Resiliency

I’m amazed by human resilience. Absolutely when it presents in spirit, but also how it can show in the body. Healing takes time and effort, don’t mistake me. Seems like watching grass grow, living in an off-balance body trying to right itself again; uncomfortable to painful, depending. Specifically I’m talking about the beauty of how apparently “simple” touch applied to the body can have profound effects in supporting a natural resiliency our bodies carry.

Working on scar tissue that’s several years old and seeing it soften, break down, and allow for renewed flexibility and movement, both locally and to surrounding joints and muscles, I feel that wonderment:  look at how positive change can happen, even years later, with an immediate effect. Or simply working on clients with fairly normal restrictions and pain accrued in muscle tissue over the years:  feeling tissue begin to respond as you coax it back towards whatever balance it can hold – seeing a client bent over in postural restrictions able to regain improved posture and start to do physical therapy exercises again – noticing how the tissue itself feels different to your touch because it’s responding to that care and attention. Truly, I love this.

Bodies accrue wear and tear and require attendance ongoing. Tending to the organic “garden” of the body shows us that resilience is often there, even if it seems hidden, and it inspires us to nurture that trait further along, with appreciation, wonder, and gratitude.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Lara Stillo

 

Advertisements

What Do Your Senses Tell You?

I love and value my work. I can see the difference it makes, and it keeps me in my career. When I’m in pain myself, I won’t lie, it can be rough to the point of tears. You look down a lot doing bodywork – a set up for neck muscles. This posture, atop of an already injured neck/shoulder, has sent me into intense flare-ups (stabbing muscle pain, inflammation, shoulder instability, nausea). As a slightly stubborn, work-driven Taurus, I generally say nothing about it, keep working, and figure out a healthy way to do my work, even if I’m about to start crawling. Bodies can be both beautiful and seemingly terrible, but I will say, I learn from these experiences, every time.

As I worked this week in a flare-up, one of my wonderful physical therapist co-workers reminded me to keep my head position at eye-level; a posture sadly easy to fall out of. With slightly less ability to use visual clues in a client’s posturing and see changes being made as I worked, my sense of touch definitely increased. As did my humor, which I thankfully have enough of. Ironic that it takes pain’s reminder to stay body aware and to trust my sense of touch that much more. It was a switching of gears, as I slightly changed how I took information in about the client and the session. And did it work? It worked better in some ways. Another irony:  trust your body, trust your senses – all of your senses. In a culture where we rely more heavily on our eyes combined with the processing power of our brains, again the question comes up of how do we recognize, hear, and value some of our more instinctive senses, including touch and the wordless information it can report back to us; a world I’ve set out to explore in this blog. So while not advocating working in pain, via my aforementioned examples I’m again entranced by this huge world of information to be explored and gained when we allow the wordless realm of the physical body to “speak” and to be heard.

Copyright © 2018 by Lara Stillo

Get Grounded, Replenish, Start Up Again

 

Bodies take a lot of work. It seems like they’re never in balance, they always need care, and they seem to “betray” us with too many stories accrued over time. Definitely, they’re humbling. Whether there are imbalances we’re born with, or things that happen over time, bodies can often seem scary and terrible, like true harbingers of mortality.

As with all in life, there are multiple sides to things.  Our drive to do, move, and create does have its opposite – our need to slow down, turn inward, replenish and be still. Bodies require both movement and replenishment, and while our minds often fight against the latter, it is through physical needs, limitations, and pain that we are forced to slow down. So what if we remind ourselves at these times as best can, to fall into what is before us? Settle back into the muscles and bones, letting the over-drive of thoughts slip into the background, and be in a kind of wordless state; body over mind, sensations over thoughts.

Consider how the following examples actually feel, versus what they mean. Be a silent, “dumb” animal and simply experience:   working lotion carefully through dry skin – rolling the tissue open area by area throughout the body – slowly stretching through taut muscle fibers – rubbing arnica into small muscle strains, coaxing healing – using exercise bands on muscles thinned out from injury, promoting tissue to gradually grow back to balance again. The pace is steady, the intention caring, and the mindset committed and patient. Sensations over thoughts in this case really are not “dumb,” but they definitely are animal. And as long as we live in a body, the animal part is there and should be accepted and respected. So while bodies can be demanding, needy, pain producing, and seemingly unforgiving, remember to turn that coin and also see that they’re stabilizing, grounding, pleasurable, necessary, and quite forgiving in many ways. Slow down and accept replenishment, to start moving and strike forward again.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Lara Stillo

Present in the Moment to Achieve the Future

 

Often really challenging, right? To be completely present in any given moment. Doing so takes us more into our emotions, our awareness, and our physical body; things we’re often trying to avoid. But striving to hold that present moment awareness makes such a world of difference when doing a bodywork session. It’s amazing how much more you feel, notice, and connect with in the soft tissue as you work. Consider sinking your thumbs, knuckles, or fists into the usually tense upper trapezius muscles; staying absolutely present and letting nothing but the feeling of the physical guide your attention. It becomes its own purposeful meditation – the tissue guiding you into what needs to be done. Staying as present as possible, soft tissue will “speak” volumes to you, and your client will feel this work deeply, usually on many levels.

It’s hard for us to let go of our minds, in most cases. And clearly keeping all your senses awake and aware is important in life. So this isn’t about “spacing out” and drifting off while doing soft tissue work (though that can be great for the client to do). Rather, it’s about that state of being totally present, relaxed into the moment but awake and aware, and allowing the information that may be at hand in the tissue to come forth as you work. Staying open, curbing impatience, listening to information without words, and letting that body to body communication occur with the goal of creating movement and change. We simultaneously hone the great skill of listening when no words are spoken, while also promoting positive change for the future. Sometimes in doing the opposite of what we’re pulled to do to create change (ruminate, worry, project), is how we actually achieve that which we were seeking all along.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Lara Stillo

 

One Touch, Countless Meanings

This topic of touch, of expression and communication through the physical form, is a huge world to me. With the recent passing of an uncle, I’m remembering my grandfather’s death several years ago – how I just made it in time to spend the last thirty minutes of his life talking to him, touching his arm and his forehead, hoping it made any difference. His pain level was too clear, though he was unable to communicate back in any words; only his face and his body movements spoke, but they said much.

After flying, busing, and renting a car to make it, there was little time to check in with my grandmother and brother. My brother had been there for weeks helping to care for him. He just had time to tell me a few quick things, like how it soothed our grandfather to stroke the forehead area between his brows. Even in the angst of that moment, I loved how my brother knew this specific touch was soothing to our grandfather. Often this light touching between the brows is used to end massage sessions because it seems to calm our spirits, yet this was definitely not something we had ever done in our grandfather’s life. In his altered physical state, this very simple, instinctive gesture did seem to calm his pain, or his spirit – hopefully both.   

The smallest, lightest touch can convey volumes of meaning and feeling. And in the actual absence of words, of spoken communication, these gestures are more powerful because there are no words strong enough, deep enough, or broad enough to cover what meaning is held there. The beauty and breadth of this world captivates me – it is human, it is animal, it is vast and it is magical. 

With gratitude to all loved ones in our lives –

 

Copyright © 2018 by Lara Stillo

Living in the Animal World

I just finished teaching a bodywork course I wrote years ago. We focus on soft tissue pain and symptoms, on the confusion it can cause, and on how frequently it’s misunderstood. This journey takes us to looking at our culture – how it both celebrates and ignores the physical body. Anything involving something sexual, something that could “sell,” or any dramatic pathologies can easily get a lot of attention. Focus on simple health care, awareness of the body, and ongoing maintenance of it are often not well understood, or are missed completely. If the focus is more on intensities we can experience in the physical body, what then happens to some of the so-called basics we can experience in life: musculoskeletal pain/dysfunction, pain and stress relief through touch, and maintenance of the physical form via soft tissue work?

Given the pace and pressure of contemporary life for so many, taking basic, balanced, solid care of the body can be frustrating. Here are some great challenges that if enjoyed can sometimes be more easily incorporated into daily life:

  • foam roll the whole body every day and let the sensations take you further into your form; grounding and focusing you, both through discomfort and warm relief
  • stretch even just a few minutes a day, targeting different areas if there’s not enough time and doing another set of areas the next day; breathe deeply and well and enjoy what you feel there – a lightening as muscles slowly elongate
  • use various bodywork tools (tennis balls, lacrosse balls, muscle sticks, Thera Canes, etc.) to explore, acknowledge, and experience the body in a wordless array of sensations 
  • get bodywork on a regular basis as can – we spend so much time in our thoughts and minds, but just being in your body and feeling what is there, is like living in another world – an animal world where language is simply not enough to define or describe

Increased life quality can involve striving for balance, being present and aware, and staying as grounded as can. Coming from these stances, we’re better able to hear our body’s messages and care for it accordingly. We live in an animal form. Acknowledge, cherish, and care for it; we only get the one. It’s valuable, intelligent and as much a miracle as our brains. Do not forget to live in the huge world it presents.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Lara Stillo

Sensory Satisfaction

 

Fingers sinking into the base of the skull/the occiput, just the right level in this dense but sensitive tissue; pushing that tissue back and forth, easing movement back to the muscles and to the skull atop the spine. The taut edge of the upper trapezius firmly gripped, compressed, and slightly pulled back and down, freeing the neck from the often insistent yoke of the upper shoulders. Circular movements exploring around muscle attachments near the top of the thigh bone/the greater trochanter; creating space and freedom of movement at the top of the thigh, flexing, extending, walking, bending, kneeling. Fibrous bands of calf muscle tissue, restricting the flow of walking, receiving friction across and down the muscle fibers; feeling the ankle almost grow warm as it pushes back to a wider range of exploration again.

Short but sweet. Looking at what simply feels good in receiving bodywork and how difficult it can be to address in mere words (great and interesting as language is). Why aren’t there more words in written language to communicate well how incredible the body’s own language is? As I said, short and sweet and more to explore, likely forever. Enjoyment of the human, animal form and self-care to go alongside – cheers to that.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Lara Stillo

 

Dust Off, Body and Soul

Layers of life accumulate in our emotions, our thoughts, and our tissues, adding to our experience and depth of character. Conversely, these layers can also create a sense of burden, a narrowing of viewpoint, and a constriction in our physical form. Working on layers of “gummed up” muscle tissue in clients as well as in myself, I’m always reminded of this. Not with a judgement, simply with an acknowledgement – we gather both experience and “dust,” if you will. The former we can be proud of; the latter we can seek to keep brushing off. 

How great does it feel to have that taut edge of the upper trapezius/upper shoulder muscle eased open and back down again? As it rolls forward with gravity, usage, and postural imbalances, pulling up towards our neck in stress and excessive engagement, it harbors both the burdens we carry in life (a literal weight upon the shoulders) and the physical manifestation of those weights in clenched tissue.  I love how it feels, receiving or giving, to rebalance here. As the tissue is cleaned open again, freed from adhesive layers binding it to other muscles, a lightness returns to its movement, its texture, and to our sense of how we feel within the structure. As freer movement is restored to the tissue, even our very mood can feel elevated. A topic I could go on about in so many ways! For now let’s simply say, life accumulates – let’s hope to learn from what we undergo, continue to sweep off what we no longer need, and maintain a healthy flow of movement through all layers of who we are.

 

Copyright © 2018 by Lara Stillo