Where there is congestion, FLOW cannot exist - without flow things get stuck. Although not impossible, it is difficult to feel at ease when things are stuck. Nasal congestion can make you feel like your head is going to explode, traffic congestion can frustrate even the calmest of us, mental congestion can paralyze our decision making processes to the point of complete self-destruction and bodily congestions cause pain, restricted movement (of both body and internal processes) and diseases such as atherosclerosis and cancer.
Flow or “being in the zone” on the other hand can result in feeling a sense of openness, freedom, peace, joy, elation and ZEN. Perhaps you have experienced periods of flow. When “in the flow” the road opens up before you, obstacles magically disappear, concentration is effortless, tasks seem to complete themselves, time stands still, and all other sensations disappear from perception as the material body seems to become one with the energy of the world around it. Experiences of “flow” can be described as moments of true inspiration, connectedness and complete ease.
I would say that the vast majority of people who end up on a massage therapist’s table are there because they are experiencing some sort of congestion in their minds or bodies. The complaints may be minor or more severe. Their congestion or dis-ease (lack of ease) may manifest as chronic pain, edema, restricted range of motion, digestive problems or hypertension. It is our job as therapists to try to help clients move from a state of dis-ease to one of ease by using our manual therapy techniques to release these congestions caused by fibromyalgia, trauma, postural distortions, long hours of sitting and stress among other things, but how do we help clients “tune in” to the flow? Unfortunately, flow cannot be created; it can only be experienced by letting go.
So the question becomes how can a therapist facilitate clients in letting go of the congestion that is restricting their ability to flow? Of course, there isn’t one answer to this question. Each client has their own unique relationship with their body, but I typically start by trying to bring awareness to what that relationship looks like. For example, I frequently find that clients, especially those with chronic pain, have unconsciously grown to resent their bodies for “betraying” them. After all that “damn leg” (arm/shoulder/ hip) has restricted their ability to do the things they want to do. As a result, the client has often unknowingly anchored in the congestion/pain/injury by putting the injured area on the defensive.
Realizing that it matters how they speak to or about their body may seem like a foreign concept to some clients so I explain it like this: “Each cell in your body is a living being. You can remove it from your body, placed it in a petri dish and it can continue to grow and live. That being said you probably already know that your body talks to itself. It tells itself where to send blood and nutrients; when it is time to eat, sleep and excrete; and it communicates with itself to produce healing. So each cell has its own life and its life is dedicated to helping you not only survive, but to thrive and adapt to all the challenges you face. When the cell needs help it asks for it and if that need isn’t met it will scream for it – you may experience this as discomfort, pain or eventually disease.” After the point has been made I ask the client “Have you ever had a friend come to you hurting and in need of your advice or support?” Typically they respond “yes”. Then I ask them “How would that person feel if you yelled at them or berated them?” Often the response to this question is “I would never do that!” and I reply “I wouldn’t think you would, but do you do it to your body? Isn’t your leg your friend? Hasn’t it taken you places and supported you? Isn’t it asking for your help? How do you think it feels when you yell at it? Do you think it helps it heal? ”
This very simple conversation can have profound effects on how a client perceives their relationship with their body. It can help them release frustrations they have been harboring and it opens the door to flow. Start listening to the language your clients use in regard to their bodies to see if there are opportunities to foster flow by releasing pent up resentments and frustrations that may be attributing to an inability to let go of congestion.