Mind-Body Therapy Goes Hands-On

22nd October 2010

Mary Linehan experiences Biodynamic Massage

When social worker Sarah*, 52, booked her first Biodynamic Massage with Oxhey practitioner Kate Codrington, she was managing a heavy workload, experiencing workplace bullying issues, and juggling the demands of family life: a balancing act that was threatening to affect her emotional wellbeing. In Sarah, these feelings were manifesting as cluster headaches, neck and shoulder pain, IBS-type symptoms and lower back pain.

She had tried other bodywork treatments, some of which were successful in the short term, but the problems recurred. She heard about Biodynamic Massage through a friend and found Kate through the AHBMT (Association of Holistic Biodynamic Massage Therapists).

So, what’s the difference? Massage involves muscle work to release tension, and you lie on a table. Biodynamic Massage is no different, but it has a deeper meaning in that it has links to body psychotherapy. Inasmuch as it treats body and mind as a whole, it’s holistic… but it also addresses the mind-body relationship and how our emotional well-being manifests itself in our bodies: signs that are detectable through body language and posture as well as through physical symptoms.

To focus treatment, Biodynamic Massage takes into account the extent of muscle tension, the client’s current emotional state and the body’s energies. As well as deep-tissue muscular work, it can also involve stroking, holding, stretches and aura work, as with many Eastern philosophies.

Your first session is very much that of ‘getting to know you’. You tell the practitioner about your aches and pains and what’s going on in your life – he/she listens, and assesses your body language.

In Sarah’s case, Kate observed her new client as an outgoing and friendly, but slightly anxious, woman, who took up as little space as possible, crossed her legs and was uptight, holding her bag closely to her, and revealing a slight stoop in the way she sat.

Kate interpreted Sarah’s needs in the light of all that she had heard and seen. “I wondered how it would be for Sarah to be more confident and how this would affect the compression in her body. The muscles close to her spine were very tight, as were her shoulders and chest.”

My own physical manifestations are upper back and neck muscle tensions with some occasional crick-like pain. Kate’s assessment of what my symptoms mean is not for publication (!); I’m rather relying on the fact that there won’t be too many Biodynamic Massage practitioners reading this to ensure that my secrets are safe…

Having had my initial consultation with Kate, I was delighted that she would be concentrating on muscle and connective tissue work that would incorporate some intense pressure. Perfect.

In the therapy room everything is done for comfort and warmth: plenty of cushions and blankets. I chose to remain clothed – how much you discard is up to you.

While I was on my back, there was some ‘laying on of hands’ on my core energy centre or chakra – namely my solar plexus – and some ‘energy cleansing’ in the form of strokes along the body that did not involve direct touch. From there, Kate got down to business applying pressure to the various knotted areas and strained sinews in my shoulder and neck, working down to my lower back. At various intervals, she maintained pressure using her fingertips, even ‘lifting’ my shoulder blade for what seemed like a minute at a time. It was all carried out very rhythmically and gently; even the intense applications of pressure didn’t create my customary twitch reaction.

Kate proceeded to massage, stroke and apply pressure to my legs, feet, arms and fingers. Then it was time to turn over. The surprise was the cranial massage and pressure work on the base of my scalp: not only relaxing, it relieved tension on the spot.

The most embarrassing part was all the gurgling. Who’d have thought that listening to a client’s tummy rumbling is an indicator as to how the body is responding to treatment?! In Biodynamic Massage, the more noise, the better the relaxation.

The experience certainly helped reduce tension, which thankfully, has not yet built up again. It was definitely relaxing, helping my broken sleep cycle for the ensuing nights. And, since my treatment, four days prior to writing, there’s been no recurrence of that crick-like pain.

Other potential benefits – such as building up self confidence, giving a sense of ‘being put back together’, or being touched at a deeper level – can’t, of course, happen in just one session, particularly given that the treatment programme that was originally devised as a psychotherapeutic tool to deepen self-discovery. Despite the limitations of the single treatment, though, my mood has certainly been more upbeat since.

Sarah’s experience of working with Kate over several months involved continuous intense muscle work to release the tension there and dispel the headaches. “As well as the muscle work,” Kate adds, “I used flowing energy techniques to encourage her to expand.” This ultimately addresses self esteem issues and ability to deal with stress.

The result for Sarah was a significant reduction in her neck and back pain. She also found that, through the energy techniques, she grew more self-aware and in tune with her physical reactions to stress. With this self-awareness has come more confidence and an ability to ask for help when she needs it.

There’s probably no therapy yet developed that will treat all ills. Biodynamic Massage may come close, though. Sarah’s experience has been extremely positive. Mine too, and I am intrigued by the idea of body psychotherapy. I‘ll be back for more.

* Sarah’s identity and personal information has been changed to protect her anonymity.

Kate Codrington has been massaging professionally since 1993. After training with Biodynamic Massage pioneer Gerda Boyesen, and gaining a Certificate in
Body Psychotherapy and Biodynamic Massage at Chiron, Kate has recently studied with Well Mother, specialising in pregnancy and postnatal massage.

Kate is a member of the AHBMT, BCMA and PAPA.

To contact Kate, email kate@biodynamicmassage.me.uk or call 07813 402 477.

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