We are living through a global pandemic, an unprecedented event in our lifetime that will define this time and place for years to come. I want to share with you some self-care strategies so that you personally will not be defined and marked by COVID-19 for as long. There is so much fear around us, and much of this comes in the form of fear of the unknown. Our nature as humans is to try to control an out of control situation, to attempt to wrangle all the unknown pieces of the puzzle. This intention shows up in our bodies, in the muscular holding patterns.
In addition to muscles contracting in a pattern of perceived control, your muscles respond to fight or flight scenarios. Your body doesn’t know the difference between scenario 1- primally and literally fighting a bear or fleeing that danger- and scenario 2 – self imposed mental and emotional paralysis in the face of stress, uncertainty and first world worry. It reacts the same, with your limbic system activating the fight or flight response. In the midst of anything frightening, your breath quickens, and your entire body becomes tense and ready to take action.
I will walk you through self-care massage on some of the structural muscles connected to the fight or flight response and the need to control our environment and those in it. We will be using the shiatsu technique.
My initial and most extensive professional training in this field was at the Shiatsu Massage School of California. Shiatsu is more or less acupuncture without needles; it relies on thumbs instead of needles. According to NCBI (National Center for Biotechnology Information), shiatsu is a manual therapy of Japanese origin in which the practitioner applies pressure on certain points of the body in order to activate the body’s own healing capabilities. These points are not arbitrary, rather, they are specific places on the meridians. Meridians are lines of energy running up and down the body, as defined by Chinese medicine. The ancient practice of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) significantly predates western medicine and is based on the understanding that the body is both a physical and energetic entity. Imagine the body as a house wired for electricity, but instead of cables meridians carry the electricity. The is similar to the Ayurvedic principle of chakras, which are said to be spinning wheels of energy as opposed to lines. When our energy centers are blocked or imbalanced, pain and disease arise. The goal of shiatsu is to unblock meridians, and to balance life energy, or chi. On a physical level, in response to the pressure the brain produces endorphins, chemicals that decrease pain and invite feelings of pleasure. In the absence of pain, your muscles relax; the body finds balance.
Looking at all this through the lease of The Cotu Method, meridians run through muscles including the ones that are prone to contraction in response to emotional triggers.
I invite you to watch a short video I made for a quick tutorial on self shiatsu massage of the occiput (GB 20, GB 12), the jaw (ST 6), the forearms (LI 11- LI 4), the tops of the thighs (the spleen & stomach meridians), and the belly. These are places where tension is concentrated, and where you will feel immediate relief. As you work each point, be sure to take at least three deep cleansing breaths.
In closing, my wonderful husband (who designs movie posters and other key art for a living) made this poster for social media sharing. The message is poignant, and we invite you to pass it along.