May 30, 2009

Peace Be With You: Using Guided Imagery to Promote Relaxation

Like many of my clients, I have had trouble in the past with stress, anxiety, and insomnia. I tried many things to combat these problems, some with more success than others. And I have to say that one of my favorite methods by far for reducing stress and promoting peace in my life is guided imagery.

I first encountered guided imagery several years ago in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, where I was working with a psychiatrist who practiced hypnotherapy. One of her techniques for relaxing clients was to have them close their eyes and breathe quietly and regularly while she painted a soothing picture with her voice. The goal was to have the client mentally insert herself into that peaceful picture and relax, as relaxation can make hypnotic regression processes, etc., much more effective. Often, she would record that part of the session so that the client could go back and listen again for further relaxation purposes.

I was so impressed with how much guided imagery calmed me, that I began to look for more variation in my diet. For the last several years, my two favorites have been Tuning Your Chakras (from the Edgar Cayce Pre-Sleep series) and Hara Breathing Meditation (by Iona Marsaa Teeguarden).

I suggest such CDs for client use (particularly at bedtime or naptime), and I also use very simple guided imagery in massage sessions. For example, when I have a client who is extremely stressed or whose purpose in massage is deep relaxation, I will sometimes end with a general Polarity Energy routine to rebalance the chakras. In beginning this, I will simply ask the client to breathe and relax as much as possible while we “go away somewhere.” Occasionally I ask the client where she wants to go, but generally, I pick the place according to whatever occurs to me at the time, and tend to go with my gut instincts for guided imagery travel. For example, as the weather has improved in Seattle, I have been doing a lot of walking around Green Lake. A few weeks ago, the cherry trees were in bloom, and as I walked, I watched the breeze shake them down like pink snow. And so in my session, I painted the scene of the lake that day: pink snow, dandelion seed parachutes, bright kites, and a tiny Chihuahua in a pink coat. “Can there really be anything too bad or scary about a world where Chihuahuas wear pink coats?” I asked. My client smiled, and the body under my hands instantly relaxed.

Sometimes we need to get out of our daily lives or at least change the scenery in our heads to achieve peace: guided imagery is a great, easy way to do this.

May 24, 2009

What Gift Do You Bring?

Hello out there, and Happy Memorial Day weekend to all of you in the Find Touch community! Since I’m brand-new to the Find Touch blog, allow me to introduce myself: My name is Lynna Dunn, and although I’m a Washington state-certified massage practitioner and graduate of Seattle’s Brenneke School of Massage, I originally hail from Arkansas. Furthermore, before I was reincarnated as a massage therapist, I was a college English professor. I mention these fun facts because no doubt you’ll notice the eclectic geographical/cultural/former-career quirkiness coloring my writing :-)

I am very excited to have this opportunity to communicate with Seattle’s massage community via the Find Touch blog. I have in mind a list of topics to explore in the coming months that I hope you find interesting, thought-provoking, entertaining, and occasionally a little zany.

I’d like to begin this week with a question I heard one therapist ask another: “What gift do you think you bring into the massage besides the massage itself?” Hmmm. Interesting question. I’m going to add another twist here, and ask, “What do you think you bring into the massage besides your healing hands that helps you bond with the client or put the client at ease?” In my own case, I’d have to say my own unique gift in the whole bonding and relaxing process is my voice, which though not exactly a drawl, is definitely slower, rounder, softer and more idiom-rich than the Northwest dialects around me. Clients often say things like, “I love the way you talk . . . it’s so relaxing. Are you from . . . Alabama?” Why they are so tentative and why Alabama is such a popular choice, I’m not exactly sure. I’m certainly not going to get hurt and say, “Alabama? Do I LOOK like someone with ‘Heart of Dixie’ on the back of my car??? I am from the NATURAL STATE!” No, I just say, “Almost there; just slow down and back up a couple of states east.” And then if they look like they might want to ask more questions, I say quickly, “Yes, I met him once at my high school awards ceremony, and the gym was sweltering, and I paraded past him and shook his hand, which was very sweaty, but as no one thought he’d be president then, I just rubbed my hands on my skirt and forgot about the whole thing for about twelve years.” And then we both laugh, and a bond is formed, at least for that massage. So my voice is my gift, and a gift in truth, as I acquired it naturally and did nothing to earn it.

And now I invite you to comment in the same context: “What gift do you bring into the massage besides your touch that forms a bond and makes you unique?”

May 20, 2009

My Left Foot

Find Touch welcomes a new blogger - Sue Peterson, LMT, NCTMB. Sue has been a licensed, board-certified massage therapist since 1995. Her specialty is therapeutic massage. Sue practices massage in the the Los Angeles area.

It was a beautiful, bright California Sunday afternoon – so we headed straight to the mall. The sports clothing store my spouse thought was at the north end of the mall was actually at the south end, so we hoofed it. I had given a lot of massages the day before, so a quick walk would be good for me. Was I wrong!

On the way back to the car I felt as though a spike was coming up through the bottom of my left foot. I shifted more weight to the right foot to avoid the pain. I wondered if I had twisted my ankle somehow. I wouldn't be able to take the dog for a long walk. No bike ride. Bummer.

At home, I soaked my feet in Epsom salts and my saintly spouse tried to rub my aching left metatarsal. I wondered how it came to be so painful to place weight on my left foot. I hadn't twisted or turned or half-fallen or stepped on a stone. Why was my foot so painful?

Then I suspected that I had done something I often warn clients about. I went to the closet, pulled out my slip-on, ergonomic shoes with orthotics. The shoes that I enjoyed so much I'd been wearing them every day. For two years.

The lateral sides of the soles were worn smooth, while the area around the big toe and inside heel showed plenty of tread. I had beaten my shoes to death and hadn't even realized it. When we quick-walked the hard stone floors of the mall, my favorite ergonomic shoes and orthotics were too worn out to support a rolling arch. Yup, I did it to myself.

In 14 years of massage practice, I knew worn shoes were a common factor in hip, back, and foot pain for many massage clients. Sometimes removing trigger points and stretching the Quadratus lumborum solved the problem. For many clients, however, the problem would return because of lack of support for the arch, particularly when walking barefoot on travertine/marble/cement floors so common in houses and stores.

Clients, of course, dislike the idea of wearing sensible shoes. Sensible shoes conjure images of boxy, downright ugly gunboats. They may have had a pair of the old-style hard orthotics made years ago and never wore because they hurt. Lots of women simply accept the idea of foot and back pain as a price for being attractive.

New, softer orthotic materials and better shoe design and stores that specialize in fitting shoes have all made “good” shoes much more comfortable. After trying to convince clients that shoe technology has changed, I often would drive home the point saying they could make me rich or they could wear better shoes.

I took my slice of humble pie and took my own advice. Back at the mall Monday night, I found a nice pair of ergonomic shoes at one of the stores that specialize in fitting people like me with funny feet. When I walked back to my car, I realized the pain in my left foot had disappeared.