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What is bodywork and why do it?

What is bodywork and why do it?

by Grace Ganel, L.Ac., Dipl.Ac., Certified Zero Balancer

I do a lot of acupuncture, but I also do a lot of non-needle bodywork. From Gua Sha to Zero Balancing, each form of bodywork works on all aspects of health – body, mind, and spirit. This is why I take my time with each person to provide appropriate bodywork. But perhaps you're still wondering - what is bodywork? And why should I do it?

OK but first, what is bodywork?

I use the term bodywork to refer to the vast majority of what I do once you’re on my table. Any time I am touching your body with the intention to diagnose, support, or suggest change, this is bodywork. I often pull on clients’ ankles in a gentle arc when they first lay down, which is a movement from Zero Balancing that helps the body to relax onto the treatment table. Many clients receive cupping or gua sha. I touch every person I work with, because of course safe touch is a necessary part of all that I do. Bodywork helps to establish safety in touch so that we can do work together.

Zero Balancing

The first time I see you, I may do a full Zero Balancing session so that we can get to know one-another through touch. The protocol includes that first ankle pull, plus another few throughout the session. There are also assessments of major joints – the hips, shoulders, ankles – and lots of time spent with the rib cage. The protocol helps me to assess these regions physically, and I am also paying attention to more subtlty under my fingers and in the room and the rest of your body. I may be working on your hip, but learning something about your belly or back from the way you resist when I hold your leg. Maybe I’m holding onto your head and you can’t seem to drop the full weight into my hands – this often points to an over-active mind, and I can usually work with the client to determine what’s going on there.

Gua Sha and Cupping

Gua Sha means “scraping bruising” and refers to using a blunt implement to scrape the skin and underlying fascia, releasing stagnation. In Chinese medicine, there is a saying, “where there is no flow, there is pain. Where there is flow, there is no pain.” So we use gua sha and cupping to restore healthy flow of body substances in the connective tissues. Blockages to flow are not just physical, and don't just impact the body, so it is important to overall health to clear blockages.

Channel Palpation and Acupressure

An important part of most treatments with me is touching the acupuncture channels! Even during Zero Balancing, I frequently interact with the channels. During the diagnostic process for acupuncture, it is essential to spend some time hands-on with the client’s channels to feel for temperature, density, puffiness, and other clues that might tell us something about the health of the channels. Often I will spend time pressing a channel in a few places to choose the best point for acupuncture. Sometimes I simply use acupressure and listen to the pulses. All of this falls under the umbrella of bodywork.

What do you mean “bodywork works on body, mind, and spirit?” What does bodywork actually do for me?

If you’ve been in pain before, or are in pain now, you know how it can affect your emotional health. At first it’s just a nuisance, but as the pain persists, it begins to show up as irritability, sadness, or even hopelessness. It’s also well known that emotional concerns can arise as very physical pain. Panic attacks are a perfect example – some people experience pain in their chest during panic attacks, and are understandably very concerned about this pain. It is concerning, and it is real!

(Really, the separation of body, mind, and spirit is an illusion - a conceptualization we have created to convey ideas, but which does not actually exist in reality.)

So when I do bodywork, I carry all of this to the “conversation” I’m having with the body through my hands and tools. When I approach the body, I do it with a respectful appreciation for body, mind, and spirit. Sometimes, we’re working on the body and memories or emotions arise to the client’s awareness. Sometimes, I have a perception of something energetic, which I can ask into. This process means that we’re both learning a lot about your body, mind, and spirit levels, and helping you to recognize that these levels are more entangled than you might have known.

In my experience, the inseparable relationship between body, mind, and spirit means that we are never just working with one of the three. Often, my hand is on a shoulder blade, or a rib, or a foot, and I am making deep contact with shame, or grief, or hopelessness. The best bodyworkers understand the intricate reality of the body, mind, and spirit and respect the profound work of touch. My goal is to help you develop a profound relationship with your own body through safe touch, creating a deeper understanding of your own needs and functioning. Then you can begin to live the way your body, mind, spirit is requesting.


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