Posts tagged ‘yoga’

West Country Massage Association Meeting


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.

8 March, 2010 at 03:50 2 comments

Stretching for every day muscle and joint health

Stretching is an important activity that helps to elongate the fibres of our muscles which in turn can prevent the fibres and other soft tissue structures surrounding them from dehydrating and stiffening up which would ultimately affect that muscles flexibility. Over the long term, stiffening up and over contracting of the fibres within a muscle can impede the flow of fresh blood and cause harmful metabolic waste chemicals to get trapped in the muscle tissues, this causes the stiffness and pain we feel as the end result.

Athletes and people who regularly do sporting, aerobic or body movement training activities all recognize the necessity and beneficial effects of stretching, thus they build in periods of stretching into their training schedules in order to accommodate this need.

Ballistic stretching is a generic name that I’m giving to any kind of stretching which involves repetitions in quick-fire succession and usually involves a lot of exertful force going past the comfortable range of movement. Ballistic therefore isn’t what the rest of this article is about. What the rest of this article is about and what has much higher therapeutic value in a rehabilitation or remedial context is the idea of focused stretching. Focused stretching is done with slowness and intent and (very importantly) involves breathing by receiving deep breaths in just before going into the stretch and breathing out slowly and fully whilst doing the stretch. If you’ve done any amount of work with a body awareness exercise system such tai-chi, qigong, palates or yoga (to name but a few) then you’ll be familiar with the idea of focused stretching.

Stretching is also a vital component of an effective remedial massage session as the fascia and filaments of muscle tissue which have already been passively worked on by the therapist will benefit from being re-aligned and stretched out properly by means of the client fully engaging the muscle that has just been worked on in active full range of movement. This is particularly important after trigger point worked has been carried out on a particular area, as there will be mis-aligned muscle fibres which will be facilitated back into a more healthy alignment by a good series of focused stretches to that muscle. The exact same thing can also be said after a session of indirect myofascial work.

From my own experience as a therapist, I would also say that there are good psychological reasons for the client to do a series of stretches after the necessary soft tissue manipulation work has been done on an area which has been an issue for the client, particularly where there has been a pain on movement or movement restriction challenge a stretch will prove to the client that things have improved! Have lost count of the number of times I’ve gently guided a client through a series of stretches and for them to be fully expecting the movement restriction or pain pattern to still be there, but instead for the situation to be improved to their surprise as they gingerly stretch out to the position where they are still expecting to fell pain or restriction. Once again, the importance of breathing into a focused stretched cannot be overemphasized enough, lots of anecdotal experiences available here once again, clients are always surprised how much further they can go when they breath out whilst going into the stretch instead of holding their breath whilst going into the stretch.

In the previous paragraph I was describing passive stretching i.e. whereby someone (a therapist in this case) assists and coordinates movement of the clients body in order to facilitate a stretch of the target muscle, this is done with client communication to indicate the comfort zone of the stretch as well the appropriate breathing taking place. It is possible for a client to come in for a session with me and for us to do nothing but passive stretching for the entire duration of an hour’s session. Active stretching on the other hand is the polar opposite category to passive stretching where the person doing the stretching does it to themselves with no actual physical assistance from anybody else around them, this is of course very useful to teach people so that they can do self stretching at home in-between session visits. A recommended series of stretching exercises is something I always give to my clients to do at home as this enhances the work we have already done during the session, helps maintain and prevent relapse and retrains the muscle physiology as well as the psyche of the individual into a new re-patterning of “this is now what’s possible” rather than unconsciously slipping back into the previous (less helpful) modus of operational possibility.

Another form of active stretching work that I like to use when appropriate in sessions with clients involves me applying an appropriate amount of pressure usually on or close to the attachment site of a muscle whilst the client very slowly and deliberately repeatedly performs an action with their body that will cause a focused gradual stretch of the whole of the muscle that we happen to be working on. This method of working is adapted from structural integration work (variously known also as postural re-alignment), which I’ve found to be very useful for clients who habitually just want to be in total control of their own bodies and find it very hard to relinquish any kind of passivity over to anything external or anyone that may be trying to assist them e.g. like going into a passive stretch.

There are many books on the subject of stretching, and no doubt if you’re already an active participant in sports, body exercise or movement therapy then you’ll probably already have all the books and other resources available at your finger tips already. If however you’re a complete beginner and need to start incorporating stretching in order to overcome the stiffness and bring back the suppleness into your daily life, something simple I highly recommend to anyone for the health benefits who isn’t already doing so, then this a great book for the lay person to dig into with good pictures, explanations and recommended stretching routines for before, during or after a particular every day activity such as using a computer, watching television, etc:

YouTube is another highly recommended resources for videos showing you how to stretch certain muscles and parts of your body, I’ve included an example selection on the YouTube video player widget which allows you to choose and play videos from a list of favorites over at my other website (ISCA Therapies) http://www.isca-therapies.co.uk

28 February, 2010 at 21:20 2 comments


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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