The Back of the Heart

It’s stunning to me how the power of simple touch can say volumes that no words in any language can express. Massage techniques, anatomy and physiology aside, the most basic touch can sometimes have an impact like no amount of deep friction, prolonged stretching, trigger point work, myofascial techniques, etc, can effect. And this not to say the aforementioned and so many other soft tissue applications and modalities are lacking in effectiveness or results. I’m always impressed with the changes wrought using good techniques at the right time, in the best way; it can be seemingly miraculous. But I want to speak to something simple right now and try to remain simple with it. What are we able to communicate wordlessly of ourselves to someone via touch?

In time spent with close friends, sharing back and forth about life pains that have arisen the last few weeks, listening as we walk, my palm goes automatically to their mid back; right between the shoulder blades, feeling the solidity of the back, maybe the prominence of the spine, the sloping forward of our often tired posture. I am not thinking anything in these moments. The natural gesture comes directly from empathy, free from condescension, lacking in attempts to control, acknowledging and accepting both our independence from one another along with our connection. What astonishes me is the palpability of the feelings as they run through the touch, like the rush of a flood without harsh impact.

How can this kind of touch be appropriately brought into a bodywork session where the focus is on using manual therapies to resolve soft tissue dysfunction and pain? Working with a client has very different boundaries than talking with a close friend. But as alluded to above, we can recognize the humanity in all of us, respect the freedom of each individual as they stand before us, and proffer our best wishes as a gift given with no return expected. Coming from a loving place, dropping assumptions that your touch has any power at all, a two or three second touch can say much. Keeping with the mid thoracic back as example, this often strained, sore zone can feel burdened on us, as if carrying a weight, much of it coming from overtaxed posture. No matter the reason in this instance, let your palm land gently between the scapulae, noticing what it feels like to have your hand rest there a couple of seconds. Brief is best to start with since the gesture can seem intimate to some, or even bring up emotion for others. The touch is simply an offering free of ego, based in reassurance and understanding. 

This simple laying of the palm in between the scapulae is basic yet powerful; another reason for keeping it short in duration. It’s a lovely way to end a session if the client is face down, or before turning the client over. This fleeting touch can also be grounding, bringing people back into the solidity of their body and the present moment. Whatever good intention you offer in this touch, notice not only what you intend, but what you feel. As we give in kindness freely to another, we also receive gifts unexpectedly in return – an acknowledgement of our shared humanity. 


Copyright © by Lara Stillo 2017