Breathing a Little More Deeply…


Working the soft tissue open along a line under the clavicle – often sensitive because the pectoralis major is generally tight on people, sometimes awkward since there’s less tissue mass here, and usually it’s not an area one thinks of as “relieving” to have worked. But that said, it’s interesting to see that most people do respond positively to the work here. Understanding anatomical function and common postural imbalances, it is an important area to address, yet the way people respond with such surprise and relief themselves always interests me; I learn from it, every time. Watching these same reactions over and over helps me to refine my work and supports the style and intention of it:  to accomplish the most I can, as effectively and efficiently as possible, promoting some positive and acceptable change for the client, while keeping the touch itself great to receive. And we can work this area a little on ourselves, too, which is always a plus.

Apply it to yourself first. Bring the four fingers of each hand together, placing them under the most medial portion of the clavicle, staying in soft tissue, off the sternum and above the first rib. Sink in a little bit first, anchoring your fingers into the tissue, noticing how just the pressure can feel good. Let the fingers slide simply by applying more pressure (a little lotion may be needed here, so the skin isn’t dry, but also isn’t overly lubricated). Sensations can vary: the head and neck can feel less restricted from the anterior pulling of flexion; the upper thorax feels more open, allowing the ribs to expand more in breathing; the shoulders also feel less of that anterior pulling from postural flexion. And even if the client (or you) can’t put words to all the above, there is a lightness felt, like a weight has been removed from around the upper body. Another simple, effective technique here is to apply gentle, rapid, continuous pulses from your fingertips; like a faster rocking to the area. With this approach, the fingertips do better sitting lightly atop the first ribs, anchored in enough to allow the jogging movement against the solidity of bone, while not applying so much pressure that the client feels like you’re trying to do chiropractic adjustment. It creates almost a small wave moving through the client’s body as they lie on the table, or a shorter wave through the upper torso if you’re applying to yourself. Keep the focus on the pectorals major, the primary muscle being addressed here, as it attaches along the anterior and more medial surface of the clavicle and drapes down along the upper anterior torso.

Anything that feels less restrictive in our bodies, anything that feels freeing, is generally well-received and gratefully acknowledged. We don’t always notice the feelings of heaviness we carry around until they are removed. The result can feel like our mood lightens, or we’ve more energy, or sometimes even that years have been dusted off. The responsiveness of the body to touch is amazing, affecting us on so many levels, and so often difficult to describe fully. How does it feel if you apply it to yourself? Grounding, relaxing, opening, comforting, revitalizing, or? See what you notice, see what your client’s non-verbal responses tell you, and hopefully breathing can go more deeply because of it.


Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2016




The Tactile Comfort of Massage Linens


Musing on how much we look forward to receiving bodywork, to receiving therapeutic touch, receiving kindness through this touch. Soreness in our muscles yanks at us, the tension in our bodies piles up and pulls us off course, and the energy drain of these imbalances weighs us down; so whatever the cause or reason for how we feel off kilter, massage is generally always something we feel uplifted about. What I find really lovely, interesting, and pertinent to why I started this blog, is how many clients over the years have expressed their liking of simply having the linens arranged over them; continuously shifted and re-draped during the massage session, like origami respectfully and carefully done.

I confess that while I love pleasant, tactile sensations and certainly delight in receiving massage, I have not payed as much attention to how nice the linens feel around you during a session. Yet I’ve always been very aware of how it might feel to the recipient as I work, so as I drape, I’m conscious of the different folds and layers of the linens and blankets, both in how they look and how they look like they feel. How are they laying across the client? Are they pulling too much, or feeling too tight, too heavy, or too loose? Is there ease in how these materials rest on the person, covering them with respect, warming them just enough, enfolding them in a way that matches the caring, professional, goal oriented intention of the work? Details matter. All our actions and intentions speak more loudly than our words.

A client of mine recently mentioned how the linens being moved around made her more aware of her own body, of areas that might be more tense than she realized, of imbalances that were spot specific that she was unaware of until she felt the drapes shift. I loved hearing her insight and experience; very unique to her and a reminder to me as well. Now I expand my own awareness from doing the draping and being attentive to how it could feel, to myself receiving it when I get bodywork done. Any reminder to be in the moment, enjoying simple sensations in a meditative kind of way, is lovely, mindful gift.


Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2016

The Base of the Thumb – A Large Small World


Seriously, who doesn’t enjoy having their hands massaged? Let’s do a simple one for the thumbs (talk about an overworked area). Think of this as a very small road trip, a tiny but effective exploration. – Take the thumb tip of one hand, place it on the medial  or inner side of the thumb joint on the opposite hand. Stroke it down along that inner edge of the thumb’s metacarpal bone, following it along to where the bone ends. Then turn a right angle to trace inward along the palm’s base, moving toward the center of the hand, still staying low along the base of the hand. It’s simply two short, firmly pressed lines, tracing the outer edge of the thenar eminence, yet these two brief strokes do help to move tension out from the area – and it feels really good! A lot of tension can sit around that edge, in our usually over-used thumbs. Notice spots that are tender, tighter, or even gritty in muscle texture; the left and right hand will probably feel different from one another. Grouping the forefinger, middle, and ring fingers together is a nice alternative to using the thumbs here. With this broader point of contact, you can use these three finger tips to apply strokes from the thumb joint down across the thenar eminence, to the base of the hand right above the carpal/wrist bones. A nice break from the computer, allowing a space for “zoning out,” exploring this small area with simple, focused strokes. 

What are we feeling in there, besides tension or soreness? Applying the above simple strokes explores along the abductor pollicis brevis, the flexor pollicis brevis, and the opponens pollicis muscles. Along with the soft tissue, there’s also the carpometacarpal joint at the thumb, the first metacarpal bone, and a little of the trapezium in the wrist –  all the aforementioned in this small space, receiving needed touch, and working hard and ongoing for us as we move through the world. The complexity of human anatomy seems never-ending, and still our learning about it continues. The power of simple but focused touch seems even more of a universe; constantly new, every time, and so often without words to explain how it feels. You don’t need to know the anatomy of the area to appreciate massage here, though it does help to grow our appreciation of what we are and what we have. The more over-worked or stressed any given region of the body is, the more we seem to expand and let go once these areas are addressed with care and attention. So work on your own hands, or offer this gift to another. Allow yourself to notice in receiving this touch, how a stillness can rise above the noise, and a quiet can grow deeper within.


Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2016