Category Archives: Massage Therapy

Muscle tension. I’m a fan!

“Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralysed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds’ wings.” ― Rumi

Muscle tension. It gets a bad rap.

But I say: Yay! I am a fan.

After all, tension makes our bodies move. Think about it: If your muscles—which are attached to your bones—weren’t able to tense up and contract, your body would not be able to move. Yikes!

When things are working well there is a constant balancing and rebalancing between tension and relaxing, between muscle fibers firing in contraction and then releasing to rest.

When muscles don’t get enough tension leading to movement, they begin to cry out for it, so to speak, using the language of pain and discomfort which in the common vernacular we have names for, like, “that knot in my neck,” or “that pain in my butt,” to name just two.

If your body, or an area of your body, has not been getting enough movement then that pain in, say, your butt may well be trying to say: “Get up, darling! Move me! No, I’m not tired… I’m tired of sitting!”

On the other hand, when muscles don’t get enough opportunity to release and rest, they also begin to cry out, very likely using that same language of pain and discomfort.

Like daytime and nighttime, like light and like shadow, like the bird wings and the hand opening and closing in Rumi’s poem, tensing and releasing are useful and beautiful, each. Calling one good and the other bad kind of misses the whole picture. Not to mention that favoring one over the other will, very practically speaking, lead to imbalance. And imbalance always has a way of affecting our integrity.

Sometimes imbalance in the contraction-release cycle can play out like this:

One muscle or muscle area gets overused and exhausted and maybe its function starts being impaired. Then another muscle will jump in, so to speak, to pick up the slack of the muscle that is crying “Uncle!”

That sort of pinch hitting that muscles do for each other is useful, for sure, but when done for too long or too intensely, then the muscle doing the filling in for the other’s exhaustion can’t tend to its main body function. And what could happen then?

Here’s an example…

Take the diaphragm. The diaphragm (in your “gut” area) is a dome-shaped sheet of muscle and tendon whose main function is respiration. Yup, the diaphragm is all about breathing. Yay! (Still not sure where your diaphragm is? Well, it’d be where you could get the wind knocked out of you if you ever—let it never be so!—got punched.)

When you aren’t using your diaphragm to its full capacity for breathing, your neck muscles will jump in to help out. (After all, the body doesn’t mess around in making sure you are breathing. Thanks, body!)

Now neck muscles are useful and incredibly good at their main function which is all about helping you look up and look down and look around — that is, flexion, extension and rotation of the head — not breathing. They will help, for sure, but they’d rather just pitch in here and there rather than permanently. And who can blame them?

When your breathing is shallow and skimpy for too long, your neck muscles will, understandably(!), be all, “hey, man! A break? Can we go home for a rest already? We’ve been working without a break all day! And what about that diaphragm over there, just sitting around—!”

Your diaphragm, meanwhile, is completely underemployed and we can easily imagine what that is doing for its sense of wellbeing and self-esteem!

The constant balance of things… Pretty amazing, isn’t it? Also amazing that we get to take so much of it for granted: the cycles of our bodies, the cycles of nature, the balance and rebalance, constantly, always toward integrity.

Taking a moment to notice it all might be nice. You might just find yourself breathing a bit deeper just for having noticed. Ahhhh… (Thanks, diaphragm!)

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Same place, new look. Heidi’s Table 2015.

Happy New Year, my people!

On January 1 I took over the lease for my office. Even though this did not come as a surprise, a few days before the actual date when my dear office mate of the last year would be moving out, I found myself feeling quite anxious. After waking up really early (again!) and not being able to fall back asleep, I enlisted the help of a really good listener:

I told my really good listener exactly how wobbly and scared I felt. (What a relief to say things just as they are to someone who listens and wants to understand.) Then I told my really good listener that I could feel it like this heaviness in my middle. I pointed and put my hand there and my really good listener (named Jeffrey), just kept listening.

Then I told Jeffrey about how something in me was scared of taking on the added rent. (Again, relief! So helpful to say a fear out loud.) That scared part of me said things like, “What if you fail? Then what?!” Jeffrey just kept listening. Then I told Jeffrey that something in me was afraid that people would stop coming to me altogether…that they’d stop liking my massages and that I would never be able to convey how amazing a thing Focusing is. (Yup, also felt good to say that, even though something else in me felt embarrassed to admit that I was afraid people just wouldn’t like me anymore.)

Listening and being with everything inside me just like it was really brought relief. I hadn’t wanted advice and Jeffrey had not given it. Instead, Jeffrey had been present with me in a very Focusing kind of way, a way that allows things to change seemingly on their own. Listening in that Focusing kind of way is engaged. It’s active. It’s interested. It’s curious. It’s present.

The next morning, as if out of nowhere though I’m quite sure as a result of having been with everything just the way it was, I asked Jeffrey if he’d help me do something brave and big to mark the change for my office.

And that is the story of how my office came to look like this… I loved it before, and now I get to love it in a new and all-of-my-own kind of way.

Same office, new look!

Same office, new look!

I hope you visit soon. My table very much looks forward to having you on it.

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Warmly yours,

Heidi

P.S. The paint color is called “Wheatfield.” Maybe one of these days I’ll tell the story of how we picked it!

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Another take on taking for granted

It’s easy to notice things when they’ve gone kaflooey, when they’re, somehow, off. Like public transportation, for example, when it’s so crowded you can barely move and it’s hard to breathe. Or when there is a disabled car on the line up ahead and you are stopped, indefinitely, in a tunnel underground somewhere in the middle of who-knows-exactly-where. StoopidRedLine, you may mutter under your breath.

But on the days that the subway or the bus gets you places without a hitch? You get to take it for granted. La la la, oh yeah, the Red Line? The 77? Yep, I take it to work and home every day. I don’t have to park a car. I get to read. I get to eavesdrop on interesting conversations. I get to find out what that lady who can’t stop laughing is reading.

It’s easy to notice a relationship when you’re having a disagreement. You notice how she didn’t look at you. Or, maybe, how she did. You notice how he’s not calling you by that sweetly irreverent name like he used to. Or maybe he’s not calling at all. You miss him, and you feel something snag in the vicinity of your heart. Ow.

But all those other days when you roll over and there he is in all his adorable flesh-n-bones-ness? Those times he calls your name like a line from his favorite song, the one he hums when he’s content? Or when the sight of her makes you grin like a happy fool? Ahh. You get to take this person for granted. Mmm…

It’s easy to notice your body when something hurts. Like when that pain in your neck made you stop short just now when you tried to turn, apparently too quickly, to the right. Or maybe you were bending to pull on your shoes, only to feel your low back seize up and, oh noes! Now it’s hard to stand up straight and you wonder, “is this what they call putting out your back?” Whatever it’s called, it hurts.

But on all those other days when you get out of bed and brush your teeth and lace up your shoes without a second thought? Body? Oh, body! It bends and straightens, turns and returns, stops short and starts up again without a second thought. Not to mention your breathing, which, most of the time keeps happening without any thought or effort on your part. You get to take it for granted.

Right now I’m getting to take for granted this chair, that string of lights, toes, bendy hips, arms, how comfortable it is to have my feet up on the yellow and white looks-handmade-but-turns-out-to-be-from-“just IKEA” bedspread, the empty frame, the sprigs of lavender, the support of the ground, the pull of gravity toward that same solid ground when my thoughts start twirling away a bit anxiously, this here breath, that sigh, and one thing that is so very new that I have not yet had much of a chance to take it for granted: my new office! I love it.

You? Is there something you get to take for granted? How sweet of for you to notice.

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Heidi’s Table

2464 Massachusetts Ave. #405
Cambridge, MA 02140

617.564.3434

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