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Mindfulness of the body

MINDFULNESS OF THE BODY KEYNOTE

Grounding – Get into your body and inhabit it, as if you’re coming into a room, looking for, and finding, a good place to sit.

Staying with what you’re doing in an attentive way, or bearing it in mind, is an important skill called ‘mindfulness’. Mindfulness is initiated by bringing to mind a sight, sound, touch, smell, taste or idea. Often you do this with a thought, such as: ‘What does my body feel like, now?’ Or, ‘How do I know I’m breathing?’ Or, ‘Patience…’ However, more than just thinking of something, mindfulness means that you take in the touch, sound, or meaning; you really ‘get it’. You bear it in mind. Naturally it’s easier to bear something in mind if it’s simple, comfortable and relatively still. So we develop mindfulness around the body, and practise getting it comfortable and balanced. In a nutshell, the right kind of effort is one of simplifying and steadying: to put aside what you don’t need right now (including ideas of achievement), and to make more of what is good and helpful. In the following exercise, this comes down to being fully aware of the body sitting still.

SITTING

One of the most effective postures for the cultivation of mindfulness is that of sitting. The upright posture supports clarity and alertness, and with careful attention you can develop it so that it keeps your back straight without strain. A straight-backed chair may be helpful, but you should avoid leaning back in it. Even better, you may be able to use one of the cross-legged ‘lotus’ postures.

For this, you’ll probably need to wedge a small cushion under your tailbone to help support the lower back. In either case, good posture is that which provides a firm but supple balance that allows vitality to circulate through the body. When firmness and vitality blend, the body feels good and the mind settles down.

To get comfortable in an upright way, draw your lower back in and let your shoulders drop. Draw the lower tips of the shoulder blades into your back. Let your arms rest, hands lightly clasped in your lap, or palms down resting on your thighs. Keeping your eyes lightly focused, bring your head in line with the spine. Imagine your chin is resting on a soft ball about the size of a large orange, so that the head is tilted very slightly downward, but the neck remains upright. Allow the spine to straighten by imagining the crown of the head is suspended from above. This will help to relax your neck muscles. Above all, don’t allow the head to tilt forward as this encourages drowsiness. Take your time, and aim for balance.

Take an interest in how your body feels. Collect your attention, and begin to move it slowly around your body. Notice sensations. Relax any tensions, particularly in the face, neck, and hands. Allow the eyelids to close or half close. Take some long slow out-breaths and adjust: whatever you can relax, relax; whatever needs to be alert, wake it up. Get comfortable. Then hold the body in its entirety in your awareness without focusing on any point in particular.

Can you feel the regular rhythm of breathing? If so, learn how your body holds itself to facilitate the breathing. This is a good guide for attuning your posture.

Bring your awareness to the skin, the boundary of your body. Imagine sitting in warm and comfortable space, sensing your body within that space. Feeling the energy and warmth of your breathing, imagine those qualities gently radiating out through your skin.

DIFFICULTIES  

If you are feeling tense about all this, relax your attention, and soften around your mouth, eyes and forehead.

It’s quite normal to experience both drowsiness and a hyperactive mind. These are the two extremes that the mind swings between when it is temporarily detached from normal social engagement. The simple way to counter these is to keep bringing attention to your body and its posture. If you’re feeling drowsy, keep your eyes open and bring attention to the upright posture through drawing the lower back in and keeping the neck and head in line with the spine. If restlessness and hyperactivity are the problems, sweep your attention over your body as if you’re gently brushing it, picking up the sensations and energies in the skin. Breathe in and out slowly and deeply.

If you find yourself brooding or worrying, it’s best to open your eyes and change your posture to one of those in the next exercise; or spend some time in reflection, as below.

(Ajahn Sucitto, „Meditation – An Outline“, read more)

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What to expect from a Shiatsu session

Shiatsu 1 IMG_2387 let.............All professional Shiatsu practinioners are trained to respect and observe the integrity of the whole person. This holistic perspective is consistent amongst all Shiatsu professionals and is evident in our philosophy of care.

During a Shiatsu treatment practinioners create deep sensitive pressure using the thumbs, fingers and hands. Some Shiatsushis (= shiatsu practinioners) are also trained to apply techniques using their elbows, and knees. Whereas Swedish massage involves the use of oil or lotion for the purpose of gliding techniques, Shiatsu is delivered using direct rhythmic pressure and contact is sustained. During a Shiatsu session you may wear loose comfortable clothing or may receive Shiatsu therapy while covered by a sheet. Shiatsu therapy employs stretching and range of motion techniques to improve joint mobility and muscle pliability. Shiatsu can be performed on a futon on the floor, in a chair, or on a table. Shiatsu tables are low to allow the practinioner to apply weight rather than relying on strength.

Assessment and treatment in Shiatsu can vary depending on whether a practinioner has been trained to utilize eastern or western medical theory. In the eastern tradition, the shiatsu practinioner works to harmonize and regulate the energetic pathways (meridians) and to attend to areas of energetic congestion and depletion. From a western medical perspective energetic congestion/depletion may be observed as an area of poor circulation/structural imbalance or pain. Some practinioner are educated to offer nutritional and dietary advice and are also trained in exercise and stretching techniques.

Shiatsu can positively affect emotional wellbeing. After a Shiatsu session you are most likely to feel a sense of deep relaxation and reconnection with your somatic self. You may also feel sleepy or energized depending on your general health status. The practinioner will most likely encourage you to keep well hydrated after the treatment and to notice if there has been improvement in signs and symptoms. (Source http://shiatsutherapysociety.org)

Shiatsu and massage to support pregnancy and beyond

We have found that shiatsu and massage offer effective tools to support the well being of mothers and their families through their experience of pregnancy and birth and want to see them taking their place as a core part of 21st Century maternity care. Through our work with families, we have also realised how important it is to understand the impact of this period on the whole family for the rest of their lives. Although the information on  this site is mostly focused on shiatsu and massage for the maternity period, most practitioners also work with men as well as women at all stages of their lives.  We can also tailor courses for you which are not only maternity related.  Information on the Well Mother approach.