Portland, Oregon's Cancer Survivorship and Bodywork Zine by Compassion Arts PDX, LLC
Back in massage school, I was never that fella that piped right up with the origin of a muscle. My brain doesn’t always process information with that sort of expediency. I’m a vastly kinesthetic and experiential learner. And, I’ve crafted my bodywork style with those strengths at heart.
I concern myself less and less with the details of technique. I am a bodywork naturalist, exploring the senses of movement and the awareness of self.
Back in my scouting days (would have made Eagle, but I got my first high school girlfriend… Ya know how it goes), we went up to Mt. Hood to stock the winter cabin with wood. They would cut the wood up the hill and pass down the logs. We scouts lined up side by side, taking a log in arm and passing it along to the next lad, right on down the chain.
Never in the day did I give the positioning of my hands or fingers much thought. A log would be passed down the line and my body would catch it with a fair amount of efficiency. With nary a thought, my arms intercepted the kinetic bundle, knowing exactly how much strength to exert in my arms, how much my core needed to stabilize in a twist, how much my legs needed to activate to receive and pass on the object. Simple, every day activity is filled with a myriad of subtle muskuloskeletal negotiations.
Our approach to bodywork is an increasingly technical and left-brain activity as we veer away from the luxury spa, pampering mentality of massage. As technical as the profession can get, let’s not forget we’re still working with a human being. A human being with the story of an entire lifetime etched in their body. A story that, given the opportunity from hands on intervention, can change in a positive direction.
Cammie Toloui, LMT (OBMT #17119) with Hannah Hulett, LMT (OBMT #18316) as client.
Photography by Hamid Shibata Bennett, LMT, CAMT (OBMT #301)
The story of my own bodywork is changing now; in a state of cathartic flux as understanding of the intricacies of the human tensegrity structure unfold with newfound insight.
I’ve been meeting with my mentors in the local Stumptown community. I took my favorite chiropractor, Deb Santomero of Full Spectrum Health Center, out for lunch awhile back. In addition to all the great advice around movement, posture and awareness, she once told me to start hugging trees as part of my self-care protocol. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t say that to just anyone. But, she and I have been friends for years and she always knows how to guide my hippy noggin the right way. Turned out to be a wonderfully grounding and joy-filled, slap-a-silly-grin-on-your-mug kinda practice that I still do when the mood strikes. Hug a tree sometime! Makes ya feel like a kid again!
More recently, I’m having discussions with therapists well-versed in childhood trauma and PTSD, giving myself a self-education about the brain and how it mingles with the body. There is an intention for therapist and bodyworker to work in tandem, flipping the cognitive behavior model on it’s rump, integrating the somatic experience into a client’s detriggering process. We’re going to find more ways to integrate bodywork into long-term care plans.
With so much talk of torture and trauma in the media, bodyworkers need to be prepared for dealing with these populations. Ya never know when a survivor might be your next client. How ya gonna deal?
I’m pretty darn chuffed. I’ve been helping Til Luchau film his class in Portland, Oregon. We just wrapped up two days of shooting. Then, I stepped away from the camera and got back into the role of the student, taking Til’s Advanced Ilia & Sacrum class. Today, I’m having a mentoring session with him. Thus far, it has been a brilliantly rad weekend of inspiration!
This mentoring session is coming at just the right moment. My practice is changing so much that it’s a bit hard to grapple at times. After 9 years in private practice, it’s become massively challenging to be present and hold space for the increasingly complex pain patterns I am seeing. It’s equal parts responsibility and joy; challenge and honor.
Some days, I give myself 20 minutes of doubt. Beyond the questions, the message keeps getting more clear. Yeah… I’m up for this work… I was born to do this, baby!
Here’s an old tune I wrote and recorded back in 2001, the year I was finishing up massage school. The track features back up vocals by my old college chums, Veronica and Abbie. The song is called Butterflies.