A Personal Testimonial-The American Heritage Dictionary defines massage as the rubbing or kneading of parts of the body to aid circulation or to relax the muscles. Even though this definition is correct, there's a lot more to the Discipline of massage. In every sense, it is an art and a skill. It involves knowledge as to how the human body is put together and how it functions as a whole.
Massage was a lifesaver to me, a gift of health. Through past physical injuries and structural problems, my health was steadily going downhill. By the time I was in my twenties, my lower back was in constant pain and the discomfort and immobility was spreading up my back to my neck and shoulders. Some days were better than others, but always, the pain was there. Doctors couldn't seem to help me and my condition was getting worse. Some days I was afraid to get out of bed for fear that part of my body would go into spasm. Throughout this ordeal, something prevented me from giving up hope. I somehow believed that there had to be an answer, I just didn't know what. I felt that if medical doctors couldn't find one then I would have to.
That day of revelation came when an article on foot reflexology caught my eye in the newspaper. The author of that article stated that different parts of the body had corresponding points which could be worked on through the bottom of the feet. This intrigued me so I made arrangements for him to work on me. I did not tell him of the pain in my back however for I was still rather skeptical. After a few moments he stopped and pointed to a section of my back asking me if I had been experiencing terrible pain there. I was shocked; finally someone had recognized my pain. Through subsequent sessions, amazingly I felt some relief.
Reflexology however was just the start. My quest for knowledge became insatiable. The more I learned about the human body the more I realized just how wonderful we are made. I gained a new respect for my body realizing that it had not betrayed me, rather, I had betrayed it by learning more about the working of my own car engine that that of myself.
It seemed that a thorough working knowledge of the human body was essential. I began intensively studying anatomy and physiology, yet in that study something was still lacking. I could not find a simple, logical explanation as to why I was in so much pain. Blaming past injuries and stress on the body did not seem to be a sufficient answer.
Over the next several months I began visiting many different therapists, each with a different technique. Slowly the pieces to the puzzle on regaining my health started to fit together, yet, no one therapist, or technique had all the answers. While each offered some help, there were a number of major ingredients still missing.
Another thing I noticed was that most practitioners were too regimented in their thinking. They simply could not operate outside of their particular modality without losing their sense of direction or their ability to focus in on the troubled areas of my body.
The search to regain my health continued. Another revelation occurred shortly after leaving the school system to pursue a career in massage. I made an appointment with a massage therapist. That particular day my back was actually feeling fairly good: no pain, just a little tightness. The therapist who was working on me proceeded to do a technique called connective tissue massage. In this procedure, no oil is used. The purpose of it is to free up the skin from the underlying structures. When the therapist gently lifted the skin over one section of my back I felt as though every muscle in my back had gone into a spasm. Although it was very painful, the pain subsided almost immediately. Then I felt this sensational warm glow spread over my back and I was able to take a deep breath much easier. This experience helped me gain a new insight as to the nature of my pain. My body had become glued together. Every year I lost more and more flexibility in my joints. A simple stretch could send my back into excruciating pain. Throughout my life I had attributed this to my injuries, but what I had failed to realize was that this gluing effect was the thing which had contributed to my injuries.
These individual sessions I had with all types of massage therapists and other experiences I had while attending massage school caused me to reevaluate my entire thinking process about the body, and I finally realized what holistic medicine was saying. The body, even though complex, operates on a very simple concept. Every structure in the body has its own function, yet each member works together for the good of the whole. Each part of the body must function in perfect harmony with every other part in order for there to be good health.
Slowly over the years I compiled all this information into a complete system of therapeutic massage. One that was based on a working knowledge of anatomy and physiology along with the sensitivity of touch (that is, the ability to discern what is going on in the muscles or connective tissues by actually FEELING IT with one's hands.) At first I simply called this method therapeutic massage because there was an actual change in the muscles and connective tissues. I did not feel comfortable putting a label on it since labels can be limiting.
For example, a type of massage that is gaining in popularity is sports massage. Those who advocate it state that "Sports Massage" training is necessary for any therapist who desires to work on athletes, even those already well trained in massage. I believe, however, that if a person is properly trained in massage and has a good working knowledge of anatomy and the sensitivity of touch, he or she will be effective on athletes and non-athletes alike. Of course the therapist will have to adapt the movements to fit the individual. For example, a person in a nursing home will require much less pressure than a young healthy person, but the same information can be applied.
A good massage therapist is one who can think, apply the knowledge and get results. After I had been teaching this method for a number of years, I started receiving telephone calls and letters from former students (and sometimes even their clients). Many of them urged me to give this technique a name. They informed me that when their clients experienced this type of massage, they wanted to know what it was called so they could request it again. Jokingly I told them to call it The Blakey Method. Little did I dream that they would take me seriously. At first the thought of naming this approach after myself seemed a little conceited, but after much struggling with this issue, I decided that my method was different and unique enough to call it The Blakey Method of Therapeutic Massage.
The Blakey Method Defined
1. Locate and turn off the brain's holding pattern of the injured area's). When a part of the body is injured, the brain will "hold" the affected area in a certain position in order to minimize further injury. As the injured area starts to feel better, the brain normally releases it. Unfortunately however, if a prior injury has occurred in the same area of the body, the brain may lose its ability to release it thus resulting in a prolonged immobility around the injury. The therapist, by learning how to hold this injured body part in precise patterns, is able to trick the brain into releasing the afflicted area.
2. Mastering advanced palpation techniques (being able to determine changes in connective tissues and muscles by touch). When connective tissues or muscles become injured, overworked or stressed, a physical change actually takes place in the affected area. A trained therapist usually has no difficulty in feeling or palpating major structural changes. Connective tissues and muscles that have minute changes associated with them are much harder to palpate. However, learning to palpate these indiscernible spots are equally important in a massage session. If a therapist cannot gain a good working knowledge of the clients physical tightness he/she will be doing therapeutic massage indiscriminately. Guessing as to what move to do next. Advanced palpation techniques are also used to access changes in the musculature and connective tissues as a therapist is working on that part. This means that the therapist can continually adjust the massage movements during the session to provide for optimum release of the injured part. NOTE: Advanced Palpation Techniques are used only for determining tight areas of the body, to increase the effectiveness of a therapeutic massage session and not for diagnostic purposes.
3. Locate the areas of the body that are glued together. Our bodies produce a lot of waste products (toxins). Most of these are eliminated through our urinary system. However, when the body gets injured or is experiencing long periods of stress, these toxins can become trapped in our muscles and connective tissues. This causes a gluing action to occur. We experience pain when the nerves that run through these structures get stretched or pinched because now there is no freedom of movement. Imagine pouring glue over your skin and putting your shirt back on. Every time you move you feel the pain from being stuck.
4. Free up these glued areas by using a variety of techniques. As my health improved and knowledge increased, I noticed it was becoming increasingly difficult to affect releases in my body. It was as though I had reached a plateau. The different types of therapies I had experienced were becoming less effective. In order to continually facilitate improvement in my connective tissues and muscles, I started changing, adapting and designing new movements to do the job. These new techniques and movements make The Blakey Method unique in its approach to therapeutic massage.
5. Increase range of motion in the joints. Areas that are flexible do not trap as many toxins. Flexibility need not be hampered by age, but one has to work on staying flexible.
6. Open up the energy channels leading to the injured areas. The brain will not continue to supply optimum amounts of energy to an area that has been injured for along time. If the brain cannot break through the area within a certain time limit, it will divert some of this energy to other portions of the body. The brain will only supply enough energy to the injured area to keep it alive.
7. Through controlled exercises, strengthen the affected muscles and joints. Muscles need the right amount of tension upon them. Once toxins are worked out and mobility increased, exercise is a must.
8. Help the client to release past emotions that might be tied to the injury; encourage them to accept this new self-image. The brain has one overall responsibility: to keep the body alive. Sometimes it has to accept injury in order to continue on with life. This means the brain now views its body in an injured mode. When my back was in constant pain I actually started viewing myself as an invalid, unable to do many things I had done before. After I started feeling better I noticed that I still believed and felt like I was injured. I had a lot of emotions tied to those injuries and they were now part of me.
9. Help the client assume responsibility for his or her health. It is important that the client develop a working relationship with all of his or her health care professionals.
10. Techniques for Self-Help. Being physically active today also equates with the possibility of receiving injuries. The difference is when I received an injury in the past, I would panic thinking that this might be the injury that would eventually debilitate me. Now when I get injured I immediately use these techniques on myself. The results are wonderful.
As aforementioned, most therapists seem to lose their ability to be effective when forced to work outside of their specialized modality. The Blakey Method addresses this very issue. For in order for The Blakey Method to be effective, one cannot employ a strict routine. A different approach must be applied to each individual. At West-Wind Academy, we teach our students an eclectic approach, one that each student can individually tailor to meet his or her client's needs for a particular session.
In my earlier years I would have given anything to be free from pain, but looking back on my life, I would not trade away those painful days for anything for they taught me a new way to view life and health. They gave me a new respect for my body and an appreciation of just how wonderfully made we are. Today my back does not hurt and I am in better health than I have ever been.
A Personal InvitationIt has taken me 23 years to develop and refine this method and I am proud to share it with my students. I still get a wonderful feeling when I am able to help an individual regain his or her health or when I see one of my students succeed as a massage therapist. If you have ever contemplated a career as a massage therapist, I personally invite you down to visit our Academy and see first hand how learning this method can benefit both you and your clients.
Some Final Thoughts
Choosing a professional school of massage to attend is not an easy task. For many people, this choice represents the beginning of a new career, for others, the fulfillment of a dream or the satisfaction of obtaining personal growth. Whatever the reasons, choosing the correct school, the one that best meets your needs, is an important decision.
It is important to keep in mind that the curriculum offered at a school is only as good as the instructors teaching it. As you probably have experienced, in order for learning to be most effective, an instructor must be able to make the material relevant to the needs of the students. He/she must present the material in an interesting and exhilarating manner, so that learning becomes fun and challenging. In addition, he/she needs to show concern for his/her students and create an accepting, nurturing and tolerant atmosphere where real learning (not just memorization of facts) can thrive and grow. Many of our students have not been in school for some time so they find our initial program of study techniques essential to their survival.
An effective instructor must also possess a discernible amount of DEDICATION and PRIDE. Dedication, in taking responsibility for developing human potential to its fullest; pride, in turning out the most knowledgeable and best students ever.
I am proud to say that West*Wind Academy strives to maintain these high ideals. If our educational philosophy agrees with yours, and you are still interested in learning THE BLAKEY METHOD OF SWEDISH AND THERAPEUTIC MASSAGE therapy, I invite you to call the Academy to set up an appointment with us.
I look forward to meeting you.
David M. Blakey
Administrator and Director