Body Work

Hey, it’s Monday! (Speaking of things that might make you seek relaxation…) Let me get you in the mood for today’s post with a little “Body Work” from Morgan Page plus Tegan and Sara:

So, yesterday was my first wedding anniversary. Can I just share one photo that makes me really happy? (It has rainbow lanterns!)

OK, we can move on now. (Man, I love rainbow lanterns.) Anyway! Here’s what you need to know: In the morning, J transformed me into a tear-sniffling, giddy-bouncing mess of joy with a video he’d compiled featuring surprise anniversary well-wishes from lots of our favorite people. After that, I surprised him right back with a day-long treasure hunt through the sites of our best dates. I even re-created our proposal, only this time I went down on one knee and asked him for ten more years of awesome.

I’d made him a ten-year journal that tied right in. (Also, even fake-proposing is terrifying. I recommend it as a way to test your courage in the face of imminent danger. If you can even fake-propose, you can probably battle a mantis shrimp and win.)

But, less about romance and more about bodies working: one of the surprise activities I signed us up for was a two-hour community bodywork class led by Toni Craige of Cirque de Vol Studios in downtown Raleigh. This is Toni:

She’s just as wonderful as that photo leads you to believe. Her thoughts about bodywork are so refreshing: essentially, she believes in the 80-20 rule, or the idea that you can learn about 20% of what there is to study on any given topic and achieve about 80% mastery of it. (Meanwhile, experts like Toni study the additional 80% of the material to gain that final 20% of the knowledge and become insanely good at their craft.) Given her belief that the power of massage should be passed back to the community instead of confined to professionals, her goal for the day was to give us a helpful grounding and let us take it out into our lives.

This approach was so much more enjoyable than the times I’d tried to memorize specific massage patterns from books or looked at drawings of muscular anatomy (picture me wearing my confused face). Toni let me know that being “curious like a monkey” and just playing are much more important to giving a good massage than applying any one technique. She sounds like a smart lady, right? That’s why I wanted to share my top three takeaways from the workshop:

1. When you perform bodywork on someone, think of them as a delightful new toy. Be curious; see how they respond to different movements; let your creativity flow; have fun! At one point, Toni described how the body loves chaos of motion. She demonstrated this by having four participants take her four limbs and gyrate them every-which-way at once. Watching from a distance, it looked completely appalling. But later in the session, when I had both my legs rocked about at the same time, I was overcome with kid-like giggles and understood how amazing (and rare!) it is to let your body be that loose and free. Our bodies really do love to experience new sensations.

2. Communication leads to intuition. I have always been a nervous massage-giver. As a receiver, I’m incredibly easy to please and just being touched makes me happy. But I understand that most people aren’t so straight-forward and I think I’ve come across a few particularly persnickety receivers in my time. So, with J, this had evolved into me being extremely cautious about how to massage him. I always worried I was making him uncomfortable or wasn’t really having an effect. Throughout Toni’s class, she encouraged the givers to check in with our receivers. And it really is that simple. I’d ask J if something worked for him. He’d mumble, “This is great,” or, “A little softer,” and I’d adjust. Done. I don’t have amazing, insta-intuition yet (Toni can walk right up to someone and have them blissed out in seconds), but I am already much happier and more relaxed as a giver, and that feeds through to J.

3. Be a bodywork goddess (aka make it easy on yourself). Toni shared that she likes to envision herself as a goddess while performing bodywork (read “goddess” as graceful, composed, and at peace). The alternative? A cramped little rodent-creature scurrying around their receiver in a frenzy! I instantly recognized myself in the worried little rodent – someone so frantic to try everything and get it right that they don’t enjoy the process, and end up so tired and tense they need their own massage! I learned that rodent-dom can be avoided by taking time to maintain good posture, moving around the receiver as needed to stay comfortable, and using my own body weight to apply pressure. That was the biggest insight of the day: I weigh 130 pounds. Why exhaust my hands and thumbs by pressing down with just my (severely limited) arm strength? Once I learned to let gravity pull my weight down onto J,  we both had a much better time. I was barely working at all. He got way better pressure. And it’s so much more likely that we’ll actually do bodywork on each other now because it won’t leave me stressed and tired.

And so… back to the 80-20 rule. Here’s a handy graphic:

I really think there’s something to this concept. It’s the basis for public education through high school: students acquire a limited amount of information about a wide variety of topics so they can function at a base level in the world. But it’s college and post-graduate study (and life experience, yo) that get us to a state of being experts in our chosen field. And that’s a pretty cool, forgiving system – because there’s just not enough time to become a complete Renaissance Expert at ALL THE THINGS, but I like having the freedom to dabble in pottery or canning or massage and gain enough tools to enjoy myself. I’m thinking this 80-20 concept could also be applied to aspects of relationships… but I’ll save that for another day. Right now I’m gonna go home and get my goddess on.

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