapshot of comments after treatments:
“My neck feels so much better already, thank you.”
“I slept for two hours when I got home!”
Clients report successful outcomes for a range of ills from chronic fatigue to frozen shoulder. Susan Smith, for example, comments on how Shiatsu helped reduce her reliance on painkillers to cope with constant neuropathic pain; “I wish I had found you years ago!”
@ The Harmony Centre, Walpole, nr Halesworth (Suffolk)
@ The Cabin in Fressingfield, nr Harleston (Norfolk)
£48/hour (children £32). Home treatments available £55/hour
“I came to Cindy for help with painful neck and shoulder problems. My neck was slightly out of alignment and after years of back problems and operations didn’t want it physically manipulated. Stress was adding to tension in the muscles. After putting up with the pain and discomfort for far too long I thought I would try a shiatsu session. I wish I had come to see Cindy sooner. Amazing! Such a relief to feel my body readjusting, and my neck setting itself straight again! Cindy is a fantastic practitioner, she makes one feel relaxed and confident in the process, instinctively finding and alleviating the problems.” Jennie Callomon (textile artist)
Qualifications: Diploma in Zen Shiatsu & Oriental Medicine (The Shiatsu College, Norwich), post-graduate certificate in Shiatsu therapy, Thai massage (Chiang Mai, Thailand), Fascial Fitness Practitioner (Robert Schleip, London). PhD ‘The interaction between physiology and behaviour’ (1984). Nearly two decades of professional practice.