Throwing Out the Baby and the Bathwater

More and more, I’m allowing myself to play the ‘age card’.  I no longer move pianos; too old.  I don’t feel like working full days too many days in a row; too old.  I spend more time in the garden and less worrying about what I’m supposed to be doing instead; too old.  That age card comes in handy!

Now, I’m going to stand on a soapbox and preach a bit, from that old person/age card perspective.  I’ve been reading online and finding articles lately that detail the latest news in fascial research.  Most of these articles and opinions are telling me that first, if I can’t say why something works when I treat clients, it’s not a valid technique, and second, we’re not really doing what we think we’re doing anyway, because science is proving that some of the old wives’ tales are just that.

I’ve long agreed that much of what’s taught in massage school is old wives’ tales–for example, every stroke towards the heart makes absolutely no sense to me if one is trying to decompress a joint or line.  Keeping the hand on the body at all times is another fallacy from my perspective.  I believe every now and then the client or patron deserves a bit of time to just check in and find out what the body is doing without input from outside.  Asking clients to drink a tiny half cup of water after their massage seems just plain silly to me; does that two ounces really rehydrate the body and flush out toxins?  Does massage even flush out toxins?  I don’t think we really know.  But what’s important to me is:  How does the client feel after their work?

A good article came across my desk the other day (thanks to Anna Parsons) that asked the question “If We Can’t Stretch Fascia, What Are We Doing?”  This person suggested that there is absolutely no credibility to the idea that fascia can be stretched and retain that stretch, and that according to researcher/rolfer Robert Schleip, what’s really going on when we do deep work with clients is that we’re actually activating nerves in a way that creates the feel of stretching.  The well-being we receive from fascial work is therefore caused by the activation of nerves, not the stretch in fascia.

OK.  But for me, the question remains:  If the client feels better and feels change, do we have to know what has happened and why?  I continue to believe that intuition is a powerful force for good.  I don’t want my intention to be honored exclusively and therefore discount science entirely.  I also don’t expect science to be honored exclusively and intuition to be discounted entirely.  I think there’s got to be a middle ground.  I’m reminded of Louise Hay and Mona Lisa Schulz in All Is Well (Hay House, 2013) suggesting that science and intuition are two wheels of the bicycle; if both aren’t present, it’s much harder to get where one wants to go.  And I suggest that those who are devoted to science at the expense of intuition are doing a disservice to the larger community when they claim that science is the only valid system in which to work with bodies, and people.

While the article above ends with the statement that we as therapists don’t need to change the way we work, only the way we think about what we’re doing, I play the age card.  Why?  Why do I need to change the way I feel about fascia and its stretching when in my own body I can feel lines of fascial stretching that go from the big toe, through the leg and hip, and up into the back?  Why, if I can feel my own tibialis posterior muscle being stretched with a particular position, am I to assume it’s all about nerves when the knowledge of my body tells me more is going on?  I’m old, I’m set in my ways, I’m still doing what works for me and my clients.  Must I forgo the intuition that has served me well to honor the science that I believe but that continues to change?

Many years ago at the Rolf Institute researcher and mentor Jim Oschmann delivered his first physiology lecture…it stayed with me.  Basically he suggested that all science is stories.  Someone invents a good story, finds the data to support that story, and shares the story with others, who jump on board and name it as scientific fact.  Eventually, too often, someone comes up with a better story; a more complete story.  Then we all jump on the science of the new story and ridicule those who refuse to stay with the times. I’ve found this simple description of science to be true…as far back as ‘the earth is flat’ there have been those who have facts they want the rest of us to adhere to.

The end of this rant, by an aging bodyworker?  I think science is valuable, and I think it’s great that we have people interested in doing the research to tell us what’s really happening when we as bodyworkers touch another body.  I also feel and believe it’s short-sighted to turn bodywork to the exclusive purveyance of science and in fact denigrate the intuitive bodyworker because he or she refuses to get excited by the current ‘best story’ the science offers.  All science, all knowledge, all intuition is a process and in process…I don’t for a minute believe that the current fascial research is the be-all and end-all, or that the conclusions we are reaching just now about the nature of fascia will hold totally and perfectly in ten or twenty years.  My bicycle has two wheels and I like it that way!

Comments are closed.