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

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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

Intention is Everything

 

Bodies don’t lie, so neither does touch. But our minds can confuse, and even lie, to us. I watch my own responses as I work on people and think about this.

Recently, I worked on a colleague with many old injuries. Daredevil stunts in child and teen years, dog-piling into the gum-in-your-hair effect of scar tissue, old stress fractures, compensatory movement patterns, and muscle imbalances. Picturing the impact injuries she’d described so well, understanding what might happen in the anatomy from her injuries, and palpably feeling the tissue imbalances around the area, I “felt sorry” for the sacral bone, a primary area of injury for her. So many old stress fractures and so much scar tissue creating chronic dysfunction in the glutes and low back muscles over the years. I did light touch and movement on the surface of the area in starting, just to say “I’m sorry” to the skeletal structure. My colleague understood and made positive comment on. Both of us on the same page helps.

So it’s funny to me that after so many years full-time in this field, I can still feel hesitant in maintaining prolonged, stationary, empathetic touch. In working, my body responds with an innate, animal instinct human beings have for touch and giving aid, but my mind tells me other things:  don’t act out of ego; they might misunderstand; this won’t do much; and so-on. I completely believe in the healing effect of simple touch, yet I was raised in a culture that varies from not believing in the value of touch, to sexualizing most touch, to being suspicious of it. Many people can relate to this and feel trapped by it. 

So how to get out of this trap? Maybe everyone must answer this for themselves. For me, I like to know my intentions, stay grounded, communicate clearly, and act out of compassion. Whether actual healing happens is not up to us in offering it anyway. It has to be processed by the person receiving. A tightrope walk, to recognize the freedom of all individuals in life, to believe in the power of genuine caring, and to hope for positive results without demanding them. Keep balancing –

Copyright © 2018 by Lara Stillo

Sciatica, Piriformis Syndrome, Gluteus Minimus, or…?

 

Pain in the low back, gluteus/buttock muscles, low limbs, even to the feet, possibly including pins and needles or numbing. Who’s the culprit for all this physical discomfort? Once it starts interrupting our ability to find a comfortable sleeping position, we all want to know. Lower lumbar vertebrae impinging on the sciatic nerve (sciatica), or the piriformis muscle under the glutes compressing that same nerve? First off, wise to get things assessed properly. A good physical therapist or orthopedic doctor are solid professionals for covering musculoskeletal pain and imbalances. Second, keep in mind sciatica and piriformis syndrome are very often composite problems, meaning there are several influences creating the issue. As I focus continually on in this blog, other soft tissue imbalances can be adding to the problem, sometimes even the sole cause. 

Segue to gluteus minimus, a key player in creating mid-lower body pain patterns (though not the only one, sorry ;). Find this muscle on a nice, basic anatomy drawing. Found in the posterior to lateral portion of the hip, it is the deepest of the three glute muscles, attaching in at the front and top of the femur/upper leg bone. If it’s hypertonic/too tight, a large referral pattern of pain, weakness, pins and needles, and/or numbing can present from the hips all the way to the feet. A tennis or lacrosse ball is a great tool to start easing the tissue out of excessive tension, breaking down adhesions and interrupting pain signals from the tissue. Best to stay off the tendon attachment to avoid irritating a bursa/”cushion” located there, or the tendon itself. Stay about an inch away from the head of the femur bone, keeping in the belly of the soft tissue encircling that greater trochanter/top of the femur. This will all make more sense after glancing at an anatomy drawing – maps of the body are interesting, just try!

The area can be surprisingly tender or sharp feeling. Using a sports ball and having massage done will reveal these sensations, often recreating familiar pain patterns. No need for torture! A dark laugh at how sore it may be will keep the breath going if needed, but if the breathing stops and the swearing escalates, best to lighten the pressure or address another time. Let the physical sensations be the guide. Follow the tension in the tissue – coax and ease it open, backtracking it out of dysfunction and discomfort. Trouble sleeping on that side? Try using the sports ball right before bed, follow with a couple of gentle stretches to the glutes. Getting good bodywork done to the area really feels so relieving. Sensing pain and imbalance being led out of an area leaves us all feeling so much lighter, in spirit as well as in form.

 

Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2018