Myofascial Release

The art of transformational touch combined fascial techniques for the treatment of pain by Rachel Fairweather

“Presence is more important than technique. Beginners want to learn more and more techniques. When you achieve mastery,
one technique will do. It is amazing how much how little will do. Approach touching the client with the utmost respect for her sanctity – that is, with reverence. This form of touch allows for transformational change to occur at a level of
being that might take years to reach in nontouching therapies.” Hugh Milne, visionary cranial sacral osteopath.

Beyond science – the art of transformational touch

The ability to truly transform through touch is the stuff of dreams and the sought-after skill of a superhero! Yet I truly believe that we all inherently have the skill to achieve this kind of deep and lasting change for our clients – the innate capacity to bring about true physical, mental and emotional shifts through the healing power of touch. The key to true transformation lies not in learning technique but in our ability to connect with the client, truly listen to the tissues and be directed by the body, rather than our intellect. This is beyond science, beyond textbooks. This is the true art of bodywork, the sweet place where we are able to let go of our ego, our fear of “not knowing” or “having to get it right” and enter a place where we can just be. The place where there is just you, your hands, the body, the breath, the interface. In that state lies the key to true change. “When you achieve mastery, one technique will do.”

Just do the work. Just show up

But developing this ability to connect and really listen to the story of the tissues doesn’t come overnight. As Michelangelo famously said, “If people knew how hard I worked to get my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Mastery takes practice and for a massage therapist, practice amounts to time spent with your hands on bodies. The more bodies you tune into with focus, mindfulness and reverence, the better results you will get. There are no shortcuts. There are no tricks. There is no such thing as innate genius. No one is special, no one just “gets it” without putting in the time. As someone much wiser than myself said to me recently when I asked them how I was going to achieve my
dreams, “Just do the work. Just show up”. If you want to develop great touch and transform lives you need to put the work in. Hands on bodies. Do the work. Just show up.

Fascial work – The complexity of simplicity

A great way to develop your ability to tune into the tissues and develop the art of transformational touch is through learning fascial work. One of the reasons that fascial work is so addictive and satisfying for bodyworkers is because fascial work frees us to focus on what we are feeling. Indirect myofascial techniques and cranial work by their very nature encourage the therapist to tune into the tissues and really feel what’s going on. The general principle of
fascial work is very simple – put the fascia on a stretch (for example by a leg pull, arm pull, cross hand stretch or dural tube release); wait, keep the tissues on a tension, wait some more and then follow the tissues as they start to move. Eventually you will feel a release. Move to a new area that needs releasing and repeat the whole process.

If fascial work were a song, the chorus would look like this:

Wait, hold, follow
Wait, hold, follow
Wait, hold, follow
Feel the release
And repeat

How hard can that be?

Pretty difficult as it turns out! When we start to learn fascial techniques, we find we are not used to waiting. We are not used to following. We don’t trust that we feel what we feel. Worse than that we don’t feel ANYTHING! Our brains want to make the process so much more complicated. Where EXACTLY should my hands be? How EXACTLY should I hold the leg? How many inches apart should my hands be on a cross hand stretch? Precisely how many grammes of pressure should I apply when I hold the head in a cranial technique? Not knowing is frustrating when learning, so our teachers make up answers to satisfy the rational and fretful left brain – the hands should be approximately this far apart; cranial work needs about 10g of pressure, the weight of a 20p piece (ooh how light we all exclaim!); we need to wait 3-5 minutes for a release in a cross hand stretch. But this is really just to appease the questioning rational brain and allow the hands to focus on the body; to let the brain feel the hands have “got it right”. Connection is key. Touch transforms; not technique alone. Once we have learned the “rules” we can free ourselves up to throw them away. Mastery doesn’t need rules. Mastery relies on a deep knowing of what is right and needed. Attending a seminar by the great (and sorely missed) Dr John Upledger several years ago he was asked the inevitable question from an audience member: “How much pressure should I use?” Anyone who has attended an Upledger workshop knows the standard mantra: “10 grammes; the weight of a 20 pence piece; the pressure of a fingertip on a closed eyelid”. But Dr John said: “The right amount; the amount that is needed”. The 20p rule he explained is for when you were learning. A guide. A template only. Not an absolute.

Throw away the rule book. Listen to your hands. Listen to the tissues.

Be still and know.

Fascial work and flow

When we truly connect with the client’s body though focused touch in this way we have the ability to enter a state that the psychologist Mihály Csikszentmihalyi, calls ‘flow’. Flow is the feeling you get when you are fully immersed in a feeling of energized focus, full involvement, and enjoyment in the process of the activity. In an interview with Wired magazine, Csíkszentmihályi described flow as “being completely involved in an activity for its own sake. The ego falls away. Time flies. Every action, movement, and thought follows inevitably from the previous one, like playing jazz. Your whole being is involved, and you’re using your skills to the utmost.” It is likely that if you have been doing bodywork for any length of time you will have experienced this state. When you are in flow during a treatment, you come to the end of the session and it feels like 5 minutes. Or sometimes 5 hours. Or as if you have been in another dimension entirely. You stopped worrying about what you should do next because you just knew. Your ‘monkey brain’ shut up for a while. The world of what the Taoists call ‘the ten thousand things fell away’. There was only you and the connection with the body. This is the place where you truly get results. This is the place where you don’t have to market your business because the clients just come. This is the place where you know deep in your core you chose the right career. This is the place where you realize bodywork is just about tuning in, releasing stuck tissue, getting energy to flow – it doesn’t actually matter which ‘technique’ your hands are doing. It doesn’t matter if you have the right grip, if you are applying the weight of a 10p rather than a 20p piece. Your hands know.

As the epic Radiohead song goes:
“Everything, in its right place”. Everything in its right place. “When you achieve mastery, one technique will do.”

Combined fascial techniques for the treatment of pain

So if we follow the dictum that we actually just know what to do if we truly connect, we can combine all the techniques we know in a creative way. Less is more. Whatever we have in our fascial toolbox can be combined to get a great result.
For example, try this simple fascial recipe for low back pain only using 3 fascial techniques. Focus on the quality of touch, not on whether you are getting the technique ‘right’. If you feel like it, add more techniques. Or less. Just don’t worry about the techniques. Feel the flow. Wait for the stuck tissues to release. Enjoy the journey.

Fascial recipe for low back pain

Client prone

Cross hand stretches: Place a small bolster under the belly to ensure client comfort. Cross your arms and place one hand on the sacrum and the other over the spine about 3-5 inches apart. Sink down into the tissues, make a connection with the myofascia that runs in and around the muscles and blends with the ligamentous structures covering the sacrum and pelvis, not to mention the periosteum covering the bones. Remind yourself that these are not separate structures but one glorious continuous silken fascial tent. Put the fascia on a stretch. Wait. Hold. Follow. Then again. Wait. Hold. Follow. Listen with your hands to the point where the tissues start to move and make sure you keep them on a stretch. Wait. Hold. Follow. After 3-5 minutes you may feel the fascia start to literally melt under your hands. Like chewing gum, or a rushing river, or a release of energy or any of the other million ways it can feel when fascia releases. Tune into what it feels like for you. Don’t worry about what you don’t feel. Believe that what you feel is real. Repeat the cross hand stretch around the Quadratus Lumborum area on both sides – stay in line with the spine with one hand just above the pelvis and one at the bottom of the rib cage. Don’t worry about how long it is taking. Just tune in. “When you achieve mastery, one technique will do.”

Client supine

Bilateral leg pull

Take the weight of the client’s legs by cupping under the heels. Lean back slightly until you feel the tiniest bit of traction. Guess what you do now? That’s right – wait, hold and follow any movement. Keep the legs on traction. Wait until you feel a softening and a fascial release. The limbs will appear to lengthen immensely. Wait for several releases, until there is no more movement.

Pelvic release

Sit by your client’s side and slide one hand under the sacrum; the other hand goes on the client’s belly placed between the pubic bone and the belly button (little finger side toward the pubic bone – if your thumb is towards the pubic bone
instead swap your top and bottom hands around). Slightly press your hands towards each other through the body, giving only the slightest bit of pressure. Guess what happens now? That’s right – wait, hold and follow any twists and turns of the fascia. Eventually the movement will stop and there will be softening and lengthening of the tissues.

Tune in, turn on, drop out

Give the above a try for treating low back pain and see what results you get. Challenge yourself to use less rather than more. As the 60s counterculture slogan goes, “tune in, turn on, drop out” – in our case:

Tune in to the tissues Turn on your healing powers Drop out of everyday reality

“When you achieve mastery, one technique will do.” CHW

© About Rachel Fairweather and The Jing Institute of Advanced Massage
Rachel Fairweather is co-founder and director of the Jing Institute of Advanced
Massage. Based In Brighton, London and Edinburgh we run a variety of
courses in advanced techniques to help you build the career you desire. Out
short CPD courses include excellent hands on learning in all the different
fascial approaches. For the therapist who wants to be the best they can
possibly be, we offer a BTEC level 6 (degree level) in advanced clinical and
sports massage – the highest level of massage training in the UK.
You can also check out the approaches discussed in this article in our DVD in
advanced clinical massage techniques, downloadable from the website.
Please call or check our website for further information and course dates. Tel: 01273 628942
You can also follow us on Facebook: Jing Institute of Advanced Massage
Training or Twitter! @JingInstitute

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