can i feel your stress?

I had a client recently ask me something along the lines of, "Can my 'magic' massage hands tell how much tension is in a person's body?"

And while I think I understood her question, I'm not sure she understood my response - which was fine, because it caused me to go a bit deeper into clarifying to myself what I was trying to say.

Yes, ten years of experience - I like to think - has given me some insight of touch into feeling what's more structural and what's more emotional (at the time of the session). Not only what is causing the tightness, but how easily (or not) a person can let go and relax into what I'm doing.

But, I usually want people to understand that it's not always 'where you hold your tension'. Or just your 'bad posture'. Because the simple fact is, there really is no 'one or the other'.

As I've said before, our bodies are a culmination of everything we have done up to this moment, every minute of the day. 24/7. Including when we sleep.

Our physical forms are shaped - very literally, and in every single moment - on a cellular level by our movements and positioning (therefore, our furniture and other surroundings), our emotional habits, our diet, our clothing (yes! not just high heels, but anything that squishes or changes the shape of the tissue), and, of course, all the stuff we inherit genetically.

If we define 'posture' (which I do) as 'our relationship with whatever we're interacting with', you can see how it's all posture, really.

Even what we call tension - you know, that stuff that you hold in your (insert body part, usually neck and shoulders) - is your habit of how you've come to relate to your circumstances - emotions held regularly enough to be made manifest in the physical.

Add to that a most common daily positioning, for example, of the body in ways that bring your 10-12 pound head forward just enough from your center of gravity, so that your muscles, tendons, ligaments, fascia and nervous system has to respond by tightening up the supportive structures to prevent your chin from hitting your chest.

Add to that, a more 'energetic' emphasis (and by energetic, I mean where the greatest degree of activity is) on the upper body. Living in our heads. Thinking more than feeling. 

I would posit that if we're holding tension anywhere, we're holding it everywhere. We just tend to notice it more in the head, neck, shoulders, and upper back, because that's where most of us live. (It's especially going to be more at the forefront during a chair massage gig in the workplace, because, well, you've probably just gotten up from your desk.)

We also have to remember that each interaction will vary. A person showing up for the first time for a chair massage in their workplace may present something different than the second or third time, as they get comfortable. Or different before lunch or after lunch. Or different than when they come to my office. Or go to a different therapist. Or different than with a spouse or other close relations.

So many variables, right?

Back to the original question. Yeah, I can feel some stuff about what a person probably does the most of throughout a day, in their recent history - in general. I can get a sense of whether they can relax easily, or if they're 'helpers', or like to be in control, or maybe have some vulnerabilities that they're protecting - in general.

This doesn't make me intuitive, or a mind/body reader, peering into the intimacies of your life.

It comes from experience, and learning how to create a container simply for what shows up in that session (on both your and my part), which is only the tip of the proverbial iceberg of a person's entire inner landscape.

Having said that, I am touching the whole of a person's life, because they - you - are bringing the culmination of your entire life history, including the prologue - with you into each session.

So, yeah. I can feel tension. And restriction. And flexibility. And habits. And strength. And trust. And hesitation. And defensiveness. And surrender.

It's all there.

And, it's all good.