Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Do you woo?

Since I am no longer doing massage I guess it's time to write about massage. Because that's just how my brain works.

When I was choosing a massage school to attend it basically came down to two choices; Oregon School of Massage and East West College of the Healing Arts. Both have very good reputations, both had about the same rate of people passing the boards, both comparably priced. So the decision came down to visiting the school's orientations and seeing what I thought about each one. I chose the less woo woo of the two.Yes, woo woo. It's an actual term you will hear therapists use to describe what they do. Woo woo is the energy work. The cleansing of auras, the use of crystals for healing, sound therapy those sorts of things. I went with the school that was less woo more West. Which funny enough from the names of the schools you would think the more Science based would be OSM but it was E/W.

At OSM I would have had to go to Breitenbush my fist semester and spend a weekend with my fellow classmates communing with nature to center my Chi before really delving into my studies. I would be encouraged to work barefoot to be in contact with Mother Earth's healing properties. At E/W I would take a full semester of mostly science classes before I really got too far in to the massage at all, except for learning the very basic strokes. I would have to dress professionally (though there is a lot of leeway on what is professional in massage) and I would be required to take more than just the minimum science to graduate. There would be the opportunity for woo woo classes as electives but I could take a strictly Western path and not touch the woo at all, except for a brief introduction during Survey of Modalities.

So I ended up at E/W following the extended program to get a few specialty classes under my belt and I was sticking with the science based Western track. Now, I have nothing against woo woo or woo woo therapists. I think a lot of them do a wonderful job and have amazing stories to tell about what they can do help you, but it just wasn't for me. I wanted to learn deep tissue and trigger point and really effect change in the muscle tissues. All of it very scientific and very Western. And then there was cranial sacral.

Cranial sacral was the last of my electives on the Western side of the house. It's one of those therapies that it depends on who you talk to on how scientific it is. It's basically working with the rhythm of the cerebral spinal fluid to effect change in the body's systems. It's also manipulating structures that some believe are fixed and cannot move. It's all very interesting and can either be extremely science focused or extremely woo woo focused at E/W it was taught by Cyr who was definitely not on the woo woo side of the house. So my experience in to the world of cranial sacral took us both by surprise.

So we are about half way through the semester at this point.  We've learned all of the lymph drainage techniques (also part of this particular class, they grouped the two modalities in to one class to give us just a taste of both) and are starting our first work on Cranial Sacral holds. We've learned to feel the flow of the fluid, to bring people in and out of still point, to do some releases and now we are working on our partners doing a CS routine.

In school one of the things you get used to doing is working on a variety of people. You work on classmates, you work in clinics, you work on volunteers for homework; basically you work on anyone who will let you practice on them. And in class you are required to rotate through your classmates so you don't just work on your friends every day. So on this particular day I was working on a classmate that I had never actually worked on before. I'm not sure why, but we had never ended up paired up until this point. I wish we had been because it might have given me a little warning for what was coming next. The way the class works is the instructor lectures and then you pair up to practice. You switch halfway through the class on who is the client and who is the practitioner. I was the client first. Everything was fine. It's relaxing work to have done to you because basically you are just laying there while someone places their hands on you and holds still. In fact it's pretty common for the client to fall asleep during a cranial sacral session, especially when you are put in to still point.

So with c/s learning after your session you talk about what you felt and experienced and saw both as the practitioner and the client and compare notes and then you swap. I did the first few releases on him and placed my hands on his head, took a deep breath and fell in to his brain. That's the best way I can describe it. Or maybe sucked into his head. That works as well. Basically everything around me tunneled out, like when you are on the verge of blacking out, and I was inside his head. And stuck. I know. It sounds absolutely crazy and I wouldn't believe someone else if they had told me it happened to them. But there I was. Stuck sort of melded to this guy. Who I soon discovered I did not want to be melded to. He was not a good mix for my energy. It was dark and cold and not where I wanted to be and it took me a little bit of concentration to be able to get back out. Basically I focused on what I knew was me instead of him. Where my arms were resting on the table. Where my butt was sitting in the chair. Where my feet were on the ground and then there was a sort of pulling and then a popping and I was back out. And freaked the fuck out over what had just happened.

I pulled my hands away from his head ending the session pretty abruptly, pushed back away from the table and put my head between my knees to keep from passing out. Cyr was close to me when the session ended, she had been on her way to check on us because she just "felt" like she should. I guess I was about 3 shades paler than I normally am and I was freezing cold. Most likely I was feeling a little shocky. So I explained to Cyr what had happened and she was freaked out as well. Okay, no, I was the only one freaked out. She was THRILLED! She had heard of this happening before but it had never happened to her and she thought it was really cool and wanted to hear all about it. All I wanted was to know how to make it NEVER happen again. She couldn't really tell me because this wasn't the sort of cranial sacral she practiced. She was strictly science and I guessed it...woo woo.

Luckily for me my modalities instructor was (still is) an excellent woo woo practitioner. She was very excited to hear about my c/s experience and was very helpful in explaining how to stop it or at least stay in control of it. An arrangement was made that the only person I had to work on was my dear friend Mari since I couldn't control being in someone's head space I wanted to make sure the head I was in was of someone I trusted. I learned how to stay grounded, how to guide myself through what I was feeling and seeing to be able to understand what I was supposed to be doing. And I made it out of the class with my sanity in tact. Or at least with what I went in with still there.

As far as using it in my practice I would work a few holds in here and there, mostly at the feet putting people in to still and bringing them back out to end an session, but I only did full routines a few times. And they were on students that Cyr sent to me for their professional C/S massage so they could experience what a more woo woo C/S routine was like.  Who would have guessed I was strong in the woo?

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