We really don’t know what a body can do. Spinoza said this centuries ago and it is still true today. Writing a book about brain imaging I learned that we don’t even know how much of human life can be attributed to the brain (or genes). Training in massage therapy at the hands-on Davis Massage Therapy Institute, I learned that muscles, tendons, and fascia (all the other connective tissue in our bodies) are equally wild and mysterious, exceeding our imagination in their mobility, adaptability and plasticity. I also learned that I knew almost nothing about muscles and fascia, about pain and patterns, about care and treatments. Practicing for almost three years now I can say that there is an incredible variety of massage approaches and each can work wonders on people.
I began it partly to help my tennis-playing son whose 30 or so hours a week on the court put an inevitable and asymmetric strain on his body. Releasing tight muscles, teaching proper and surprising stretching and relaxing techniques, and emphasizing the importance of water for general body wellness were immediate results. My wife now practices a form of Chinese abdominal massage called Chi Nei Tsang, the belly being a place that many store their tension and stress, and also the site of stomach aches, intestinal disorders, and IBS. The main forms I practice are neuromuscular therapy and cranial-sacral, both fairly light in terms of pressure but deep in terms of effects. Working with tensions and reducing them can go a great way toward clearing up problems.
As part of training, we took a week-long cadaver dissection class for bodyworkers (taught by Gil Hedley – see his “fuzz” speech here). Exploring the intense variety of bodies at every scale with a group of people who spend their days working on bodies was incredible. Seeing what is beneath the skin and seeing how complicated and connected it is inspired me both to continue practicing massage and to find ways to represent anatomies in new ways. Currently I’m working with the KeckCAVES group to develop modes of comparing three-dimensional models and hopefully will be able to do this across the different anatomies that each tradition works with.