These were the words of a recent client of mine. A young man in his twenties that many would assume and expect to be the image of bodily health. As a lifelong athlete, you would expect the constant physical exercise to have molded his body into perfect form.
So, when in the middle of his first bodywork session ever, I found these words he said to be extremely profound that I had to write a bit about our session.
When I work with my Structural Bodywork clients, my hands and my mind are always looking for clues, digging through layers of tension to find the pattern that can get to the root of the issue quickly and effectively. For most people, we can usually trace the pattern back to an injury, accident, or repetitive motion due to work or life.
Some people bang hammers or lift things via manual labor, and their bodies reflect it.
Some have patterns from carrying multiple children over a period of years and favoring one side of the body in their labor of love.
Some tripped and fell, rolled an ankle, or broke a bone so long ago in their childhood that it barely registers as an issue to them in their adult life.
Usually, there are a handful of places that I can see as areas of localized binding that have tightened so much they begin to pull on the rest of the body. This then tells the story of the body's history, its accidents, and how its all connected. Using my hands to gain information from the tissues, I begin to follow the path of clues that their body has left for me.
For my friend, the athlete, who began a life of intense sports as young as 3 years old and never stopped - there were no clear signs as to which part of the body may have been the biggest clue, or the most important 'thread' in the knot of tension he had molded himself into. His body was so stiff that there appeared to be no opening into the deeper tissues and we were at an impasse that left us working on superficial tissues and lacking in effective results. That is, until some gentle rocking of the vertebrae alerted him to a deep core pain he was experiencing. He verbalized that below all of his stiff muscles, he felt as though something deep within was causing a sharp pain.
This information was enough for me to change my approach and begin to work with some gentle CranioSacral techniques to try to remove tension within the spine itself. I wanted to see if we could get to the bottom of the issue and unravel some things from the inside out. When it comes to your body, there's not much deeper that you can go than the connective tissue within the spine known as the dural tube which contains the cerebrospinal fluid, and this is why CranioSacral therapy is extremely effective at bypassing the layers that our body has created via muscle stiffness to protect our most delicate hardware - the central nervous system.
My intuition was right on and we had some immediate results of deep-seated tension being released at the level of the fascia and the nervous system, signified by body wide spontaneous muscle twitch response, shaking, opening of the diaphragms and deepening of the clients breath. As a practitioner, what it feels like is that deep within the body, beyond the reach of typical massage techniques, a balloon is swelling, opening, and leading to the release of tissues that would otherwise be inaccessible. On the receiving end, this is typically the time when the client achieves the deep and tranquil trance state that occurs when the nervous system is completely balanced, allowing for tissue relaxation from a neurological rather than mechanical place.
Athletes put themselves under periods of acute stress and work their bodies to achieve their desired result; more goals scored, distances run, new records set and achievements won. The caution in this is that they have to take exceptional care of their bodies along the way. Like anything else, there is a lot of bending that can occur before a breaking point.
The body is incredibly complex in how it ensures that we can handle loads of force, tension, and stress without breaking or effecting our core of cores, the central nervous system. We can even think we're doing all of the right things, with ice and heat, stretching, exercising, physical therapy, and training to make sustainable strides towards our achievements rather than hurt ourselves going from zero to one hundred in one effort.
But each time we hurt or injure ourselves, not only is there a structural aspect of effected tissues holding onto a pattern, but one in the nervous system as well. In order to fully release the strains and struggles we experience, and 'pop the dents out of our hood' so to speak, its important that deep relaxation become a part of every athletes training and self care routine.
If we are constantly 'on the go' and focused on the yang energy of performance, achievement, and striving for higher goals without the compliment of the yin energy of letting go, releasing, and surrendering our ambitions to the voice of our body for what is sustainable care, we'll continue to pile on the layers that will later need to be removed one by one.
So if you're a high powered athlete, make sure to incorporate time for yoga, meditation, tai chi - or the most powerful of them all - simply doing nothing!