By Heidi Aschenbrenner,BCTMB CCT, LMBT and Member AOBTA
Our bodies are wonderfully complicated entities, which makes the field of bodywork so exciting. Any kind of bodywork that delves into the fascia prompts change in those tissues, on a level that can’t be accessed with other methods of healing. (Fascia is a blanket term for all connective tissue in the body.) Our soft tissue (muscles, tendons, ligaments, skin – all the softer fascia of the body) can be stretched, strengthened, injured, or torn. Thankfully, our bodies adapt and compensate for an immense variety of potential mishaps that we encounter as we go about our lives with both our work and our play. Also thankfully, our bodies do heal, and they can also be retrained out of any bad habits we’ve had – all we need to do is prompt our muscles to do different things to learn new behaviors. What a wonderful fascial system we have!
Many of us have had some type of injury. We may have gone through physical therapy, we may have just put some ice on it and taken anti-inflammatories until our acute pain went away, or we may have ignored the pain until we no longer noticed it anymore, pushing through the daily “have to’s.” The fascia does eventually heal, sometimes in spite of ourselves. But… if there was any emotional trauma connected to that injury, the emotional aspect of the injury does not simply go away as we ignore it. Ah, the complication now arises.
Our fascia retains those emotional memories. If this is a new concept to you, then pause and think on that for a moment: our fascia retains those emotional memories until we release them. Unless you have experienced this phenomenon, it may be difficult to grasp. I had grasped the concept mentally years ago, yet I still was not fully prepared for the first time I experienced this type of healing. Many of us have learned to push down our emotions, pressing on and not stopping to feel or to grieve. There may be fear, sadness, or anger associated with any traumatic event that results in physical injury. How often do you think we allow ourselves the time and space to process those feelings at the time they occur?
Many of our chronic pain issues are simply our bodies crying out, begging us to pay attention to what still needs healing, and it may need to be on an emotional level. Our bodies can wait a very, very long time for this, but eventually push comes to shove and then someone’s back goes out simply from picking up some laundry. Chronic pain plagues so many of us, and so often the medical community doesn’t understand exactly what is causing that pain. Pain is the body’s method of communicating to us that we need to stop what we are doing and change something. Discovering what needs to change is not always a simple task.
How do we experience this healing? It requires trust in your therapist. It requires slowing down and allowing your mind, body and spirit to express what needs expressing. It requires not forcing your fascia to do what you think it “should” but rather just letting go. It requires not having an agenda for your bodywork session, which comes back to trusting your therapist. Letting go with your mind is imperative so that your fascia can then let go of whatever it still needs to; you need to be in a parasympathetic state for this type of healing to occur, and for any real changes in your fascia to occur. If you are one who likes to chat during massage, you will never get to this level of healing.
Not everyone needs this deep emotional release during bodywork, but many of us certainly do. If you ever feel the need to weep during a bodywork session, please remember that it is good and healthy to let that happen. Don’t stifle the healing process with any “should’s.” You are safe with your therapist, and all licensed therapists receive training on this very topic. I recommend that you talk to your therapist if you’d like to know more.
Heidi Aschenbrenner, BCTMB CCT, LMBT and Member AOBTA, is the owner of Renu Massage, Energy & Bodywork. Heidi’s team of therapists all strive to achieve balance in each session through the use of energy work incorporated into their bodywork therapies.