The edge of movement and the edge of the self

I love when some insights about ourselves come to us through physical experiences. One clear example happened a couple of times last week in a Pilates studio. The exercise I was teaching is called “leg springs”. It looks more or less like this (I use slightly different settings).

pilates-towers-legs_2015_01.0

The person moves the legs up and down. The springs give some resistance when the legs pull them down. What happens often is that the pelvis starts tilting anteriorly and the lower back starts arching as the legs go lower.

Now every teacher teaches different ways according to an intention that comes with an exercises for the particular client, or just different ways of understanding movement. So what I am going to state here is my way of teaching and there are many other ways. With the leg springs exercise, I tend to emphasise the stability of the pelvis. The pelvis and the lower back have to be stable as they are while the legs go down. Depending on the strength and also the proprioception (the sense through which we perceive the position and movement of the body) of the person, some can bring the legs all the way down without moving the pelvis, others not. And both are ok by me. How far the legs go is not the matter. My question is “Can you feel the edge just where the pelvis is about to tilt? Can you stop taking the legs down just before?” And this seems to give a clear idea for most of people. As they repeat the movement (as we usually do in Pilates), I encourage them to carefully push the edge a little further without losing the stability of the pelvis, which will bring a progress in their proprioception and strength.

Y has been practicing Pilates for several years and also received a few Craniosacral Therapy treatments. For Y, this instruction immediately rang the bell beyond the exercise into more internal self-awareness. “That is my problem!” She talked about her difficulties to set boundaries to some people around her. Do we help someone until the point that we feel we are used? Do we listen to someone even when we feel suffocated and cannot express ourselves any longer? These are the examples. We need a boundary somewhere. It helps to know where the edge is in ourselves. How much can we stretch ourselves while maintaining ourselves fully alive.

The next day, I went to Aikido, a Japanese martial art,  training. The teacher told me “Don’t sacrifice your posture to do the technique!” Oh yes, this is the same thing. If I lose my posture and go off balance, I would fall with my partner who I made fall.

A fascinating fact about getting some insight from physical experiences is that we can feel the quality of it. When we pull down the leg spring, we feel how the tension increases nearer the edge. When we push over a partner in Aikido, we feel how calm and centred we can be even though the partner may fall dynamically . These experiences subconsciously give us some clues about how it feels like in our bodies to be near to the edge or boundary, and to step over the edge and losing the balance.

We can learn about the boundaries by talking, listening and reading intellectually. But there is nothing more powerful than embodied knowing through the body. The body is very intelligent in its way, and it holds lots of truth about ourselves.

 

 

Pilates Nidra

‘Pilates’ nidra has been born while working with a lovely woman P in her 60’s who has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME), hypersensitivity, pains on her knees and back, which have stopped her walk. We are aware of multiple layers of trauma tangled behind these, and there seems to be no pathological logic for the pains especially on the right knee. This knee hardly bends, and to me it feels like a manifestation of  her emotional trauma. Her physiotherapist, me and herself have been trying different approaches including meditation, exercises, electric stimulation, nutrition, and learning about pain perception etc. P is improving slowly in her pace. However this pace is yet rather unpredictable. These days, since she feels her ME has been creeping up, we take things very carefully, and that’s when my Pilates nidra has come up, out of almost desperation to find something that works for her, or at least that does not reverse her tender progress.

I actually know very little about yoga nidra. What I understood is that it is to work on the awareness of the body in a meditative state between asleep and awake, following a verbal instruction while lying on back. One day at P’s session, she handed me a script of yoga nidra and asked me to read it out for her. P is a yoga and meditation teacher. So she knew what she was asking for, I believe. This must have given me some assurance to talk through the intangible aspects of the body. At later sessions, I found myself talking through and working on the awareness and energy before physically start moving. This visualisation sets up a blueprint of the body that is organic and fluid, and my belief is that in order to move pleasantly, we have to work from this deep down subtle level.

I am curious about this development in myself. I would like to share what I talk in this practice. It is still work-in-progress and also changes every time as I am responding to a client.


 

P lies on her tummy. It is a good position particularly for her to release the vagus nerve, internal organs, gluteus muscles (buttocks), and quadriceps muscles (front of thighs). I take lots of appropriate pauses and spaces between some words and sentences in order to allow her enough time to feel.

Make yourself comfortable.

Soften your tummy, and let the internal organs rest on the bed.

Let the chest rest on the bed. And the head, and the legs… Feel the softness of the tummy, the front of the thighs and the buttocks…

Do you feel softness in other parts of the body? What about the shins? Feet? Calves? Back of the thighs? Lower back? Upper back? Shoulders and arms?

Notice the movement of the tummy. Do not change your breaths, and just observe them.

Notice the movement of the chest.

Do you feel the breaths in other parts of the body? What about the front of the thighs? Shins? Feet? Calves? Back of the thighs? Buttocks? Lower back? Upper back? Neck? The head?

Have you noticed any parts of the body not breathing enough? Can you send a deep breath into the part and let the holding go with the out-breath?

Come back to the tummy. Feel the point three fingers below the tummy button. You may call it the core, the second chakra or hara, that is the centre of your body now. Imagine the breath coming from there and radiating to all parts of the body. As you inhale, the body expands, and as you exhale the body contracts. Your whole body is like a very simple creature with a single cell. Like an amoeba. Expanding and contracting… How does it feel like to expand and create more space in the body? How does it feel like to soften and let the body contract? Do you feel the expansion and contraction of the space around the body too? Can you make the expansion and contraction larger? Space around the body, in the room, in the house and beyond the walls…

Now let’s come very close to the body. Looking at the body through a microscope. See each cell breathing, expanding and contracting. There are 37 trillion cells in the body, and every single of them is breathing, expansing and contracting. How do you feel about them? How vibrant are they?

And they are working altogether.

We are going to include the physical movement now (and we start some exercises perhaps something like glut squeezes and develop further).


 

If you have any thoughts, I would love to hear.

I am very grateful to P for sharing her experiences and knowledge, and also being sincerely open to my suggestions. I enjoy accompanying her for this journey.

 

Accompanying the dying process

I hope you don’t mind me sharing here my experience of keeping a company with a person dying.

My grandmother passed away on 4th June at the age of 93. She admitted to a hospital on the day I arrived in my hometown Tokyo 12 days before, after having stopped eating. During those days, I have witnessed how she was diminishing, and tried to hold the space and support her to process whatever she needed to process so that she could transition with ease.
My first visit was on day 4 for her in the hospital. She was already bedridden and almost non-verbal but I was still able to see some momentary expressions. As I treated her with my hands gently on her back, I felt quite powerful resentment that made me slightly dizzy. Now looking back, I feel this experience set my intention to support her to process any unhelpful left-over emotions so that she can transition light. I made three more visits after that until the last day.
On the last day, when my mother and I arrived, she looked very shrunk but calmer. She had been suffering from a breathing difficulty but now calmer. Through touch I felt no more kicks and pulls in the tissue but peaceful. Two hours later, a nurse rushed into the room as she had noticed her breathing stopped on the monitor. I placed my hand again behind her heart, and I was invited to the purest and very wide cellular breathing; expansion and contraction (CS rhythm in Craniosacral Therapy). She did a few little gasps, and then after the last one, the craniosacral system turned to subtler and wider (mid tide in CST). A moment later, a doctor came so I left her. He examined and announced her death. After they left, I went back to placing my hand on her back, where I still feel the warmth and mid tide same as just before the doctor came. It was very strange to hear she was dead while this energy was still in the body. I have heard before that Craniosacral system remains for a while after the heart stopped. I guess that’s what it is. But for a person who has been accompanying the transition, it did not make sense to have the definite point of death predominantly defined by the heart function. For me, my grandmother was still alive when the doctor announced her death, and still when we were asked to leave the room while the nurses clean and sort out her. I felt like a new born whose umbilical cord gets clamped while the placenta is still pulsing.
Anyway, after I sat for a while next to her with the face covered with a white handkerchief, I felt she was dead.

I feel very privileged to experience my grandmother’s dying process. This is a gift for me from her. I cannot stop thinking she has chosen the day to die, on the same date as her husband who died 54 years ago, and when I was there to support her.

Sessions with M, a boy with complex needs

M is a 10 year old boy who does not speak, gesture or stand. He has a feeding tube implanted in his stomach although these days he seems to be eating from his mouth.
Ruth Solomon, who has 15 years of experience working with children with Special Educational Needs, invited me to join her to work with M about a year ago. This is my reflection of our weekly sessions. We predominantly use touch and bodywork (Ruth is a Shiatsu practitioner and I am a Craniosacral Therapist and Somatic Movement Therapist), and voice and storytelling in addition.
In a session with M, most of times I have no idea what were exactly happening with him although I saw his state shifted quite quickly. He was also quick to express any discomfort or unliking to what we did. He is quick. I am impressed by the immediacy and responsiveness he has. Is it because he is a child, or he is not particularly required to fit into the social framework due to his conditions? I don’t know. I just feel I would have had much more repressed ways of responding even at his age.
His straight and open responsiveness encourages me to work on the same plane. As I cannot follow analytically what are going on with him, I simply give up trying to understand, and just be with myself, with M and with Ruth. It is probably called holding space. My commitment for the hour in the room is to be in tune with what are there. My felt sense and emotions, M’s shifting states and Ruth’s manoeuvring between her knowledge, listening, and shared experiences with M and me.
There were some days that I felt myself not really on my toes to treat him. Like M’s and like Ruth’s, things happen in my life and that affect my energy and state. And it is ok, I say to myself. I still show up to a session and do what call me. These sessions felt like having tea together. Being in the same space and time, meeting somewhere between M, Ruth and myself, and listening to each other with affirmation. I quite like this image of us sitting together in a circle, holding a mug in the hands. I add a bonfire in the middle. We are warm and comfy, looking at the fire burning, our processes occurring…
I have limited experience of working with SEN children and I do not have any particular expectation for him. I feel this rather helpful, as I am just so ready to accept almost everything that happens in a session. The bottomline for me is to create a space for him to feel safe, to connect, and then to expand. Until mid-May, the connections were more about within himself; his restricted body, unbearable pain in the stomach, possible trauma from medical procedures, all of which have caused dissociation within himself.
I had three weeks away and came back in mid- June. He has changed. He is growing. He vocalises much more with clearer expressions of his states than murmuring he used to do. His fingers so active that seem to be searching and willing to connect to the world. His eyes occasionally stare at something, rather than floating with no focus. I read all these as his awareness as a human in the society. He is declaring this existence, and he is now curious what are around him.
This is an exciting development. I am going to follow his development curiously in our future meetings.
My thanks goes to Ruth for offering me this opportunity. This has been a precious opportunity for me to feel safe and delve into the processes happening. I am looking forward to be working with Ruth further.

COVID-19 Safety Precautions (updated on 14 August 2020)

There are some precautions I would like to take in order to keep us all safe away from COVID-19. I am following the guidelines laid out by the UK Government and my professional body, the Craniosacral Therapy Association (CSTA). 

This is how it looks like when you book an appointment with me.

Before you arrive

On the day before your first appointment since the pandemic, you will receive a COVID-19 screening questionnaire and a consent form via email. Please read through them, and if you have any enquires, please feel free to contact me. I will ask you to sign on the form at your arrival so there is no need to return these at this point.

The questions will include;

• a high temperature within the last seven days (feeling hot to touch on your chest and back)

• a new, continuous cough (coughing a lot for more than an hour or 3 or more coughing episodes in 24 hours or a worsening of a pre-existing cough) 

• a loss or change to your sense of smell or taste • or have knowingly been in contact recently (the last seven days) with anyone who has been symptomatic of having Covid-19. 

and 

• an agreement to cooperate NHS Test and Trace with requests for data (including name, contact number, dates and times of visit) if needed, up to 21 days after the treatment.

Arrival at the clinic

Please practice social distancing at the door, staircase and waiting area.

Please arrive just before your appointment time so that you do not need to use the waiting area. I will be also following strict cleaning and ventilation procedure for 30 minutes between clients, which allows me to  have little flexibility to accommodate early or late arrivals.

During your appointment

I will ask you to wash the hands with soap and water at the sink in the room.

I will ask you to sign on the consent form that was emailed the day before for you to read. The pen would have been sanitised after the use of the previous person, as well as the treatment table and furniture in the room.

We will keep 2m social distancing during the consultation.

There will be no water and blanket provided. You are welcome to bring in your own. I have pillows with wipeable PVC covers that will be sanitised after every use. 

I will wash the hands with soap and water before the bodywork.

For the bodywork, I will be wearing a visor and a facemask. On your request, I could also wear gloves.

At the moment, it is mandatory for you to wear a face covering unless you have any concerns to do so.

Please point out anything that I could do for you to make you feel more at ease, so that you would receive the maximum benefit from the treatment.

Thank you for your understanding. I look forward to seeing you at the clinic.

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