The Gentle Art of Following

Following the tissue – when less is more!

As I have become older and more experienced in my work, I increasingly appreciate the understanding I have developed around the power of light touch work and, above all, of ‘following the tissue’.

What is this?  It is the skill of feeling where the tissue (skin, muscle, fascia, etc) ‘wants’ to go.  “Why?” you might say, “is it not in the right place already?”  Well, not necessarily!  If there is internal tensioning caused by scars and adhesions, or if an injury has damaged bone or soft tissue, then no, the tissue may well be displaced. This will affect local function, for example of organs, circulation and nerves, as well as mobility; it will also have body-wide ramifications, to a greater or lesser degree, because everything is connected.  You cannot injure one part of the body without other parts adapting around that displacement, bruising, fracture, etc…  You may as well say that a well put up tent will stay just as strong if you loosen one of the guy ropes; this action would affect the tensioning and lead to increasing weakness and instability throughout the structure.

As a therapist, people come to me with, essentially, issues around the internal tensioning in their bodies.  It is my job to try and restore balance, which I do by working on the scars and adhesions or decompressing an area of injury.  This re-tensions those internal guy ropes and rebalances the system.

To do this, I have various methods of working but, in all of them, at the core is the following of the tissue.  Tissue will always ‘go home’ given the right help.  I locate the problem and feel what is needed, then I just give the body a nudge and let it do what it ‘knows’ how to do; the body has an innate intelligence and all I am is a facilitator. 

Over my thirty or so years of clinical practice, I have moved from being a very hard-working massage therapist following a treatment protocol, to someone who engages with the body at a very different level, listening to what it is telling me. It is a lot less physically taxing for me and much more effective – win/win all round!  I encourage all my students to do the same, no matter what modality I am teaching them. The ability to tune into the body and follow what it needs to do is a subtle skill that does not come easily to everyone, but eventually even the least experienced therapist can start to understand and learn. Not only is it much more interesting than giving a ‘by rote’ massage, but it takes our practice to a much higher level with more effective results for our clients.

Therapists: if you are a practising therapist, you may like to see the article I wrote from that point of view on The Fascia Hub website.

Fascial Unwinding and Energy Awareness course – this course teaches you how to follow the tissue, as well as many more useful skills.

How we can help – If you would like to ask me how this work may be able to help your condition, please contact jan@bodyinharmony.org.uk or ring on 01753 867877, or 07724 027748.

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