Massage CPD As It Should Be ...

Or ... Mind blown

I am not one for housework, but even I enjoy the sensation of opening doors and windows for the first time after a long winter and allowing the fresh spring air to pass through my home. The outside world comes in and, often with a gentle whisper, there is a revival, a renewal of spirit. There are two elements to the refreshment this experience provides. The first is the contrast: the stillness of air in a wintered home to the movement of the spring breeze. The second is merely a result of the first: from the initial point, to the introduction of the second, there is created a space into which something new may appear as the balance is returned to normal. Once the doors and windows are shut, the air will again settle and calm, but the freshness will remain.

I’m just returning from two weeks holiday from work. In fact the nature of my break says a lot about me: the first week was very physical, and involved packing up motorbikes, boarding the Eurotunnel and starting to explore the beautiful roads in Germany, Switzerland & Austria in particular. Perhaps the phrase “shall we pop to Amsterdam for lunch” when approximately 230 miles away was a sign of madness, but hey, I did a lap of the Nurburgring on my Triumph Tiger 1050 and, although I was over taken by everything (including someone else being overtaken … on the grass!) I did it!

The second week should have started with me spending two days in work, but perhaps due to the physical tiredness, I managed to take a chunk of skin off a finger whilst washing my bike (again, it’s this cleaning thing!). This meant I had to cancel all clients so that it could stop bleeding long enough to heal in time for my massage CPD course. Yes, people. Continuous Professional Development really can be fun, thrilling and something to look forward to!

I’d been looking forward to this course for months - the guy running it was coming over from America, I’d heard wonderful things about him, knew a little of his work and for once had devoured the text book before the course began. In fact I’ve put so many little highlighting flags it looks less like a book and more like a kite complete with streamers! It opens:

A Renaissance took place in Europe in the 15th and 16th centuries. We have all studied it, and thousands of books are devoted to the subject. Today we find ourselves in the midst of another renaissance, one predicted by the futurist John Naisbit in his book Megatrends. He spoke of the coming world as one of the “High Tech, High Touch.”

The rise of High Tech and its spellbinding world of virtual reality has become a pervasive aspect of contemporary society. At the same time, this renaissance of connecting with sight and sound has been accompanied by a renaissance of touch. Thus the rise of “High Touch” and its corresponding commitment to the heightened experience of the actual reality is a renaissance that is equally newsworthy and of potentially greater significance.

The most profound of our senses and the earliest to develop, touch is at the forefront of one of the truly remarkable developments of our age. The discovery hovering in the margins of mainstream awareness is that touch is quite possibly the leading edge for the next step in our cultural evolution.

It is no accident that there has been far more proliferation of touch therapies in the last twenty years than at any other time in world history. Nor is it any particular methodology of touch that is singularly powerful - be it Swedish massage, Zero Balancing, Reiki, Craniosacral Therapy, or Rolfing. These all are modalities pointing us back to the course of our power - our selves and the life force we embody.

I was really lucky when I trained as a massage therapist to come across a syllabus that I really wanted to study. But the college I originally chose didn’t have the numbers to make a September intake, did I want to wait or would I like to talk to the college in Bristol? Thus I was led to Andy Fagg, a man who was to be my primary course tutor, but who I subsequently learnt is a leading light in the world of massage therapy, particularly in the realms of ‘holistic massage’, here in the UK. He was interviewed last year by the Bristol Post: Bristol massage teacher shows how working with the body can help unlock the mind and is very succinct in describing how I was taught:

[The] link between the emotional and physical self is what sets Andy’s style of massage apart from the sort we might experience in a beauty salon, or practiced by some sports injury specialists. It’s about treating the whole person, rather than just muscles knots.

This isn’t “Andy’s” style any more, it is the style of Holistic Massage that I am honoured to practice, and that is the skill foundation behind Bristol Massage Therapy. What I didn’t know when I booked was that Andy had worked with David Lauterstein, the American who was teaching my four day course last week, here in Bristol. The whole course felt as thought I had wandered further upstream, closer to the source.

For several years I have known that I could call deep tissue massage a speciality of mine. Anything that you read about deep tissue work will typically involve the words deep pressure, chronic tension, deep muscles. Indeed, the webMD website lists various styles of massage and says of deep tissue work:

is best for giving attention to certain painful, stiff "trouble spots" in your body. The massage therapist uses slow, deliberate strokes that focus pressure on layers of muscles, tendons, or other tissues deep under your skin. Though less rhythmic than other types of massage, deep tissue massage can be quite therapeutic -- relieving chronic patterns of tension and helping with muscle injuries, such as back sprain. ~ WebMD - Massage Therapy Styles and Health Benefits (Interestingly enough ‘holistic massage’ isn’t covered … not entirely surprising!)

The course I have just completed was called Deep Massage. Describing the point at which he changed the way he referred to his therapeutic approach, David Lauterstein writes:

I had come to realise that we weren’t working simply on tissues. we weren’t simply effecting the release of the muscles and fascia. We were working with the whole person with the aim of affecting him or her in a deeply positive way.

I was familiar with this theory from my studies and my own time on the table. But this course was mentally (and if I’m honest, emotionally) quite exhausting, just as the bike trip had been physically exhausting. I was outside of my own comfort zone, feeling clunky in my own body mechanics - where was my hand meant to be? Hang on, which hand? - yet the impact upon myself, whether as giver or receiver, was quite magical.

When I was younger (and not so younger!), my parents would caution me against wearing my heart on my sleeve - advice I have always rebelled against. Perhaps because I’ve always been argumentative, or perhaps because I’ve always known that to be other than I am in that respect isn’t being true to me. Over the past four years, since I qualified as a massage therapist, I have worked with a wonderful array of people. I refer to them as clients, but never have I forgotten that they are people. Both when I was working as a personal trainer, and in my work as a massage therapist I’ve had two key phrases to describe my work and my aspiration for my work:

  • to enable people to be the best they can be in their bodies
  • to make magic happen

The beauty of this course has been to remind me of the work that I want to do … it has taken me upstream from the pool I have been playing with, and perhaps muddied slightly, so that I have been able to be refreshed. In a way my words are not able to, I will quote David Lauterstein one final time to explain:

Each Deep Massage can bring the person closer toward fulfilling their destiny. In each session, restraining forces introduced from previous experiences and locked into muscle, joint, bone and nervous system are let go. We become freer; our natural inclination to go, to enjoy, to live life to its fullest, is amplified. The present moment is now new, free, open to be lived as we please.


P.S. I hope you will forgive the gratuitous motorbike shot, but when thinking about the refreshment my recent course provided, it reminded me of my trip - sitting in the shade, breathing the Austrian alpine air, enjoying an ice-lolly! This was the start of the return leg, complete with cow bells, ski lifts and the roar of other motorbikes passing :-)