I studied with Daniel Blake, former Rolfer, in his offshoot of Rolfing, “Structural Bodywork” in 1982 and ‘83. Then I took cranio-sacral trainings with him and with early students of Dr. John Upledger. After my first such training, I realized that you can affect someone deeply with almost no pressure. So I abandoned the term “Deep Tissue”, and decided not to coin some fancy name and just say what I’m teaching is “Deep Massage”, meaning we want to cultivate a quality of touch and relationship that is most likely to have very deep positive effect.
So from the start Deep Massage was about high quality of connection, not about quantity of pressure. The techniques evolved as combinations of soft tissue and skeletal work that I’d studied and then refined, now for over 30 years.
The issues this work addresses have become critical and even more relevant as new models and and new problems for bodyworkers arose in our field. Many clients and employers want “deep tissue” and there is the belief that more pounds of pressure per square inch will translate into greater therapeutic benefits. This is largely a market-driven illusion. Substituting force for intelligence doesn’t work in life and it doesn’t work in therapy.
As a matter of fact that is a formula for therapists’ breakdown as they, with what I call the “outside-in” model, struggle to overcome clients’ tension with excessive pressure. Eventually most therapists start breaking down their bodies by working that way too often.
This old model, which says that we are doing soft tissue manipulation, is simply out-dated. The fact is – if the client doesn’t relax, they experience less deep and less long-lasting results. Relaxation is a function of the client’s nervous system, not the therapist’s hard pressure.
So Deep Massage cultivates a theory and practice which aims to contact the person in such a way that they let go from inside out. If they don’t let go from within, then nothing really significant can happen!
Some of the elements involved in this are learning and cultivating soft tissue “fulcrums”, entailing a step-by-step model for how to engage the client’s nervous system (aka energy). Then we also look at signs of letting go (“working signs”) so that the session becomes more of a mutual bodymind dialogue, rather than a unilateral tension incursion. Critically Deep Massage also teaches about “psychomechanics” – what you do with your awareness while you do this work is as important as your body mechanics.
I started writing on this topic in 1984 in my workshop manual “Putting the Soul Back in the Body”. Then I spent 13 years off and on writing “The Deep Massage Book: How to Combine Structure and Energy in Bodywork”. If you want to know more about Deep Massage that book will be the best place to start.
I and my other Deep Massage teachers and assistants support a method of work that guarantees therapists’ longevity, happiness and health in their work, and deeper, more long-lasting positive therapeutic outcomes for their clients.
The “tissue” is not the issue. The person is.
This January we’ll be having a great Deep Massage I workshop with three of our most experienced teachers. Click here for registration and information.