Canine Massage on Table vs Floor
This week we released a new video on our YouTube channel. In it I share my views on practicing canine massage on a table compared to working on the floor. Both have their place. Whenever and however possible though, we need to maintain mindful and ergonomic body mechanics. It is essential to make sure that you always have access to full and dynamic breath. It’s for your safety, the comfort of the dog, and for you to have a long practice.
In the video I explain the importance of breathing. I demonstrate the 8-way Tai Chi breathing, breathing while twisting (moving like a potted palm), and core breathing. The core is where our physical and spiritual powers emanate from.
Everything begins with breath. If there’s ever a time where breath is compromised, the dog interprets that as there is something wrong. When would I hold my breath? I hold my breath if I’m afraid, if I’m in pain, or if I am not sure. Every time I hold my breath the dog takes that as something is amiss.
If I’m not breathing, holding my breath, restricting my oxygen intake, the dog takes on the task of going on alert. They need to know about it if there’s something wrong in the environment or with me. Their focus moves from inward, where they were processing their own internal bodywork, to outward, where their internal work is superseded in importance.
They can only relax on the table if we are comfortable and consistently breathing. My breath is the substantive part of each of my strokes and it’s a reflection of my level of presence.
I compare that to working on the floor. On the floor you can see how compromised I am. On the floor, first of all, we need to establish a defined area.
I’ve experienced dogs getting up and walking away in the middle of a session. When they chose to return I completed the session. One time during a home visit, a golden retriever I was in the middle of massaging stood up and wandered off into the kitchen. I laughed when he returned a few minutes later happily munching on some cold French fries he’d remembered were in the garbage. He backed into my hands, chewing, and I resumed joint mobilization of his hips. As the therapist, I had a difficult time being present with his ongoing massage; I was immersed in the comedy of the experience. My energy-presence was with the situation; not with the dog.
We also need to define the space to protect our body: our knees or our seat bones.
Demonstrating Massage, I point out that when I reach, my range of motion is severely limited. I am off balance. It’s not ergonomically effective. When I have to reach way over onto the poll, for example, my ribs and spine twist and my ribcage presses down into my diaphragm. So, I cannot draw a full breath.
I also show what happens when other dogs walk in and interrupt the session. This part cracks me up every time I watch it. We even took some of the outtakes and added them to the end of the video.
Of course there are times when working on the floor is the only option. If the dog is too big, too compromised, or too scared, they still need massage and they can get as much as we can provide, on the floor.
When possible , let’s direct our attention to working with dogs on a table. That’s where they can get the most of what we have to offer.
It is all about the breath. Full breath suggests safety and leadership. Partial breath – fear, pain, lack of confidence. I know which I’d prefer.
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