West Country Massage Association Meeting

8 March, 2010 at 03:50 2 comments

Today I attended the first biannual meeting of the year of the West Country Massage Association (here after which will referred to as the WMA).  The WMA is made of members who have trained   and qualified in massage or another recognized bodywork therapy qualification.  Most members of the WMA are alumni of The School of Complementary Health based here in Exeter, but membership applications are welcomed from people who have trained with any recognized provider of alternative and complementary health training whether within the west country region of the UK or not.  The catchment area for attendees at a typical meeting is usually made of folks mainly coming from south and mid Devon, but there are or have been members at meetings who have travelled from Cornwall or Somerset.  The format of a typical meeting consists of 2 guests speakers  along with a break for tea and cake in-between the first and second speakers, finally there is an any other business opportunity slot right at the very end plus lots of opportunity to socialize and network during the breaks as well as before the start and at the very end of the meetings.

The guest speakers are usually practitioners of an alternative or complementary health therapy modality who give us a theoretical as well usually a practical overview of what they do.  Alternatively, the guest speaker could also be talking about some other subject which practitioners might be interested in such as practice management, marketing, new approaches, etc.

Today’s first speaker was an acupuncturist who had initially trained as a registered nurse before deciding to undergo a 3 year degree program in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) based acupuncture at Westminster University in London.  She continues to practice nursing alongside supplementing acupuncture in for some of her patients which has resulted in a number of successful clinical results.  We had the basic concepts of acupuncture introduced to us: the background of Chinese medicine, ying / yang balance, meridians, excess / deficiency, tongue analysis, pulse taking, needling, as well as various other approaches of point stimulation including moxibustion and cupping.  Most of this introductory theory I was familiar with from my Shiatsu training.  An interesting side note which I took away from this presentation which will mean something to those who understand this, but if not don’t worry just let it pass on by, TCM and 5 element are 2 distinct schools and approaches to acupuncture – I always thought that 5 element was a subset of TCM?  I have yet to try out a moxibustion or cupping treatment myself, but sounds very pleasant and goes on my growing list of bodywork treatments to experience in the future.

After the intermission for tea and cake, the second speaker were a husband and wife team who run a local complementary health practice and between them have experience in Ayurvedic medicine, Ayurvedic nutrition, yoga and sports massage.  Nutrition was the main focus of this particular presentation, and whilst I decided long ago that this wasn’t an area I’d be particularly interested in specializing in, I have casually studied the various popular approaches as an occasional tasks running in the background.  Perhaps not to my surprise, I found huge contradictions between the various well respected authors on “what to eat” or “what is a healthy diet” which has only served to reinforce my own personal opinion that diet and nutrition falls much lower down the hierarchy of health addressable areas in a person than some advocates might otherwise suggest.  Having said that the type of approach to nutrition and food intake as advocated by our second set of speakers I found to be very much in agreement with my personally beliefs.  I’m not so much a fan of subscribing to a diet, where everyone can eat this, can’t eat that or worst of all deny themselves of a particular food that they’ll end up craving for an extended period of time.  So called dieting and the approach of denying our bodies something usually ends in failure as craving builds up to a head and we eventually crash in some way.

The Ayurvedic approach to nutrition is a constitution centred approach to food in take.  A constitution based approach says that it’s what we are actually absorbing through digestion from the foods which has a much bigger overall effect on our health than the isolated food items themselves that we are consuming, or put another way if we aren’t properly absorbing or digesting efficiently what we’re eating then no “healthy diet plan” that hasn’t been tailored to our own very individual constitution, metabolism and digestion needs is ever going to make a difference.  As much as we are individuals with varying personalities and personal preferences, so this recognition of diversity is equally applicable to our constitution and digestive systems.  To determine what type of constitution you have requires no more than a single visit to suitably qualified nutrition therapist who works in this way, in this case we happen to be talking about an Ayurvedic nutrition practitioner.  The practitioner will having discovered their client’s basic constitution type will then go on to educate the client in what effects certain foods have on that person’s constitution and digestive system.  Armed with this information that client is then able to make self informed choices and self monitor the feedback from their own bodies that their own food choices have.  This awareness may take some time for the client to become accustomed to tuning into, but ultimately it is designed to be self empowering and allows the client to experience what works for them as an invidual having been armed with the basic knowledge of their particular constitution and considerations thereof.  This type of system does not prescribe what exactly to eat (or not to eat) in terms of a diet traditional plan.  This approach allows also for the occasional mistake or over indulgence to be made, it’s OK, there is no need to constantly beat oneself up with stick over it, and to realize that we can give even more empowerment to ourselves by realizing that we can be responsible for rewarding ourselves for when we get things right.  The nutrition therapist’s role in this type of system is to merely coach and facilitate awareness rather than to prescribe.  This is very much the approach I prefer to take with my own clients too in regards to the bodywork therapies that I do i.e. to introduce the awareness of a new possibility and then for them to self manage from there and with further coaching to stay connected to that awareness as well as doing further self discovery themselves if necessary.
What we are thinking about when we’re eating it was proposed also plays a more significant role in our digestion and (mal-)absorption than what it is that we’re eating, another factor I’m very much in agreement with, so for example do you have thoughts of pleasure or guilt in your mind as you eat something?  What can of stress or environmental conditions do you eat under?

To end with, we were introduced to a little bit of standing, but mainly some sitting yoga moves which helped us check in with our bodies and that to self assess our postures were evenly balanced and aligned.  Some interesting exercises which I will see if I can find some examples of on youtube which will save me type a thousand or so words here!

Our 2nd set of guest speakers also talked about a new service that they had just set-up in their Totnes based clinic to offer alternative / complementary therapies to sufferers of chronic conditions such as MS who were on low incomes but who needed at least weekly if not twice weekly therapy sessions for things to be anywhere near effective.   In these cases, a contribution would be acceptable according to the amount the client could afford to pay toward each session.

All in all, a very informative half day and was great to share and network with some other like minds too.

Entry filed under: Natural Therapies. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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2 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Abi philips  |  23 March, 2010 at 11:41

    This sound like an event that I should have attended, I do my best to try and make sure I visit many of these events to no doubt network with Massage therapists and to find out more about what is being done to raise awareness of Massage Therapy as whole and its benefits in the public awareness. Do you know when the next event of this type is likely to be held?

    • 2. Henry Tang  |  3 April, 2010 at 22:23

      Hi Abi,

      The West Country Massage Association only hold meetings twice a year, the next one now won’t be until Sunday 3rd October 2010. Further information from the organizer’s website here:


      The local branch of the Complementary Therapists’ Association hold meetings roughly every other month, the attendance is made of therapists from a variety of complementary / alternative health backgrounds as well as massage. Details of forthcoming meetings for 2010 can be found here:


      For people who use Facebook, I have set-up group called “Exeter Natural Health Resources” where I’m hoping to get as many therapists from the Exeter area together in one place as well as members of the general public so that we have a friendly informal place where unbiased information can be shared. Listings for local events as well as getting together to form our own events. The link is:



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Henry Tang – Therapeutic & Advanced Clinical Massage Practitioner (Crows Nest, Sydney, Australia)

Click image above to visit Spaces of Possibilities Wellness Centre, Crows Nest, Sydney, Australia.

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