Deep tissue bodywork

Deep tissue bodywork is a broad term that describes, well, deep tissue massage, that is not so concerned with relaxing the client and more concerned with working on the structural aspects of our body that prevents relaxation.

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Session 1

The practitioner was a long-time Shiatsu practitioner who likes to do deep tissue bodywork.

We went into the session room, and unusually he didn’t ask me anything about whatever ailments or issues I may have had. He offered me the choice of the massage table or shiatsu mat and I chose the mat. Then he got to work.

Oh boy, here we go! Deep tissue bodywork is full on!

As he started working on my back and neck I started looking forward to how good I would feel afterwards because this was going to be intense!

He liked to delve deeply into those painful spots, working very fast and furiously, his breath like a steam train sometimes as he cranks up the energy.

He likes to use multiple points of contact, such as having his (very strong) fingers on some point on my neck, his elbow just behind my hip (on one of those painful points!), and his foot wobbling my lower leg to prevent me from tensing up when he went in deeply.

At that point he mused about what he would be able to do if he were an octopus which made me really nervous! I have regular massages, that I write about, as well as others, and now I felt like I had never had one.

He would ‘go after’ tensions in my body, particularly in my back and shoulders, neck and jaw.

I am in the process of having some dental work done, a root canal, and he could see that my jaw was more tense on that side from the chronic low grade infection, and that this was affecting my neck and upper back quite radically. It is all connected after all!

He comes from what I call the ‘classic school’ of bodyworker, who endeavours to undo years of structural misalignments in one session. He is passionate about what he does, and puts all of himself into it.

Though it was full on, I liked it, and appreciating his understanding of the body.

That was quite an experience, and though not for the fainthearted, it was an amazing journey into my body.

I could feel it working for some days afterwards, particularly in my jaw where I could feel each day the tension returning, though I was more able to go in there and relax it.

Session 2

When I arrived for the session we spoke for a while about the philosophy behind his work as it had evolved over the past 15 years.

‘It’ is all about balance, and how when one part of the body contracts, or is held, then it affects other parts, often on opposite sides of the body, and all of this interferes with the flow of chi, life force.

Therapy massage procedure

His work was more about changing, releasing the underlying structures, and simultaneously opening up the energy meridians.

After I told him of the idiosyncracies of my body, chronic and new pains etc, up onto the table I went.

He quickly noted where there were any twists in my body, and spoke of a loose session plan that he would follow, all the time however seeing my body as the teacher and guide as to how the session would proceed.

He went in quite deeply straight away, and with his strong hands I realised exactly what kind of session I was in for.

Stretching, kneading, stretching kneading, giving lots of attention to the musculature of the sides of my body, firstly the trunk then the legs and arms.

He had showed me a diagram of the body’s musculature before we started, which showed the superficial, more active muscle groups, and the deeper more structural muscles, and it was these latter muscles that he was working on.

He rolled me over, moved me around to get the best access to this or that part of the body, each time stretching and kneading.

I found myself ‘disappearing’ sometimes, which made sense to me as often when bodywork is deep, where deep physical patterns and holdings are being exposed, released, it is also going deep in the unconscious, and my mind doesn’t like it, and goes dreamy, a bit spacy. It is also part of the session.

When the session was complete I lay there very relaxed and quiet inside, simply here and now, breathing and enjoying the space. I felt quite invigorated, and relaxed when I arrived home that night.

I’d had a painful arm which seemed to be nerve pain referred from my neck, and this went within a day of the session, and my knee has been significantly freer of pain as well.

So while actually he didn’t work especially on those areas they were affected positively by the session.

Written by Mark O’Brien for the “Session of the Month’, Here & Now magazine, Byron Bay 1999-2005

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