What connects one touch with another? What role does breath play in the art of massage?
In yoga, if we do the postures and movement without full breathing, it is of limited structural and energetic benefit. If we dance and don’t breath fully and naturally, we move in a stilted way, So too if a therapist does a massage without fully and naturally breathing in and out, it’s like song without the right rhythm, it feels held back, stilted, you don’t feel like singing along. Without the free breath of life, the massage will likely not have a deeper therapeutic impact.
When we do and teach massage, too often the concentration is overly much on what we do with our hands. But – our energy doesn’t come from our hands! It comes from breath. Literally and figuratively, breathing fully in and out gives us aliveness in every cell, pulsation, and a sense of volume in our bodies as we move. Breath is the first and last nourishment. It is the breath with which we nurture and nourish our clients.
Plus the only inner rhythm that we have both conscious and unconscious control of is the breath. The brainstem gives us the basic breath but we also have learned habits and voluntary control through the cerebrum, the home of the conscious mind. Thus, through both the medullary and cerebral influence of breath, we access the explicit interface of both the conscious and the unconscious worlds. Respiration is the deepest physiological and anatomical function over which we have conscious as well as unconscious control.
The slow rhythm of freed, mindful breathing conveys a sense of grace. Just like the most wonderful, the warmest breeze, breath will convey exquisitely a sense of ease. It will be a slow rhythmic, living vehicle for taking an important vacation from the rhythms and tasks of everyday life.
So to find the energy and responsive rhythm in a session with a client, we need to fully inhabit our own breath and be mindful of the depth and rhythm of theirs. Then the massage is a duet of breath. It is the experience of harmony between two people. The philosopher, Krishnamurti, said if six people would totally cooperate, the world would be instantly transformed. Maybe we can say, for the world to be transformed, perhaps first it just takes two.
The art of massage, like life itself, depends on the breath. Every touch, like every note in a song, is strung like a bead on this living bracelet, this miraculous vine of breath that connects us all.