Bodywork is a science, art and meditation. And what is most important is the state of consciousness of the practitioner. Here are some qualities that I teach and use in sessions. The mastery of these qualities does not happen overnight it is a live’s work.
All good body workers need to master their chosen technique. I have been doing bodywork professionally for 45 years. And my technique keeps changing and improving. In the last 3 years my technique has changed in many ways.
You have to study the method in order to be proficient in it. This much, everyone knows: you can’t be a good garage mechanic unless you learn how the engine of a motor car works and how to fix it. So you study, you learn, you practice until you are familiar with the machine.
In addition to learning the technique and conceptual knowledge, there are many qualities I find important when working with people, which I make a point of sharing with my students:
Healer, Heal Thyself
As a body worker I need to be empowered. Only to the degree that I am centered and grounded in my own body, feeling alive and flowing with my own energy, can I support these qualities in a client. If I am physically contracted, muscularly tense, or energetically collapsed, it really does not work to try and get energy flowing and pulsating through somebody else’s body.
I can do it to some degree by relying on technique, but the bottom line is: the way I am feeling and experiencing myself is what I transmit to the people with whom I work. So it’s an invitation to stay fresh and vital, present and alert.
I also empower my clients by educating them as we go along. As I mentioned earlier, it’s not just about touch therapy but also helping people become aware of holding patterns. And sharing with the client new ways to use the body, and watch their emotions and attitudes. This includes ‘homework,’ information that can be used after the session, such as movement and emotional awareness exercises that will integrate the experience on the bodywork table into daily life.
The client needs support. This is a basic value in bodywork, so the client feels able to relax, open up and trust. I help the client become aware of the physical sense of support he is receiving from lying on the table, and enhance this by cushioning the body in a way that makes it comfortable.
I communicate a feeling of support with my hands, through a loving, skillful touch, and dialogue back and forth with the client to help him recognize this quality. I also make sure the immediate environment in the session room is supportive — a beautiful, quiet space, with some soft lighting.
Presence is one of the keys to healing. There are body workers who have thoroughly schooled themselves in technique and anatomy and are good technicians, but they don’t bring enough presence to their work. Presence means that the client is able to feel you energetically; that you’re not just doing a job, working mechanically, while thinking about a dinner date with a girlfriend in the evening.
The client needs to feel you are staying with him, moment to moment, responding to his needs, and these needs change continually as the session progresses.
It is very beneficial for clients to feel accepted by the bodyworker; to sense that you accept them for who they are and that you are not judging them for the limitations of their bodies. Many people are self-critical – even ashamed – of the shape and size of their bodies and are self-conscious when exposing themselves to view by a bodyworker.
There’s a subtle distinction to be made here: when I look at a person’s body I may see how it is out of balance, how it is tense or contracted, and how it needs to be re-aligned. But I’m not judging the person. I’m seeing him as a human being, with a body just like mine, which needs a manipulation here and there in order to heal itself.
If there is an attitude of judgment on the part of the bodyworker, it will be hard for the client to trust, relax, open up and benefit from the session.
In a lot of psycho-analytical training and bodywork schools it is emphasized that you need to establish clearly defined boundaries with your clients. This is obvious and necessary. For example, in bodywork you need to establish clear sexual boundaries — you do not use the session to stimulate your sexuality.
But there is level of involvement that facilitates the healing process. This means that, over a series of sessions lasting weeks or months and sometimes years or during a long training program, I have a atmosphere of friendliness. I am respectful of boundaries, And at the same time I am involved with the client and with his progress. It’s more than just a therapist-client relationship; there is a atmosphere of closeness and intimacy in our relating.
It has been said many times that love is the greatest therapy. If there was more love in the world, the vast majority of therapy sessions and workshops would not be needed. Most probably, too, the demand for massage and bodywork would be significantly reduced.
Because love is missing, many people don’t get the kind of physical affection, contact and care they need in order to feel nourished. So, in sessions, it’s important for me as a body worker to feel the love that I have for the person with whom I am working — for this is a unique individual.
Often, during the session, I breathe into my heart feeling my love expanding into compassionate hands. Being able to share your love is an important part of the work because it is a fundamental aspect of healing.
Never give up
Not giving up on a client when his, or her, restrictions or blocks seem not to respond to your craft. Typically, these are the very people who have given up on themselves many times in the past, and subconsciously they are expecting you to do the same.
In my experience, when I don’t give up, and can allow myself to be there… be there… be there… and keep working with them, keep looking at the difficulties we are encountering, a certain level of trust arises in these clients which they have rarely felt in their lives, if ever. That’s when the healing starts to happen — in the experience of trust.
Non-attachment to results means that I don’t come into the session room with a huge agenda: “Okay, today I’m gonna fix this, this and this, and my client is gonna walk out of here feeling like a million dollars.” Rather, I find myself tuning into the client, sensing what is possible in this moment, and then going along with the process as it unfolds.
If a bodyworker comes with an agenda, the chances are that his style of working will be invasive to the client. This is something that I have to watch in myself, because my tendency is to want to “fix it,” “change it,” and arrive as quickly as possible at a definite outcome. Superficially, this sounds appealing – “let’s get the job done” – but in reality healing happens more effectively when I support the natural process of healing, which varies with each individual.
Meditation is the art of putting the mind aside and accessing an inner space of silence, stillness and peace. There are hundreds of different meditation techniques available for people to try, but all of them – all those worthy of the name – must lead to this sublime inner state of consciousness.
As a professional body worker, I apply the art of meditation by working as a vehicle for a greater healing force, a greater energy than one would normally associate with the limitations of an ordinary human being. In fact, when you look at history, all true healers attribute their powers to the divine, or to life, or to universal forces beyond themselves.
It may sound pretentious when phrased like that, but really it’s just a question of learning how “get out of the way” and let life do its own thing. It’s an understanding that life heals life, energy flows from one source to another, without any need for a personal claim that “I am doing it.”
By the way, there’s no need to feel intimidated by these qualities I have mentioned, because I’m aware that you may now be thinking, “My god, I have to be loving, meditative, accepting, supportive… and to anyone who walks in off the street for a session. I may as well give up right now!”
Be compassionate with yourself, be ordinary. These qualities are just indications of the kind of approach that will benefit both you and your client – and if it’s any consolation, after thirty seven years of practice I’m still working on developing these qualities myself.More about Satyarthi's Trainings