Fascia Collaboration. Let’s learn about what it is, how to identify it, influence it to help our dogs, and share the love.
In September 2019 I will be one of the instructors at a joint conference of the IAAMB/ACWT and the NBCAAM. (It will be open to members and non-members. The link for info about it is below.) The conference, which will be in Seattle, will include half-day continuing ed workshops. The one I’ll be teaching is on experiencing Fasciae. We are calling it Fascial Wanderings. I’m already preparing for it and have a favor to ask of you that I’ll get to at the end of this article.
My ability to sense Fascial Wanderings developed over years. It’s like a muscle. The more you work it, the stronger it becomes. Before I started, I had a sense that there was something about it that might expand my capacity to help clients in my bodywork. I had no idea that learning it would be life changing and become the core modality of my practice.
My first hurdle was accepting that there was indeed movement of energy. Energy is not part of my Western cultural belief system; especially as a trained medical professional. So, 25 years ago I began to “play” Tai Chi Chuan. The practice focuses on moving the body to influence an orb of chi that flows through and around my body. I immediately was able to recognize the feeling of chi and learned to move it. This in itself shifted my relationship with my environment. I was simultaneously the doer and the seer. The second hurdle was discovering that we can feel the movement of energy within someone else’s body.
Fasciae means connective tissue. Fasciae, functions because of the ability of energy to flow through it. The energy I felt in Tai Chi is the same stuff that determines the health and vitality of fasciae. When it moves easily, the contents within it function. When it is restricted, function is restricted.
Energetic Fasciae is another way of describing the energy layers within and surrounding dogs. They connect through meridians, as slings, as referral and reflexology patterns.
When we palpate the energy of the fascia, we feel stillness when it is stuck. We feel movement when it shifts. It speaks to us. At different levels of pressure or intention we have different conversations.
We experience movements as they happen in the dog’s body and spirit. They tighten and relax, twist and turn. Motion is continuous. The body is constantly working to right itself. It is a perpetual quest to figure itself out. Why did I do that? Why did I think/act that? How can I compensate for this weakness? How can I realign my physical and emotional priorities to be in greater comfort? It’s a search for stability and safety.
I place my hands on a dog’s body and observe the movement within. Our energies join up. And my body’s energy synchronizes with whatever I am feeling. The dog’s body shares what it is doing by doing it. Fasciae work is the ultimate body language. I listen in and actively participate in the conversations.
Fasciae work impacts every aspect of the dog and his overall quality of life; because the dog is being influenced by my taking part in the conversation. With my support and gentle encouragement, the dog is directed toward restoring vitality to his joints, strengthening and enhancing movement of muscle groups, releasing blocks in neurological tracts and individual trigger points, and even softening his spatial envelope.
As I mentioned, I am preparing for the Fascial Wanderings continuing ed workshop at the Seattle conference.
Writers are taught to write from their own experience. I write, speak, and teach from my experience. And, I acknowledge that my experience, at least my interpretation of it, may not, cannot, be the same as yours.
So, this is my request: I’m asking you to collaborate with me. Let’s find out if our experiences are the same or different. With your help I will give a more informed workshop. If I quote you, you will be sited as an SME, a Subject Matter Expert, in my reference resources.
Please take a few minutes to write a description of how you experience your (myo)fasciae work and send it to me.
- What is your fasciae work?
- How did you cultivate your skill set?
- Have you become more adept with practice?
- When do you use it?
- Do you have a story to share?
- How important is it in your practice?
- Is there a definitive experience of working in the myo-fascia?
Please share your comments below on this blog. And send your more considered thoughts to me at Jonathan@petmassage.com. Thank you in advance. I hope to meet and speak with you in person at the conference.
- Get your introduction to fasciae massage in the PetMassage Foundation Level Program. https://petmassage.com/event/petmassage-foundation-level-program-june-27-july-1-2019/
- Learn more about working with fasciae with the printed and audio book, PetMassage Energy Work With Dogs https://petmassage.com/store/petmassage-energy-work-for-dogs-accessing-the-magnificent-body-language-and-body-wisdom-of-the-dog-book/.
- Find out about the IAAMB/ACWT-NBCAAM Conference. You can attend, be a vendor, be a sponsor. Learn more at http://iaamb.org/
Practicing and Figuring It Out
Some things come easily; some take practice until we get it right. I noticed a pattern in the way I mastered skills. I identified a natural talent, received some initial training, and practiced, modeling after my instructor. With perseverance, I figured out how to do what I wanted to do my way; even become excellent at it.
That’s the way I learned to play piano. It all came so easily. As a small child I loved to play our baby grand piano. It was warm and safe. As a tiny person I’d climb up on the bench and pick out melodies. I knew intuitively where the sounds were. I was already familiar with the sounds: octaves, couplets, chords, and harmonics. I was not a blank slate. This was my talent. Creativity felt right and good. I played the music I heard “by ear” and elaborated on it to make it my own.
I was given a few months of lessons. I learned how to use my arms, hands, and fingers more efficiently. I found myself intuitively playing variations of the classical scores I was learning. So with practice, I was able to create the patterns of sounds and melodies I wanted. I “played” enthusiastically. I was an eight year old, oblivious to the world around me; joyously absorbed in my creative cacophony. I used my hands, my elbows, my feet. I played the keys, the cabinet, and the metal strings inside. I made up themes and loved riffing off into tangent explorations. I’d play until I was exhausted; until my little wrists cramped and my cuticles bled. It must have been excruciating for my family. I was left home alone … a lot. I still play. Fortunately for Anastasia, I’m now softer and more melodic.
It was the same with other life skills: sports, fine art, business entrepreneurship, teaching, writing, and of course, relationships. I identified a natural talent, received initial training, and practiced, modeling after my instructor. Then, integrating it into my tastes and style, I figured out how to do what I wanted to do my way.
This is not your first rodeo. You’ve accumulated memories and lessons from all your experiences–from all your millions of lifetimes. Your inner wisdom is universal in scope. You already know everything there is to know. You know what your talents are. Your talents, the things you are naturally good at, are the default theme for your soul journey. There is a reason for your being drawn to helping dogs.
PetMassage Began By Recognizing and Remembering
PetMassage began when I had the experience of tapping into my BIG SOURCE of Knowledge. My third eye opened and I got a glimpse of a tiny speck of a vector of possibilities.
Is The Akashic Record Available On Vinyl?
It was July 11, 1997. I was giving a dog a massage. This was the first time that I was officially massaging a dog. Before this I had only massaged horses and people. When I touched this dog’s head, some switch in my spirit clicked on. For a micro moment a veil lifted. In a clarity that is impossible to describe, I witnessed the enormity of the depth and breadth of the BIG picture. This is the “infinite possibilities” that we hear about. Even though, of course, I already knew all that information deep in my spirit body.
I was witness to the potential of canine massage. I saw the faces of thousands of dogs all over the world, being massaged by thousands of people, to the delight of thousands of dog owners and thousands of veterinarians.
So many dogs and people were benefiting in so many ways. This vision was clearer than reality. It was hyper-reality. It was astounding. It changed my life. I knew in that moment that because everyone is unique, everyone’s massage would also be unique. The way of learning that I had naturally come to know was the method that I would teach. In my heart I knew that the vision that I witnessed could only manifest if I committed to following up on it. I found, at 50 years old, my soul default theme!
The Instruction You Get In PetMassage Workshops
PetMassage Workshops are as much a forum for self development as a training system for dog massage. As a PetMassage student, you’ll learn to recognize your native talents and value them. You’ll learn the canine massage skills and how to use them in your practice. You’ll learn conscious-connected body mechanics to keep yourself and your clients safe and comfortable. You’ll learn breathing techniques to keep grounded and connected to your dogs. You’ll learn the dog handling skills you’ll need to be safe and effective as a practitioner. You’ll learn the perfect amount of anatomy and physiology for safe manipulation and movement visualization. You’ll learn to start a business, develop your support network, and build your following.
The Bigger Picture
Then to make it your own you are encouraged to practice and practice. It is your responsibility to figure out the best, most comfortable, applications of the skills you’ve learned. Everyone’s PetMassage is different. It is uniquely your own, even to the types of canine clients you attract.
Besides learning the fundamentals of dog massage, you’ll recognize that you are in that bigger picture. You are the one front and center, a big smile on your face, surrounded by adoring dogs and their appreciative owners.
How to get there? Attend a hands-on, on-site, PetMassage Workshop. It is the best way to get the essential one-on-one instruction you need. Get your initial instruction with an instructor/mentor you can model, practice, persevere, and figure out how to make it your own.
Alyce Sorokie, the author of Gut Wisdom, Understanding and Improving Digestive Health, shared a powerful poem during a presentation I attended in Chicago. I’d like to share it with you.
- Chapter 1
I walk down the street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I fall in. I am lost… I am helpless. It isn’t my fault. It takes forever to find a way out.
- Chapter 2
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I pretend I don’t see it. I fall in again. I can’t believe I am in the same place. But, it isn’t my fault. It still takes me a long time to get out.
- Chapter 3
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I see it is there. I still fall in. It’s a habit. My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault. I get out immediately.
- Chapter 4
I walk down the same street. There is a deep hole in the sidewalk. I walk around it.
- Chapter 5
I walk down another street.
This is a description of noticing that we may not be aware of what we are doing. We may need to learn to notice, to become aware, and place a higher value on being completely present. We are our own seers. We are in control. We have choices. We are what we think about.
This applies to our canine clients, as well as ourselves.
- These are the kinds of things that dogs address and resolve during, after, and with consistent ongoing PetMassage.
- These are the kinds of things that dogs’ owners address and resolve during, after, and with consistent ongoing PetMassage.
- These are the kinds of things that we practitioners address and resolve as we become more proficient at providing PetMassage.
Helpful Hints: Dog massage for rigid top lines
The tension we see and feel in dogs is always protective. They may be self-restricting their movements for several reasons. They may be experiencing a pain that is at a tolerable level but any addition to what they are doing would be too uncomfortable. So, they’d act like they are stuck in quicksand. They’d breathe shallowly, and move minimally.
They might be anticipating the possibility of pain or danger. They could be stepping through a doorway into the unknown. They could be entering a dog park where they’d been attacked. They could see a person whose body type or hat reminds them of someone in their past who, in their mind, abused them.
The dog’s heart beats faster, breathing patterns change, muscles tighten and bunch up. The coat along the top line becomes either more erect or lies flatter, compressing itself against the skin. The superficial fascia, especially around the trapezius and thoracic spine forms a suit of armor. There is safety inside the barrier. But the barrier restricts movement.
We feel this as tissue tightness. Knots. Tight bands of muscles. Thicker, dense layers around the neck and shoulders. Taut ligaments. Contracted muscles. We see wide open eyes, worried facial features, flattened ears compressed against the skull, and the tail held tight against the anus.
Feel the restricted movement in your body. Imagine you are walking without flexion in your knees or ankles. Your legs are like thick sticks, stiff from hip to heel. You’d have so little balance support from your nervous system that your back, neck and your arms would all get tense. Your anxiety about possibly toppling over understandably increases. Your heart rate speeds up. Your respiration changes. You glance about to assure yourself that if you were to fall you wouldn’t crash into anything.
This is how a small dog with a tightly held stiff spine that I massaged, presented. He walked like a wind-up toy, but without the metallic clicking of a coil unwinding. All four of his little legs were stiff. He showed minimal flexibility in his elbows, stifles and hocks. His entire jerky gait arose from movement from his shoulders and hips. It was all agonist without the support of antagonist and synergistic muscles. Stiff, jerky, and tentative; that’s how he walked.
From the back of his skull to his tail, his spine was rigid and inflexible. His top line appeared stuck.
I placed my hands on either side of his spine just behind his shoulder blades. Stabilizing one side with my palm, I gently stretched the other side forward toward the neck, held it for a moment and released it back to its original position. Then, still stabilizing the same side, reversed the stretch, pulling it back toward the tail. Held a moment and released. This was repeated on this side and then on the other side. As the tissues warmed and became more pliable, I worked both sides together; pushing and pulling, pulling and pushing. I then pushed and pulled them toward each other, bunching the skin into the spine and away from it.
We were releasing the restrictions, enhancing the flexibility, of the muscles all along the top line. We softened the traumatized muscles that had been restraining the spine. The good news quickly spread throughout the body. When the spine is allowed to move, the whole body feels, and is, vitalized. The central nervous system functions better. Lymph nodes between vertebrae get expressed, and the immune system is enhanced. Ribs are released at their vertebral attachment sites. The dog breathes deeper and more easily.
The effect was heartwarming.
I placed the dog on the floor and watched him. First he shook so completely his little paws flew off the floor. He took a couple of steps forward. His spine rolled a little bit with each step. His little waist sashayed as his stifles flexed and extended. His tail swayed comfortably as he walked. His neck bounced easily as his front paws carried and released weight. This little dog felt better and stronger. He looked stronger and better. He was better and stronger.
He no longer needed that cumbersome protective armoring he’d been carrying. He paused, turned and looked back at me and ambled over to his teary-eyed owner.
Every Moment is Life Defining.
Camille, our boxer slipped while we were walking around our neighborhood. She stepped on a patch of ice hidden under the snow. Her legs flew out from beneath her. She landed hard on her hip. Cami jumped back up, shook it off, and trotted on; but I could see she was moving slower with the trace of a limp. I could tell she was stressed. She had landed on her hip; the impact reverberated across her entire body. She’d hit and bounced like a fish flopping on the ice. Her shoulders, head, and neck had been jolted. Her rib cage and all the muscles attached to it had been traumatized.
I know massage will help her. An accident like that slip and fall can easily influence her movements, and define her quality of life, for the rest of her life. Neither of us wants that as her new norm. Massage is always a life changing, life defining, event. This session was life-correcting.
Her massage was beneficial in several ways. First and significantly, it’s a de-stressor. Camille feels, breathes, and moves easier. That’s because it increases circulation, increases flexibility, and creates a stronger immune system.
This was her session:
- We focused on returning balance to her spine, the route of her central nervous system. I used vertebral joint mobilization (wiggling the back bones sequentially, one at a time from the back of the skull to the tail) and positional release of the neck, top of the ribs, and lumbar region.
- To restore ease of movement and flexibility, we employed passive joint mobilization, lifting and stretching the skin and coat around her neck, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hips, stifles and hocks.
- To engage all the connective tissue involved with strength and stability, and reseating her internal organs, we included rocking both from side-lying and standing positions.
- I made sure that she was grounded, repeating the ritualized PetMassage grounding procedure several times. This helped me create a strong visual image that I could broadcast to her.
She integrated peace and balance. We challenged the trauma and its resolution became a life-enhancing experience.
Calls to Action:
Feel secure with dogs, learn Dog Handling Skills
In 1998, Jonathan and I adopted our first dog, Oskar. He was a 60 lb. boxer. I was clueless about caring for a dog. My entire pet experience had been with gerbils, hamsters and a cat that was mostly cared for by my daughter, Cheryl.
We had started teaching canine massage at the PetMassage School the year before. It was time to leave our apartment, buy a house and support Jonathan’s dream of owning a dog. A boxer.
Oskar, the boxer who Jonathan fell for at the International Kennel Club dog show in Chicago, was a former show dog. He was a beautiful boy who refused to cooperate in the ring. He had lots of baggage from being mishandled by assertive trainers and handlers.
From the beginning of Oskar’s transition from show dog to a house-pet and demo dog for PetMassage, he demonstrated being the one in charge. When he did not get his way, he’d bark and race around leaving a trail of pee (on the expensive Oriental carpets) as he moved through the rooms in our home or at our PetMassage school.
My experience with Oskar was frustrating. With his barking at me, jumping on me, I would often be pushed or pulled down, falling, leaving scratches and bruises on my body. I did not feel safe. I had no concept of leadership skills with dogs. I was placing myself in danger. I realized I needed to improve the relationship, for me to feel empowered and safe.
While we were having challenges with Oskar, a student named Monica attended our PetMassage Foundation Level Program. Monica understands dogs. She understands how to speak to them in their own language of Dog. The skills she taught us enabled us to be calm, assertive leaders with Oskar. “Someone has to be the leader,” she reminded us, “and if it isn’t you, Oskar will take on the responsibility.” After training us for several hours, we got it. Oskar began to truly honor us.
We realized that many women in our workshops were ceding control to the dogs. They learned the PetMassage skills but couldn’t practice them because the dogs they worked on were non-compliant. This was the element to our training that had been missing. We quickly decided to hire Monica to her teach dog handling skills for our Foundation Level workshops.
It’s not dog training. These are the dog handling skills Practitioners use during their 1/2 – 1 hour sessions. After learning detailed skills from Monica our students are more confident with the dogs in the workshop and with all dogs, even-especially their own.
Perhaps your dog handling skills need fine-tuning. Perhaps you have a problem child that is not listening to you. Perhaps in the midst of your affection you’ve relinquished your role as leader.