Friday, February 20, 2009

Anatomy in Braille

"Focus on your client. Keep your strokes
fluid and consistent. Be present and in the moment."

Sounds easy, doesn't it? Well, throw in a couple distractions such as a room full of people, questions asked by a teacher, discussion between the giver and the receiver about pressure, and a fellow classmate walking to the rest room a student’s focus flies right out the window.

Bring in brightly colored bandanas and cashmere scarves, and we have the tools of the trade for today's massage therapy class. Blindfold Massage is on the agenda, and the students look, well..., let's say --- apprehensive. They attempt to hide this with nervous laughter, but don't be fooled. And then comes the questions... "Where will I put the massage cream?" "What if the cream falls to the floor?" "How will I know if I am draping properly?" The teacher calmly explains that these are all wonderful questions and they will be answered later -- after the experience. As the students picked their partners for the trade, the receivers gently, but firmly, blindfolded the givers. It was amusing to watch the blindfolded therapists with outstretched arms as if reaching out for help. As the blindfolded students took baby steps towards their massage tables (and their clients), I watched to see what would happen next.

The connection between therapist and client was immediate. These students were relying completely on touch. Visually, there were no distractions for them. Audible disruptions were ignored in favor of staying close to their massage table. As a result, their body mechanics were quickly evolving into textbook perfection right before my eyes. About 15 minutes into the massage, I walked in front of the room to observe the class as a whole. The therapists were fluidly performing massage without breaking contact with their client. The blindfolded student's hands were open and relaxed, giving firm and focused pressure. They were present and in the moment. By my observation, and their fellow student's feedback, it was their best massage to date.

The students on the massage table were eager to take their turn as the blindfolded therapists, and the mood of the class remained positive and energetic for the rest of that day. Some of you may laugh out loud at the photographs of these incredibly talented students performing massage with blinders on. To me, they've never looked better.

-Kristi Nelson