HOW SHIATSU TAUGHT ME HOW TO WORK THROUGH TENSION

Greg Casey, Phd, LMT - Shiatsu Therapy


     Being a shiatsu therapist has taught me much about people and the art of the healing. Tension is something that I constantly face in my practice and in life. So how do I work through it? For clients, I use my fingers, thumbs, elbows, knees, and feet as tools to promote wellness, alleviate pain, and improve circulation. The process of pressing, massaging, and percussing breaks up tension in clients’ bodies. The intuitive part of shiatsu practice has giving and receiving qualities to it that help me work through the tension from the first touch on the client’s body. The slightest jump, an exhale, an inhale, a shifting in position, a word of affirmation, or a vocal “OUCH!” These responsive reflexes tell me the progress and direction of how the session is going. The origin of tension is fascinating to me and dealing with it is equally intriguing. Behind each of these expressions, there are a myriad of complexities that make up an individual human condition. One person’s experience is no less valuable, yet revealing of the mystery of their health.
     
     I like to assist in dispersing tension through my practice to help others. Most of the sources of tension can stem from stress physically, mentally, and emotionally. The combination of the three take place  concurrently most times. For instance, a client who works sitting at a desk all day long slowly will develop tension in their shoulders and low back over time. These physical demands on the body will affect the client’s mental/emotional outlook. This type of tension can be simple to correct. Whereas a client who deals with constant mental/emotional tension can be tricky. About 8 years ago, I had a client who was going through a nasty divorce. Anger and the stress that accompanies it settles in the body pretty regularly and can impair function of the heart and musculoskeletal system. When I pressed certain pressure points, he became enraged and verbally abusive to me during the session. His anger sat in his body from the emotional toil. From the physical manipulation of the pressure points combined with some discomfort, the flood gates of discontent opened and bombarded me because I just happened to be in the room. Emotional releases such as in this case do happen from time to time in a session; however, these are beyond my scope of practice to assist. After the session, the client calmed down and felt a little better; however, his responses taught me that mental/emotional tension embed into the physical body leading to physical tension.

     There are some basic emotions that tend to surface in shiatsu sessions with clients on a regular basis: ANGER, FEAR, SADNESS, WORRY, and ANXIETY. Navigating tension that clients bring to a session has taught me that therapy has to be tweaked to the client’s physical constitution and their mental/emotional state of mind because they are interdependent. I find when there is physical tension there is also mental/emotional tension and vice versa in most sessions. Trying to figure out the primary cause is one of the very reasons why l love shiatsu and Asian bodywork therapy because the therapy addresses both the physical and mental/emotional. I am able to help work through physical tension in the body while indirectly alleviating the mental/emotional tension. At the end of a session, nearly all clients are looser, relaxed, and composed when they first came in for therapy. As tension arises, feel where it resides in your body and you may be surprised what you learn about yourself.
 
Author
Gregory Casey, PhD, LMT Gregory Casey, PhD, LMT Shiatsu Practitioner/Massage Therapist at the OCSM/One Lifestyle Medicine clinic. Current Assistant Professor at LSUHSC New Orleans.

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