Massage & Yoga

Improving overall health, vitality, and lifestyle through the integration of Massage Therapy and the practice of Yoga

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Sunday, October 30, 2011

Energetic Connections


Imagine for a moment, that you are walking through a store and you happen to bump into someone that you haven’t seen in years. The conversation begins with a few questions about the past and what each of you has done since you last spoke.  You might also discuss mutual friends or anyone that the two of you know in common.  Depending on the strength of your past relationship, this person may warrant a deeper conversation, so you agree to meet at a later date when the two of you can “catch up”.  At this point you might shake hands or hug each other and say your goodbyes.  Yet even after the goodbyes, you notice that your thoughts are still with this person, recalling more past history between the two of you.  Perhaps you notice a warm feeling of gratitude that you have rekindled your relationship or possibly a feeling of sadness that you haven’t been better about keeping up with this person before now.  What you are experiencing are thoughts and feelings associated with the bond you have developed both past and present with this person, or what I like to call, an “energetic connection.”

Our bodies are filled with energy impulses running back and forth through our nervous system.  These energy impulses direct and maintain the functions of our bodies.  Without them, we would be dead.  In fact, every living thing on this planet possesses energy, including plants. So, when two living things interact, there is an exchange of energy between them.  Just like magnets, sometimes these physical energies are drawn together and other times they repel one another.  Because of a previous connection between you and your long lost friend, the energetic exchange that occurred further reinforced your relationship and thus the bond between you was strengthened.  The more frequently an exchange occurs between two people, the more your physical energies become bound together.  That is why we are so close to members of our own families.  Those bonds have been forming since we were born and therefore, they are much stronger than the bonds between friends.  In addition, the more physical the interaction between two people, the stronger the bond becomes.  Thinking back to the exchange between you and your friend, the simple act of shaking hands or from hugging each other creates a chemical bond when the two of you touch.  The fluids, oils and skin cells from one body become mixed with those of the other body creating an energetic crossroads allowing energy to be exchanged.  If you remember from high school chemistry, energy flows better through a liquid than through the air (don’t drop the hairdryer into the bathtub).  As a result of all this science, the simple act of touch between two human beings can spark a profound exchange of energy.

This energy of life that we all possess is known in yoga as Prana, in China it is called Chi. We are filled with it from the moment of conception and surrounded by it everywhere we go.  Recall that in the Star Wars movies, George Lucas called it “The Force”.   We absorb this Prana (Chi, The Force) from the air we breathe, the food we eat and from those we interact with which is why it is essential to eat a good diet, take relaxing breaths to dispel stress and to spend time with loved ones. When we are healthy and relaxed, our bodies are capable of miraculous physical feats and very deep mental intuitions.  You have undoubtedly heard of having a gut feeling about something or someone.  That is because our bodies possess over 100 million brain cells within our digestive tract.  Yes, that’s what I said; we have in essence a second brain in our digestive tract called the Enteric Nervous System (ENS) that connects directly to our brains along the Vagus nerve. The nerve cells of the ENS line the walls of our esophagus, stomach and intestines.  Whenever we encounter someone or a something that requires a judgment on our part, the ENS provides our brain with insight and often times, emotional responses.  Intuition, ESP, and clairvoyance are all rooted in the ENS.  Again, when we interact with another person, our “guts” are sending impulses directly to our “brains” telling us what we like and dislike about this person.  In yoga this area equates to the 2nd Chakra called Svadhistana or “the abode of the self”.  Chakras are pools of prana or energy within the body.  So, once we have developed a positive attraction to someone, each subsequent encounter further develops the relationship and over the course of time the energetic bond between the two of you remains active even though you may be a great distance apart.  I am sure you have heard stories about how someone has sensed when a relative or close friend has suffered a terrible accident or death.  That is because the energetic connection between them was so strong that the ENS was able to detect a disturbance in their shared energies as a result of the tragedy despite the fact that they may have been hundreds or thousands of miles apart.

So how is this possible and why doesn’t it happen more often?  Because, even though energy can travel very great distances, it can also be easily disturbed along its transmission, thus the message gets lost.  Whales can communicate with sound energy across thousands of miles of ocean.  Humans can see images transmitted from a satellite orbiting a planet in our solar system that is 800 million miles away.  Then why can’t our bodies sense a tragic disturbance in the energy between members of a family more frequently?  The simple answer is environment.  Whale sounds travel through water in a low frequency environment, undisturbed by other sounds.  The transmissions we receive from space travel through a low frequency environment undisturbed by other transmissions.  Yet, we live in busy cities surrounded by thousands of energy signals.  These high frequency environments are filled with radio, television, and cell phone transmissions, in addition to power lines and traffic sounds all disturbing the direct flow of energy between humans.  In our environment, we have to come within a close proximity of one another before our energies can interact.  The sheer volume of energetic noise in our high frequency city environment is also a major contributing factor to why our brains develop more stress.  They are constantly bombarded by energy signals that they have to interpret or ignore.  Why do you think we find it so relaxing to take a walk along the beach or to go on a hike across a mountain trail?  Because those are low frequency environments and our brain doesn’t have to work so hard to filter out all the extraneous energy buzzing through the air.  Also, the low frequency energy of the surrounding trees, plants and other animals has a soothing effect on our nervous system.  Taking a swim in the ocean, in a lake or even a swimming pool has a similar effect.  Water is a low frequency energy medium and because our bodies are made of about 80% water, we find great harmony in it's presence.  Personally, I find that I do some of my best thinking in the shower.  That is a result of the low frequency connection to water mixed with the splashing sounds to create a peaceful environment which allows the brain to function better!

So what does all this mean?  It means that our bodies are extremely sensitive energetic instruments.  Yet we as humans seldom find the time to really listen to what our bodies are telling to us.  When we meet someone, do we really make an effort to sense what we feel in our gut about them, or do we ignore that intuition and act based upon time constraints or other sensory input?  In my yoga classes, I am constantly instructing my students to get out of their heads and into their bodies.  Four of our five senses are located in the head.  The sensory input from our eyes, ears, nose, and mouth has a much shorter path to the brain than sensory input from the gut or from our touch receptors, therefore the brain tends to stay focused on those sources of input in a high frequency environment.  Only when we allow time for the brain to listen to the body, do we overcome the high frequency input and begin to reach deeper within ourselves for a more meaningful connection to our own energy, prana, or chi. Just like trees which are grounded in the soil (very low frequency medium) but bloom into the air so too, humans are grounded by touching the soil, the water and each other so that we might “bloom” as well.  The sensation of touch is something unique and fulfilling on both an energetic and an emotional level.  When two people share energy through touch, they become linked intuitively to one another.  Sometimes those energies are combined making each one stronger.  Other times those energies cancel out healing a discord in both by opening a blocked pathway or meridian.  Either way, touch is a vital human need and one that is so neglected and misunderstood in our over stimulated society.

The next time you run into someone you haven’t seen in years, search deep into your gut and make time for energetic connections to prosper in your life.  A simple hug is so much more than a gesture, it is a bond shared between two people.  Seek out the low frequency environment in your life whether it is a walk along the beach, a hike in the mountains, or holding hands with a loved one.  Cultivate the prana within your body and mind.  Eat food as though it were feeding your soul, breathe air into your lungs as though you were walking beside a rolling stream through a forest meadow, and most importantly, extend your hand in touch to another human being as though you have the power to heal. 

May the Force be with you!

Matthew Corrigan, CMT, RYT
Prana Healthworks 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Confessions of a Massage Therapist "Ironing the Wrinkles From the Fabric of Humanity"


The massage therapist / client relationship is a unique blend of trust and communication.  Once the therapist has determined the needs and goals for the session through a pre-massage consultation, the stage is set for what I like to call an energetic pas de deux.  As instruments of exploration, my hands become my eyes.  Through pressure and subtle manipulation of tissue, I am able to sense specific areas of tension within the client’s body.  Depending on how those areas are manipulated and how well the client is able to use a combination of breathing and relaxation to release the specific tension determines the effectiveness of the massage.  The ancient art of massage is a potent therapy when applied with knowledge and focused intention.  The giver and receiver must be willing to trust one another in an act of mutual surrender; one to the heart that honors the spirit of life, the other to the hand that irons the wrinkles from the fabric of humanity.

A teacher of mine once used the analogy that the body is like a tent.  The tent poles being our bones, the outer fabric of the tent equates to our skin, and the muscles, tendons and ligaments are like the “guy lines” anchoring the tent to the ground.  Each of these in turn give us our shape, or more specifically; our posture.  Posture is our dynamic presentation to the universe.  It begins at birth and it adapts to every task or event that we perform throughout our lives.  Sports you have played, injuries you have sustained, emotional stresses you have endured; all dictate how each body adapts and compensates over time to physical demands or challenges.  Imagine for a moment what happens when one of those “guy lines” is put under excessive tension; the shape of the tent changes.  So too, when one of our muscles is under excessive tension, our posture changes in order to keep us standing upright and our eyes level with the horizon.  Many times these changes create postural imbalances, which over time begin to exhibit symptoms of discomfort and pain.  My goal as a therapist then is to assist the body in releasing these structural imbalances so that normal pain free functionality is restored and overall posture is improved.

In my work, I visualize the 600 some odd bags of tissue we call muscles, as a magnificent tapestry of overlapping fabric methodically laid out on a framework of pulleys and levers.  The exponential possibilities of movement offered by this structure can very often overload individual muscles or groups of muscles when the balance between strength and flexibility is exceeded.  The result then is strain or injury exhibited by pain.  Intrinsically though, there is often a deeper root cause to muscle imbalances.  The external forces attacking the body combined with the internal resiliency to those forces plays an ongoing tug of war between strength and flexibility.  Repetitive motion, non-repetitive motion and emotional factors also play a dominant role in our resiliency to external stresses.  As a therapist then, it becomes very important to be able to assess all the possible root causes for specific tensions in a client’s body.  This is why spending extra time with a client before the massage is so crucial to providing the most effective manual therapy during the massage.  The more I know about someone’s past, the better able I am to understand the nature of that person and ultimately, the better able I will be to help them unlock the physical restrictions they are encountering as a result of a stressful environment.

There is an honesty inherent in this work that I perform.  The forces of nature are present each time I lay my hands on someone.  Part knowledge, part intuition, and part understanding, massage therapy is a gift that has been shared between human beings for thousands of years and I am honored to uphold the integrity of my position as a massage therapist in every time my hands make contact with another human being. 

Matthew Corrigan, CMT, RYT
Prana Healthworks 2011

Sunday, October 9, 2011

What Are You Afraid Of?


This is the first installment of my 10-week blogging challenge proposed by Sue Ann Gleason – Chocolateforbreakfast.com & ConsciousBites.com.  Joining me in this challenge is a group of 10 other bloggers all of whom are women.  Ironically, having grown up in a house with 3 sisters, I find myself in familiar company; surrounded by a group of amazing women!  My entire life, I have always been more comfortable in a group of women than in a group of like-minded men.  Having never feared to walk the line between the genders, I feel that my ability to transcend boundaries of any sort is what has guided me to this fantastic group that Sue Ann has amassed.  Both in my work and in my personal life, I strive to be a “conduit”; facilitating change, pensive thinking, and self-exploration.  As a yoga teacher, I encourage my students to explore their own feelings rather than seeking affirmations in comparisons to books, videos, or other students.  The path of yoga leads one to look underneath the skin where the Self resides; your soul if you will, and in that place, attributes like gender are irrelevant. All that matters is the Who, the true Self, the person that you “really” are without the attributes of society, family, gender, or personal image. Professionally I refer to myself as a movement therapist, which can take on many meanings depending on the person in front of me.  If we look at licenses and certifications, I am a massage therapist and a yoga teacher but those are merely labels inflicted by society.  Is any one of us just a teacher, just a writer, just “Joe the plumber”? Certainly we are much more than the sum of a few labels, so why should I limit myself, particularly in a business where the goal is helping people find their own “health.”  All of that aside, if I revert back to the conduit analogy, my intention is always to propagate change, whatever that might be.  I deliver the spark that inspires people to make realizations within their own lives.  Sometimes for the better, sometimes not, but at least the awareness of possibility is now in their possession.

For me life is all about the journey, the exploration, and ultimately the experience done so without regret.  No Regrets!  That’s my mantra.  To reach for that lifestyle successfully means reaching beyond one’s fears.  That is a biggie!  Fear!  Yikes.  The biggest obstacle to change we all face is FEAR! The big “What if?”  If I can lead someone to a closer relationship with their own fears, then I feel I have given them the keys to open any number of doors that may come before them.  Crossing the threshold requires a deep faith in ones Self.  This blog is a personal threshold that I am hoping to walk across in the next 10 weeks.  I don’t feel a particular fear of blogging per se, but more a fear that whoever reads this can see a part of my soul and I will expose my foibles, dysfunctions.  If there is one thing I have always loathed, it’s a Poser!  An Amateur.  A Wanna Be.  Look in the mirror my friend; it don’t lie, or does it? 

The external attributes that we “project” for everyone else to see are not a reflection of who we really are.  Often times though, we get stuck in the belief that our external image “is” who we are.  Changing that perspective is the goal of my work.  Cultivating a better reflection of who we really are.  Hiding ones fears behind a mask leads only to pain, regret, and loneliness.  So here I am, all my faults and fears laid bare.  I am an open book for you to read.  I am blunt to a fault and brutally honest.  No Regrets!

So what of my own fears? We all have them, right? I am certainly not immune.  Throughout my life I have tried to face my fears one by one.  Born an introverted child of similar parents, I constantly longed to be in the spotlight but remained a wallflower due to a lack of self-confidence and an over-riding perfectionist mentality.  This is particularly evident in my musical pursuits.  From the age of 12, I would spend hours and hours practicing guitar in my room but never venturing out into the world to perform.  I could never bring myself to exhibit my talents in public because I didn’t feel I could live up to my own expectation of who I wanted to “project”.  This is a common fear I see many people and in many ways.  In developing our elaborate personal image throughout our childhood, teen years, and well into adulthood, we become slaves to that image thereby dodging our true Self! Often times, we try aimlessly to incorporate both our “projected self” and our “true self” into one person but inevitably we fall short because the “projection” keeps telling us to play someone else yet, in order to do that, we must ignore our own inner voice.  By exposing our true Self to scrutiny and possible ridicule, we risk failure and rejection.  How then do we overcome our fear and face the world as our ”Self?” 

Honesty!  Plain and simple. We are all born perfect the way we are.  Life is merely the pursuit of revealing that perfection without attributes; without posing as someone else.  You have to be honest with your Self; who you truly are.  This can be a daunting endeavor depending upon how deep the Self is buried, but only through genuine self-reflection can the face behind the mask be revealed.  The past is the past, you can’t change it, but you can change the future and that moment begins now.  I spent decades trying to overcome my fear of perfection and what I discovered on that journey was that I was perfect all along.  How strange that something so simple was right in front of me the whole time, hidden beneath the mask I had created. 

Remember, a life lived in fear of the “What If” is just that.  Take the time to really get to know your Self and you will become the person you have always wanted to be.  After all, what are you afraid of?

Matthew Corrigan, CMT, RYT
Prana Healthworks 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Blogging with Intention

I have been approached by Sue Ann Gleason (http://www.chocolateforbreakfast.com/ & www.consciousbitesnutrition.com) to participate in Blogging "think tank" of sorts. I am so excited to be participating in this little experiment and can't wait to share some of the fruits of it with the rest of the world. Once the first few posts are written, I will know more about the direction of the group and what I can post here for everyone to read. I am in some pretty special company and it should be quite interesting bouncing thoughts and ideas off of complete strangers. If you choose to follow this blog, you will be the first to know when the cat is out of the bag. Otherwise, check back in a couple of weeks and see what's to come.

Matthew